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

learn more… | top users | synonyms (1)

5
votes
1answer
308 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 ...
6
votes
1answer
356 views

What's the deal with/origin of the character 曰?

I'm talking about the 曰 from 曰【いわ】く, not the common 日【ひ】 we all know and love. Why would they "make" two characters that look (for all intents and purposes) exactly the same? How do you really ...
6
votes
2answers
734 views

Etymology of もん・もの

How do I make sense of the 終助詞 もん as in おいしいもん そうなんだもん Although I have only heard it in 時代劇 speak, I guess it comes from もの, which I think should be も + の. But what も can follow the 終止形 and ...
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。
17
votes
1answer
428 views

How did 革 “leather” come to mean newness?

How did the character for "leather" - [革]{かわ / カク} - come to also convey the meaning for "newness"? 広辞苑 lists one of the definitions (under かく) as あらたまること, あらためること, and we can see this in some of its ...
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 ...
4
votes
3answers
361 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
271 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
300 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 ...
2
votes
2answers
180 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 ...
5
votes
3answers
371 views

Translation of “に” into “natural” English

All of my Japanese teachers have told me that な-adjectives converted to に-ending words and い-adjectives converted to く-ending words, when followed by a verb, are 'adverbs'. However, sentences sound ...
1
vote
1answer
181 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
156 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
347 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.
6
votes
3answers
1k views

What is the etymological connection between sake (alcohol) and sha-ke (salmon)?

I read once somewhere that the word 'sake' (酒, Japanese rice wine) comes from sha-ke (鮭, salmon). Can someone explain what this connection is? Any thoughts on why most Japanese people * don't know ...
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
218 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
140 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 ...
13
votes
3answers
663 views

Why is “Xy” pronounced as “Ki Shi” in Xylitol「キシリトール」?

Why is "Xy" pronounced as "[Ki Shi]{キ シ}" in [Xylitol]{キシリトール}? I believe "Xy" can pronounced as "Zai", which is probably a valid sound in Japanese. I would like to know its etymology too, if there ...
5
votes
1answer
655 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 ...
7
votes
1answer
433 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 ...
5
votes
5answers
418 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 ...
6
votes
1answer
190 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 ...
4
votes
2answers
195 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 ...
2
votes
1answer
177 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 ...
1
vote
1answer
181 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 ...
3
votes
1answer
143 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 ...
2
votes
1answer
352 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?
1
vote
2answers
112 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
365 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 ...
3
votes
2answers
178 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
139 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
139 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】  ...
2
votes
2answers
180 views

Kanji and meaning behind Shikifuton?

I've been looking at futon recently and there's a particularly kind called the Shikibed or Shiki Futon. I was wondering where this "Shiki" was coming from.
5
votes
1answer
244 views

Etymology of the copula だ

I think of だ as being the only copula, which can be inflected to で and な. In my mind all other copula-like words are derived from these forms, i.e. です ⇔ であります じゃない ⇔ ではない だろう ⇔ であろう etc. ...
8
votes
3answers
451 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 ...
2
votes
1answer
186 views

Is ゴールデンウィーク wasei-eigo?

A native speaker of Japanese has asked if ゴールデンウィーク is wasei eigo. The Wikipedia article on Golden Week in Japan claims that the term was created in 1951. However, a google ngram search for English ...
4
votes
1answer
347 views

Origin of ~なければ ならない

The expression ~なければ ならない if I learned correctly means "must not not do ..." as in: 日本語を勉強しなければなりません。 You must not not learn Japanese. (i.e. you need to learn Japanese) However, taken on face value ...
1
vote
2answers
325 views

What is the difference between 怖い and 恐い

As a follow-up to Would 私は怖い mean "I'm scared" or "I'm scary"? We know that 怖い can mean both "to be scared" and "to be scary to somebody". What about the difference ...
5
votes
1answer
231 views

What is the わ in 忌まわしい and 嘆かわしい?

On chat, Chocolate helped me find some examples of adjectives produced from verbs using the しい suffix. In the following examples, it appears to attach directly to the 未然形: 勇む  →  勇ま + しい 悩む ...
5
votes
1answer
260 views

How did 冷やかし come to mean “window-shopping”?

I'm curious how 冷やかし came to mean things such as 買わずに見る and からかう. Here's what I can figure out: hiya seems to be a root meaning "cold" (like in hiya-ya-ka) hiya-k-u is an old verb based on this ...
3
votes
1answer
312 views

Why aren't マンション mansions? Or are they?

And no, this isn't about property sizes in Japan! As Katakana Mysteries: 6 loan words Japan got wrong put it: Bill Gates or Warren Buffet might be very surprised if they were to buy a Japanese ...
5
votes
1answer
206 views

Why is topology called 位相幾何学?

Topology in English is called 位相幾何学 in Japanese; also, topological space is called 位相空間. But why is topology called 位相幾何学? What is the correspondence between topo and 位相? What is the origin of 位相?