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

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724 views

Usage of お+[verb stem]+する for humble form and お+[verb stem]+になる for honorific form

Apart from using verb-specific humble and honorific versions (e.g. 参る < 行く < いらっしゃる), the general method of turning a verb into humble is by using お+[verb stem aka 連用形]+する while the general ...
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2answers
310 views

Etymology of 土産 {みやげ}

The pronunciation "みやげ" does not correspond to on'yomi nor kun'yomi of 土産, so I thought it was a gikun (義訓), but the combination of kanji 土 and 産 does not seem to provide the meaning of "souvenir" ...
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4answers
297 views

Etymology of 右に出る

What is the etymology of 右に出る, as in 「右に出る者はいない」? What on earth makes the right superior to the left? Relatedly, is 左に出る ever used to mean "inferior to"?
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242 views

Where does the suffix 〜がる come from?

I've read that several bits of Japanese come from contractions with ある: だ comes from で + ある (source) なる comes from に + ある (source) たり comes from て + あり (source) たり comes from と + あり (source) ...
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264 views

Etymology of とんでもない

Where did とんでもない (meaning "not at all" or "outrageous!") come from? Could it be 飛んでもない? ("will not even jump/fly" in a similar way how "When pigs fly" is considered a remark for something ...
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1answer
173 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 ...
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988 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 ...
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188 views

Was “乎” the manyogana spelling of the accusative/object particle “を”?

In the English Wiktionary entry for "を" there is a quote or example sentence using the character "乎" with no explanation seemingly where the particle "を" would normally occur. Now I couldn't find ...
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131 views

Etymology of the term お局 and how it is used in slang

Can someone explain the etymology of the word お局 as well as how it is used in modern slang? I took an educated guess as to the colloquial meaning but am unsure of its nuances, be they comedic, ...
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274 views

i-adjectives that end in a 〜ない which doesn't seem to be 〜無{な}い

I noticed there are many 形容詞{けいようし} (i-adjectives) that end in 〜ない, where the な is not part of the kanji, and doesn't seem to have the meaning 無い. Examples: 危{あぶ}ない means "dangerous", while 危 ...
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285 views

Origin of あしからず

Could somebody explain the origin of あしからず , as found in the following expressions? 今回はお断りしますが,どうぞあしからず| This time I have to say no, I hope you don't mind. ・・ですが、 悪しからず。| I'm sorry ...
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2answers
275 views

Why do some Japanese men use お袋 to address their mothers?

I often hear Japanese males use the word お袋 in place of お母さん when annoyed or irritated. Is this word slang? How did this word come to mean 「お母さん」 and what are the circumstances it is used in? I am ...
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197 views

What's the etymology of 負けず嫌い?

It seems strange to me that 負{ま}けず嫌{ぎら}い means "hate losing" and not "hate not losing". (食わず嫌い for example seems to mean "hate a food without trying it".) Providing credible sources if possible, what ...
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308 views

Was sake always called nihonshu?

Was nihonshu (what English refers to as "sake") always called nihonshu, or was it only called that once western alcoholic beverages were introduced to Japan?
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289 views

How did 家, 手, and 士 come to be included in the names of professions?

When I look at the words for professions, there are usually kanji such as 員、者、長、師、屋 and such, that end the name. These appear to make sense to me; however, what about ones such as 家、手、and 士? For ...
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176 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 ...
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1answer
241 views

What is the proper pronunciation for 十分/10分? じっぷん or じゅっぷん?

My Japanese textbook only lists じゅっぷん. Our Japanese sensei (a quite old woman) says じっぷん but notes that it's optionally じゅっぷん. Our TAs all say じゅっぷん. I understand that Middle Chinese 十 was "jip" and ...
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1answer
172 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 ...
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2answers
362 views

Imperative used instead of conditional form

This quesion: と言っても vs とは言え . reminded me of a similar case: どっちにしても vs どっちにしろ which are also synonymous as far as I can tell. That got me thinking: Is this coincidental? Are there ...
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3answers
885 views

よかろう - What does it mean? Where does it come from?

This is another question that's come from a 昔話。 We have the following section: 大きい箱と小さい箱がありますが、どちらがいいですか。 どちらも結構じゃが、どうしてもと言うのなら、小さいほうでよかろう。 I'm having trouble with the second sentence. My ...
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432 views

Why is the meaning of人一倍 opposite of what it seems to say?

This could be just me, but at first glance the word (phrase?) 人一倍 looks like it would mean "one's own share of the work". I assumed 人 to mean one person, and 一倍 means "one share, one amount". I was a ...
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318 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 ...
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246 views

Questions on the (underlying) meaning of the word お化け

If ばけもの / ばけもん / お化け can, in general, be understood to mean ghost/apparition/monster, what is the connection to the meaning of 化け, meaning "transform?" (or "transforming one's appearance") Is it ...
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445 views

Origin of onsen term “wani”

Why was "wani" (crocodile or alligator) chosen as a term for a gawker at a konyoku (mixed gender onsen)? Was it because of the animal's ability to stare, the fact that it is a predator, or was it ...
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2k views

What are the meanings of ~とも [tomo] and ~かしら [kashira]?

Sometimes I think: ~とも came from ~と思う ~かしら came from ~かしらん(知らない) It's possible I'm wrong, so I would like to know the real meaning of those suffixes. Also, I'd like to know when I can use them ...
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2answers
270 views

Why is「ん」the only kana without a vowel?

I've always wondered why「ん」is the only kana without having a vowel sound attached to it. The only thing I've ever heard is that 「ん」 is a special kana that can be the last kana in some words. I've ...
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1answer
192 views

What is the connection between shrimp and old age?

Shrimp(えび) is written several different ways in Japanese. For example, there are the words commonly used in Chinese: 蝦 and 鰕. There is also a compound specific to Japan, 海老, and a kokuji, 蛯. Both of ...
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1answer
226 views

Relation between -ますよ and -ましょう

They sound alike. Are they cognate historically? Morphologically, is よ in both cases a particle or part of the morpheme in -ましょう?
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1answer
793 views

Left (ひだり) and right (みぎ) as cardinal directions

In many Indo-European ancient languages, there used to be a strong connection between the words for right and left on one side and the words for south and north1 (respectively) on the other side. This ...
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2answers
250 views

Saying 「おかわり」 when requesting second helping: what is being exchanged?

I am aware that the phrase 「おかわり」 that is used when asking for second helping (of meals especially) is an idiomatic expression, so its usage is understood as it is. But, I'm curious about the origin ...
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4answers
528 views

Are there any common Japanese words which were borrowed from Ainu or other indigenous languages?

I know plenty of Japanese words that came from English and a few from other European languages (obviously tons from Chinese), but what about words from Japan's indigenous languages such as Ainu? Also ...
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1answer
184 views

Can けれども be analysed further?

Consider the conjunction ども, e.g.: 行けども 言えども Formation rule: Verb Hypothetical form (仮定形) + ども This leads me to hypothesise that the conjunction けれども (meaning "but; however; although") is ...
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1answer
284 views

Why is Jordan (the country) spelt ヨルダン?

I recently found out that Jordan (the country) is spelt ヨルダン, not ジョーダン, which is how it's spelt in a person's name. Is this based on how it's pronounced in Arabic and/or Hebrew, or how it's ...
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1answer
329 views

Etymology and usage of 凸待ち

I've seen the internet slang 凸{とつ}待{ま}ち used for "waiting for incoming (Skype etc) calls" pretty frequently, but what is the etymology and usage of the word? I've read on other sites that it came ...
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1answer
476 views

How did the verb 掛ける come to have many meanings?

I think that this verb is the only one I've seen in Japanese that has so many definitions. とる and つく have multiple definitions as well (quite a bit IIRC). But not as much as 掛ける. In any case, I am ...
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2answers
396 views

What is the etymology of お陰で/おかげで and how does the expression relate to the kanji?

If おかげで / "okagede" is an expression that means thanks to ...;  owing to ...;  because of ...; and the correct (?) kanji that this expression derived from is 陰 as in お陰で which by ...
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2answers
207 views

Understanding of the character 叉

I see the character 叉 in a lot of words that do not seem to have anything in common: [夜叉]{やしゃ} [三叉路]{さんさろ} [叉焼]{チャーシュー} [音叉]{おんさ} Is there any commonality here? What does 叉 ...
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1answer
577 views

Ancient practise of sneaking into women's bedrooms…?

I was looking up the meaning of スマ婚{こん}, when my mouse happened to roll over the kanji 婚{こん}, and this definition popped up in Rikaichan: 婚 よばい ancient practice of creeping at night into a woman's ...
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1answer
346 views

Why is there a 分 in 自分?

I didn't find anywhere why is the minute's kanji there in 自分? Is it because a meaning of 分 is "part". Please clarify.
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477 views

Significance of the kanji 茶 in the set phrase 滅茶滅茶{めちゃめちゃ} / 目茶目茶{めちゃめちゃ}

While having fun looking up random words in my dictionary software, I found out that the phrase "めちゃめちゃ", which is often used in colloquial sentences like "めちゃめちゃかわいい" has two kanji variants: 滅茶滅茶 ...
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3answers
456 views

[父]{ちち} vs. [乳]{ちち} — father vs. breast

Can one differentiate by pronunciation between [父]{ちち} and [乳]{ちち} (as for 雨 and 飴)? If not, does anyone have a reasonable explanation for why 父 and 乳 have the same pronunciation? It seems unlikely ...
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1answer
211 views

What is the etymology of the term [仏]{ほとけ}[様]{さま}?

What is the etymology of the term 仏様 ? I am interested because of all the meanings this word can possess.
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1answer
341 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 ...
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2answers
209 views

Origin/etymology of こころ~ words

There are three unique words that begin with こころ~: 快い (こころよい)、 試みる (こころみる)、 志 (こころざし) What is the origin of these words in relation to "heart/spirit/mind", if any??? Or is this just something ...
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2answers
263 views

What is the etymology of the word バレる?

What is the etymology of the word バレる, and why is it often written with katakana? ばれる(P); バレる (v1,vi) to leak out (a secret); to be exposed (a lie, improper behaviour, etc.) (behavior) ...
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1answer
221 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 ...
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2answers
290 views

Where does the phrase 「ノリが悪い」 come from and what is the meaning?

What is this phrase 「ノリが悪い」? I've seen it in a few places, but I haven't been able to find it in a dictionary yet. I had first thought it meant that "the seaweed was bad". What is the meaning of ...
7
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1answer
253 views

Words with metathesis

What common Japanese words underwent metathesis (transposition of sounds)? Examples. 新{あたら}しい < あらたしい 秋葉原 {あきはばら} < あきばはら
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1k views

Is B2F, B1F, 1F, 2F, … wasei-eigo?

While visiting Tokyo, I noticed that most levels were indicated by B2F, B1F, 1F, 2F, ... . This doesn't look like the Romaji for -kai or -gai counter-words, which I assume would be chika ni-kai, ...
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1answer
349 views

Do 擬態語 (いらいら, きらきら, すっきり, etc.) generally have root words?

I understand that 擬音語 (ぎおんご) imitate sounds, like どきどき imitates a heartbeat. So, if these onomatopoeia don't have roots I wouldn't be at all surprised. But where do 擬態語 (ぎたいご) come from? Do いらいら (to ...