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

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2
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197 views

トウモロコシ: Why kana? What is the etymology?

First came across this written in Kana Midori とうもろこし, トウモロコシ【玉蜀黍】 corn (US), maize (UK) (usually written in kana) Why Kana? Is トウモロコシ borrowed from another language? What is the ...
5
votes
2answers
474 views

What does「英」really mean?

I know that the kanji 英 now really has the exclusive meaning of "English", such as in 英語, but I'm wondering what the original meaning was. It's used in words like 英雄, which obviously don't have ...
9
votes
1answer
244 views

Origin of katakana ン (カタカナの「ン」の字源)

Looking on various pages, the origin of ン seems to be very confused. Most lists either don't include ン, or list one theory. So far I've found the following options: 一 爾 无 尓 二 冫 Wikipedia also ...
2
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2answers
87 views

Origins of -ちゃん

I'm wondering if anyone can provide the origins of the honorific "-ちゃん". It's a diminutive, and German has "-chen" as a diminutive suffix. Is that a coincidence? What is the first recorded use of ...
4
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2answers
322 views

五年ぶり、ぶり返す、。。。What does ぶり mean?

Where does the ぶり in 五年ぶり (Five years ago?) and ぶり返す come from, does it have a kanji, and what does it mean?
3
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2answers
167 views

What is the ど in やけど?

Given that やけど means "burn", it seems likely that the やけ part is 焼け. What about the ど, though? (The kanji for やけど - i.e. 火傷 - don't help, because those characters are obviously 当て字, and would ...
4
votes
1answer
189 views

Why are 来る and する irregular?

I know that there are more irregular verbs than just this, but their changes are mostly euphonic and not really of any interest to me. What I would like to know is why 来る and する have developed the way ...
13
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2answers
426 views

Nouns exhibiting vowel fronting

As touched upon in another thread, there are several nouns that exhibit a kind of vowel shift in older forms, where the ending vowel is fronted when the noun is used on its own to become /i/ or /e/, ...
2
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2answers
309 views

Please help me understand [予習]{よ・しゅう}

tl;dr The word 予習 is strange to me. Is its usage related to cultural difference? Does the user's knowledge of the material have something to do with it? I've always had trouble understanding ...
4
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0answers
157 views

Iterative / repetitive る evolving from classical 連体形【れんたいけい】

This is somewhat related to the discussion of classical auxiliary verb ふ, mentioned in the answer to snailboat's question, What is the わ in 忌まわしい and 嘆かわしい?. Another apparent iterative / repetitive ...
5
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1answer
120 views

Volitional + が ; ~おう + が

The sentence is :  まあ 何人来ようが || どうってこともないがな... (|| = Column break.) It doesn't matter how many people want to come... I'm not sure whether the first が is the subject particle (and ...
2
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2answers
157 views

How are the noun 方【へ】 and the particle へ related?

I looked up the etymology of 古【いにしえ】 on gogen-allguide, and found the following: いにしえは、「去る」を意味する動詞「いぬ(往ぬ)」の連用形「イニ」に、過去を示す助動詞「キ」の連体形「シ」がついた「イニシ」が、方向を表す名詞「ヘ(方)」を修飾した「往にし方(いにしへ)」。 This basically ...
4
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1answer
167 views

Apparent reversals of conjugation patterns in classical 形容詞 and 動詞, origin?

We observe the following peculiar apparent relations between the conjugation patterns of 形容詞 and 動詞 (using 赤し and 行く as examples): 連体形: 赤き / 行きし (past recollective) 終止形: 赤し / 行きき (past recollective) ...
1
vote
1answer
167 views

What are the origins of the names of tanuki and kitsune noodle dishes?

Two of Japan's native wild animals are the きつね fox and たぬき raccoon dog. Interestingly there are also noodle dishes apparently named after each. (Not containing the meat of those animals!) The terms ...
4
votes
1answer
109 views

What's the etymology and/or reasoning behind 目撃?

Witness (to a crime), as a legal/technical term, is 目撃 in Japanese. Now why is this? It doesn't seem to relate well with any of the other possible translations for witness, such as 証人、見送る、 or 見届ける. A ...
9
votes
1answer
203 views

Etymology of 宵【よい】

This is a loose follow-up of my first question here on JLSE. I tried to check gogen-allguide.com and 大辞林, but couldn't find anything definitive. Unfortunately I don't know any other resources for ...
5
votes
1answer
158 views

Are 万葉仮名 (man'yōgana) chosen consistently?

This answer got me wondering how relevant the presentation in 万葉仮名 is to finding a 漢字 for a given word. As far as I understand, 万葉仮名 are used largely for phonetic value. Knowing that some word was ...
4
votes
1answer
132 views

Questions about `〜はる` 敬語

One thing I've never fully gotten a grasp on is the 〜はる form of "敬語", and I have some questions about it. Is it official 敬語 recognized by the 文部省, or is it just more of a regionally accepted ...
6
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2answers
187 views

What is the origin of ポイ as in “タバコのポイ”?

I was trying to see how much of the writing on the signs in the park I could make sense of today and found something of interest. A sign stating what not to do in the park covered not littering and ...
6
votes
4answers
256 views

Why is coffee with shochu or awamori called コーヒー割{わ}り “split / divided coffee”?

About five nights ago I went out with a local friend to a traditional Okinawan club in Naha. We were of course drinking 泡盛{あわもり} (awamori) with water and ice. But the girl working there had a drink ...
6
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1answer
208 views

On “おてもと” and its many variants for “chopsticks”

I've always known the Japanese word for "chopsticks" to be (お)箸{はし}. Today in my usual practice of reading everything around me I looked up what was written on the wrapper of the disposable ...
5
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3answers
166 views

Where does 見 come from in 見捨てる or 見殺し?

I wonder if there is a certain meaning of 見 that isn't immediately obvious or straight-forward. 見捨てる and 見殺し both carry this idea that, through inaction, something bad is allowed to happen. There may ...
4
votes
3answers
316 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
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2answers
234 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
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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
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2answers
206 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
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2answers
110 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
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2answers
191 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
213 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?
9
votes
1answer
903 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 ...
5
votes
1answer
324 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
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0answers
86 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 ...
11
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2answers
494 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
428 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
281 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
339 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
178 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
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2answers
185 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
220 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?
2
votes
1answer
198 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
53 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
227 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
208 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
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1answer
160 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
425 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
386 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
230 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
234 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
142 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 ...
6
votes
1answer
2k 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 ...