The study of the origin of words and the historical development of their meanings.

learn more… | top users | synonyms (1)

4
votes
3answers
280 views

If 校 is the kanji for school, why do I need 学 to actually say school?

Perhaps a dumb question, but something that I was wondering and couldn't find a clear answer via search. Since 校 is the kanji for school, why do we also need the kanji for learning 学 to say "school" ...
5
votes
2answers
182 views

漢字 classification: 象形、指事、会意、形声

I'm looking at this table of classifying 漢字 into the types 象形文字、指事文字、会意文字、形声文字 (and 転注文字 and 仮借文字, but I'll focus on the first four for now). I like the idea of 見 "to see" being an "eye" on "legs", ...
9
votes
3answers
1k views

How did 服 come to have meanings related to both “clothing” and “submission”?

服 by itself means "clothing" (e.g. 服を着る), and there are also some related derivative terms like 私服, 制服, 和服, 洋服, etc. On the other hand, you have words like 征服 "conquest", 克服 "overcoming", 承服 ...
2
votes
2answers
169 views

Archaic “Keri” Origins

I read that "Keri" is a verb suffix used to denote the realization of something, and is also poetic- I was wondering if anyone knew where it came from, kanji etc. For more context it was used with ...
4
votes
2answers
106 views

訓読み for 歳: とせ vs. とし

There are two 訓読み readings of 歳: とし and とせ. Looking at はたち (二十歳), a reasonable hypothesis would be "ち is a contraction of とし". I know very little about sound shifting in Japanese. Is とせ more recent ...
9
votes
2answers
181 views

Etymology of “よう” in “豆腐{とうふ}よう”

I found out there is a special kind of Okinawan tofu called 豆腐よう. According to EDIC/WWWJDIC it can also be written as "豆腐餻" and "唐芙蓉". "餻" seems to mean "cakes, pastry", but considering that this is ...
6
votes
1answer
206 views

火の車 Where did it come from

My sensei in class told us about 火の車 that means someone in a difficult financial strait . I was wondering what does it have to do with fire 火 and a car 車?
8
votes
1answer
517 views

Why is カラオケ (karaoke) written in katakana?

I noticed カラオケ (karaoke) is always written in katakana on signs/buildings in Japan, despite it being a Japanese word. Why is it not written in Kanji or Hiragana? As I understand it, the usual reasons ...
0
votes
0answers
48 views

What is the Origin of です? [duplicate]

Where does です come from? I tried reading the kotobank article, but I couldn't decipher most of it, is it a contraction, or is it it's own word? I thought it was a contraction of でございます。
5
votes
1answer
305 views

how did 公 (こう) come to be derogatory

My dictionary says this word means something like "official; public" - how does the word go from that definition to being used as a derogatory suffix for animals and people? One example the ...
2
votes
0answers
85 views

What is the usage/meaning of ご馳走さま (lovey-dovey)? [duplicate]

Edict states that one of the meanings of ご馳走さま is "used after hearing something lovey-dovey". Does anyone know some examples whereby ご馳走さま is used this way? Specifically, how do we use "ご馳走さま" and ...
8
votes
2answers
390 views

明日: あす & あした; Is there a difference in meaning and when each is used?

Is there a difference between these two words for "tomorrow" and when each is used? (and is it just coincidence that あした sounds like the past tense of あす?) We tend to be taught あした and then discover ...
4
votes
3answers
346 views

What does 目 mean in 勝ち目?

The word 勝ち目 means "odds / chance of success". It is made up of two nouns 勝ち and 目. 勝ち obviously means "winning / victory". But what does the kanji 目 mean? Does 勝ち目 mean something along the lines of ...
4
votes
1answer
266 views

Where does だって come from?

Does だって find it's roots in some different combination of words, or is it it's own, self made, particle? Where does だって come from?
3
votes
1answer
288 views

文言 もんごん ぶんげん why are the differences between these two readings and why is もんごん more common?

As stated in the title the reading for 文言 can be もんごん or ぶんげん. I know that もんごん is almost always used in speech, but why do two readings exist and why is もんごん so much more common? Also, are their any ...
4
votes
1answer
164 views

Differences between なし and あらず?

At some point in history, ない replaced *あらない as the negative of ある, at least in the Kantō dialect (Kansai seems to have あらへん; あらん is also apparently attested in some dialects). When did this happen? ...
2
votes
2answers
178 views

Why is する considered irregular?

Yes, this sounds like a really confusing question. But I suddenly realized that する seemed to be a perfectly regular 上二段活用 (kami nidan; upper bigrade) verb with a stem of s-: 未然形: し (as in しない) 連用形: し ...
2
votes
2answers
178 views

世話【せわ】: Do the kanji have meaning?

Are the kanji in 世話【せわ】 as in 世話になります used for their meaning, or are they ateji? If they aren't ateji, what exactly is the reasoning?
0
votes
0answers
33 views

Why is ございます used as it is? [duplicate]

So ございます is the humble form of あります, but I don't understand its use in "thank you" or "good morning"... Both of them (I think) have a verb, followed but ございます (おはよう/ありがとう), first why doesn't the first ...
1
vote
1answer
178 views

Where does the kanji for 凄い find it's roots?

Where does the kanji for 凄い come from? I don't know what any of the component strokes mean, and it just looks really strange to me. Can I get an etymology of the word? In Chinese I think it means ...
4
votes
1answer
50 views

Etymology of ずっこけ

Where does ずっこけ come from? It doesn't have kanji, but it also isn't repetitive like onomatopoeia-so does it just not use the kanji anymore, or does it have strange roots?
0
votes
1answer
224 views

Why is 対馬 pronounced つしま?

The island of Tsushima is written 対馬{つしま}. Why? No reading of 対 and 馬 can produce つしま, and clearly つしま has something to do with 島{しま}. There seems to also be no gikun-type motivation in meaning to ...
4
votes
1answer
200 views

詰まらないとは詰まるから作りました?

I assume 詰まらない came from 詰まる, so my question is then two fold. Why does 詰まらない have the meaning it does (Does it just mean it's not packed, in the sense that it's boring?) and also, are there other 形容詞 ...
2
votes
1answer
155 views

Does the たり in Modern Japanese come from the Classical たり?

For example, in the sentence 飲んだり食べたりした. Does this たり have anything to do with the -(i)tari ending in Classical Japanese that meant the present progressive (and later semantically shifted to past, and ...
3
votes
2answers
403 views

What is the etymology of べき? How should I visualize it?

I like to visualise things to try and understand them as an idea not a rehearsed rule. I like to think of hazu in terms of it being a notch in a bow for the arrow as I hear the meaning stemmed from ...
3
votes
2answers
337 views

名前, does it have English Roots?

I know it's a stretch, and I'm pretty sure it's not, but is 名前 related to name? I always thought it was weird that they were so similar in pronunciation.
7
votes
1answer
226 views

Oceans — Thick or Big?

Straightforward question. The Pacific Ocean is 太平洋【たい・へい・よう】 and the Atlantic Ocean is 大西洋【たい・せい・よう】. What was the reasoning in using a different character for the たい in each? And why 太 for Pacific ...
1
vote
2answers
217 views

What is the origin of けれど, ければ, けど, etc?

In Classical Japanese (correct me if I'm wrong; all my CJ was from Wikipedia and linguistic papers), the 已然形 could attach a lot of things: ど, ば, ども, etc. So I would be able to say 会へども話せず rather than ...
4
votes
1answer
138 views

Are people named after prefectures, or are prefectures named after people?

In Japanese, some names exist in both people and prefectures or cities. For example, Fukushima Industries Corporation is not named after the prefecture of Fukushima (福島県) or the city, but after Nobuo ...
5
votes
1answer
1k views

What is the literal meaning of どういたしまして?

どういたしまして 【どう致しまして · 如何致しまして】 you are welcome;  don't mention it;  not at all;  my pleasure; —Usually written using kana alone. 「手伝ってくれてありがとう」「どういたしまして」 "Thank you for your help." "It's ...
7
votes
1answer
429 views

Why does きいろ mean yellow rather than green?

I know that most of "why" questions don't make much sense as far as linguistics are concerned but I'll ask anyway. I know that き means a tree. いろ means color. It doesn't take a genius to guess that ...
6
votes
1answer
185 views

Is there any relationship between the verb 死{し}ぬ and the 音読み 死{し}?

I noticed that both 死ぬ and the 音読み of 死 share a し sound. Is this a huge coincidence between Japanese and Chinese, or is there some sort of relation? I guess the former, because I don't know any ...
1
vote
1answer
113 views

Etymology of grammar-related terms in Japanese

I've been searching up words like '~の近く' (near), '~の裏側' (behind), '~より先' (further away). Basically words related to the position of an object or thing. The term I've been using is 前置詞 in Japanese, but ...
2
votes
1answer
174 views

What is the origin of ゟ (より)?

ゟ is a digraph that is read より. Where does it originate from? Is it a ligature, like & <- et, or German ß <- ss (well, ſs)? (Wikipedia claims this, citing no source.) Also, if it is a ...
4
votes
2answers
192 views

When and where did 丁寧語 emerge?

I've been reading some old text recently and I find that everybody seems to use plain forms even in polite contexts (like proclamations from the Emperor). When did the modern ます and です come from? I ...
6
votes
3answers
356 views

What is the 「ひ」 in 「ひづめ」(蹄)?

The word 蹄 (ひづめ) means hoof in Japanese. Since the meaning is similar to つめ (claw), and since it's spelled specifically with づ, it seems like this word is made up of two parts: ひ + つめ I can't ...
5
votes
5answers
408 views

Does Japanese have any infixes?

In English, we have prefixes, like "pre-"; suffixes, like "-ize"; and arguably, expletives that function as infixes (one classic example is "abso-fucking-lutely"). In Japanese, we also have ...
5
votes
1answer
181 views

Is 髪隠し a pun on 神隠し?

The above is a picture of a piece of cloth that is often worn on the head as part of a 死に装束. I have most commonly seen it referred to as a 天冠, but have also seen it referred to as a 髪隠し. Did the ...
1
vote
1answer
176 views

であります compared to でいます

It might sound like a silly question, but I am just asking for interests sake... I already understand how to use them in which situation. If you were to say 田中さんは先生でいます, it would mean that Tanaka ...
4
votes
1answer
144 views

Is ば derived historically from は?

The way I visualize how the particle は works is that it opens a giant circle underneath the word it is attached to wherein you can discuss things related to it. Sort of like this: When I use ば I ...
5
votes
1answer
646 views

Etymology of transitive/intransitive verb pairs

Many verbs come in pairs, frequently but not always transitive/intransitive pairs. These verbs generally have multiple okurigana characters, but according to my dictionary one of the pair was formerly ...
3
votes
1answer
140 views

Etymology of 小説

The word 小説{しょうせつ} seems to be used as a translation of "novel", but it is composed of the characters for "small" and "opinion/rumour/theory". I have seen it used to describe works such as ...
13
votes
3answers
220 views

What is the か in「か弱い」?

I'm wondering what the か in か弱い, か細い and similar words is. It seems to act as an intensifier. The Daijisen tells me simply that this か is a 接頭語, and translates it as いかにも; it doesn't seem to have its ...
1
vote
2answers
108 views

Etymology of 為替

為替 is a money order or exchange rate. How did they pick these two kanji? From what I can tell, it's not kunyomi, onyomi, ateji, or gikun.
0
votes
2answers
353 views

Usage of どういう意味

It seems strange to me that in Japanese the preferable question is どういう意味 while in English we ask "what is its meaning", rather than, "how do you say it's meaning." Although you can ask 何とかの意味は何、 can ...
4
votes
1answer
169 views

Origins and meanings of って?

I hear って everywhere, and in the case of っていう I heard it was a shortening of という. But in the case of things like questions, where does って come from, and what exactly does it mean?
2
votes
1answer
342 views

Kyary Pamyu Pamyu's song: Ninjari Bang Bang

Question to anyone who listens to J-pop-In Kyary Pamyu Pamyu's song にんじゃりばんばん、 what does the りばんばん mean- or where could it have possible came from?
3
votes
2answers
176 views

What is 坊 in 朝寝坊する?

I always thought that 坊 in 朝寝坊する was a bit weird. At least in Chinese, 坊 means "small factory". Thus I assumed it was a pun about "went to work at the morning sleeping factory" though it seems a bit ...
4
votes
1answer
138 views

Are 短(い) and 身近(い・な) related?

Is one derived from the other? 身近 means - amongst other definitions - "close/near to one(self)", so it's not that much of a leap to say that something near to you is a "short" distance away, and get ...
1
vote
2answers
135 views

The etymology of 泊

I was looking up the etymology of 泊, and I got this: 形声。白は、どんぐりの実を描いた象形文字で、どんぐりの実の中みのあわく白い色を示す。泊は「水+音符白」で、白の原義とは関係がない。水が浅くて舟底が水底にせまってとまること。また、水かさの少ない浅瀬のこと。 【泌】  ...