語源. The study of the origin of words and the historical development of their meanings. Sometimes used for kanji as well; we currently don't have a separate tag for character origins.

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Origin of -tai desiderative suffix

Japanese verbs can take the suffix -tai, which attaches to the ren'youkei form and turns the verb into an -i adjective, expressing desire to do what the verb says. I have recently wondered where this ...
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1answer
3k 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
491 views

Why 'okane o haraimasu'?

In sentences such as: Jana will pay for the drinks. or Will the kids have to pay?. Why is it okane o haraimasu instead of ... o haraimasu? [Correct] Examples: Jana san wa nomimono no okane o ...
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1answer
268 views

Etymological connection between 門 and 円?

I'm curious if there's any historical link between the kanji for "gate", 門{かど}, and the kanji for "circle" or "yen", 円{えん}. If 門 is gate, 円 looks like a closed gate. Am I being whimsical and seeing ...
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1answer
900 views

Words for Ginkgo in Japanese: ぎんきょう and ぎんなん

I decided to read about the words for Ginkgo in Japanese (as in Ginkgo biloba). I was surprised to learn that Ginkgo comes from Japanese! According to Wikipedia, Engelbert Kaempfer, while writing ...
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1answer
1k views

Why is 島 used in the name of some cities?

I can understand "島" being used in 硫黄島 (Iwo Jima/Iwo To, literally "Sulphur island"), because it is an island, but why is it used in 福島市 (Fukushima city, literally "Good fortune island") and 広島市 (...
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4answers
533 views

Why is ホワイト spelled as it is?

What is the precise etymology of the word? Was it borrowed at the time when it was pronounced [hwait] or they just perceived it like that?
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1answer
131 views

Why is スタイル used to denote body figure?

You know how Japanese people say "スタイルのいいお姉さん" to basically refer to "that girl with huge boobs" or "that really tall girl"? I've seen this get thrown around a lot but never really got the rationale ...
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1answer
507 views

What is the etymology of イギリス?

I'm trying to figure out where the term イギリス for the United Kingdom came from. I suspect 英国【えいこく】 because they sound similar, but that seems a bit odd as Katakana words are usually loan words.
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158 views

レアチーズケーキ: Does 「レア」 originally come from “rare” or from “layer”?

レアチーズケーキ is a kind of cheesecake which is not baked. What is the etymology of the レア part of this word? Academic references needed, as this is a controversial topic: The top Google result claims ...
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2answers
332 views

How to tell if a word is Sino-Japanese or Yamato

How can I tell if a word is Sino-Japanese (漢語), or Yamato (和語)? An answer to How 「えい」 should be pronounced in the words like 英語, 先生, etc? talks about the pronunciation of Sino-Japanese words and ...
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6answers
1k 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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404 views

Why is the negative form of [べき] べからず?

On http://www.guidetojapanese.org/learn/grammar/should#part5, the author doesn't explain the etymology of べからず. Can anyone explain?
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2answers
226 views

How does the negative form of である get to be ではない?

http://www.guidetojapanese.org/learn/grammar/formal#part3 doesn't explain the reason clearly. Can anyone explain?
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1answer
282 views

What does 回 mean in 回答?

What does 回, the kanji for "turn", mean in 回答 "answer"?
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130 views

How did 真っ赤 came to mean “downright”? [duplicate]

We know that 真っ赤 means "deep red," but how did it come to mean 'downright', as in 真っ赤な嘘 (outright lie)?
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2answers
211 views

Is おふくろ related to ふく?

Since おふくろ is one way to address one's own mother, I was wondering whether the 「ふく」 part is related to the word meaning 'clothes' or not. And if not, what is the origin of おふくろ?
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679 views

What is the etymology of the word マラ?

Does anyone have an opinion on the etymology of the word マラ, a crude term for penis? Any thoughts on usage are also appreciated. (via archive.org) http://gogen-allguide.com/ma/mara.html
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1answer
160 views

Why did 摩羅 also come to mean penis? [duplicate]

Is there any further implication to be gleaned from this and how did this meaning come to be? Is there any suggestion that the male genitals are somehow an obstacle to enlightenment?
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2answers
135 views

Which grammar rules are applied when でいい is conjugated to nouns?

"ここに名前を書くだけでいいですか?" means "Is it ok to just write [my] name here?" I'm confused about where でいい comes from. http://www.guidetojapanese.org/learn/grammar/must#part5 is about conjugating ていい /でいい to ...
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62 views

Confused about the relationship between 「丸」 as in 「日本丸」 and 「麻呂」 as in 「君麻呂」

Firstly I found that 「丸{まる}」 originated from 「麻呂{まろ}」: 日本水路協会:船の名前にはなぜ「丸」が付くのか Then this answer said that 「麻呂{まろ}」 originated from 「おまる」: 古代日本人の名前についている 「~麻呂」 には何か意味があるのですか? It started to make me ...
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2answers
691 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
159 views

Etymology of モブ

In Japanese, モブ (short for モブキャラクター) refers to a character who plays a minor role in anime/manga/games - source. The same source claims that the etymology is 和製英語 and traces its origin to Japanese ...
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148 views

What does 八 have to do with [八つ当たり]【やつあたり】?

For the longest time, I had never seen yatsuatari written down. I always figured it was written 奴当たり, which I figured would have been derived from 「あの奴に当たる」 or something. Imagine my surprise when I ...
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1k views

What is the meaning/usage of いざ?

Will someone please explain what this word いざ means? I've found several definitions, but I'm very unclear on what it really means and its usage. I've heard it mostly in the following ways: ~(...
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2answers
532 views

Reading 九十九 as “tsukumo”

Why can 九十九 be read as "tsukumo"? I don't understand how those kanji could be read that way.
4
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1answer
193 views

Why does 甲斐 use these particular kanji?

Inspired by a recent question about the proper way to write 生きがい, I wanted to ask a long-standing question. According to Kotobank, 甲斐 has the following definitions (my poor translations follow): かい ...
3
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1answer
237 views

What is the etymology of 森羅万象 and what does it mean?

I have come across this word a few times: 森羅万象{しんらばんしょう} If you look it up, you usually get something along the lines of: the creation the universe all nature I would like to know if there'...
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78 views

The etymology of 頭{あたま}金{きん}

頭金 means "initial deposit". The meaning of first Kanji is "head", the second - "money, gold". How to understand them both - etymology? "Head" + "money" seems not related.
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249 views

Significance of 「温」 in 「温故知新」

This question came to my mind while playing 漢字読めるカナ for Android to pass time. 温故知新 is a 4-character idiom from the 論語, Confucian Analects, meaning to learn from the past. It is a Chinese phrase* and ...
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1answer
199 views

Are 済む・澄む・住む cognate?

Which of these words are cognates (share a common etymology)? 住【す】む ("live") (rarely 棲む or 栖む) 澄【す】む ("clear") (rarely 清む) 済【す】む ("end") According gogen allguide and several dictionaries such as ...
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1answer
259 views

Old way of counting people?

I always found it funny how the counter for people, 人, has the special cases [一人]{ひとり}, [二人]{ふたり}, but then continues [三人]{さんにん}, [四人]{よにん}, ... However, this summer I came across a neat bit of info. ...
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1answer
94 views

What is the etymology of the word 杜撰(ずさん)?

Can this word be derived to original Japanese words or is it maybe, like the kanji might suggest, of Chinese origin?
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317 views

What is the etymology of 〜ません(でした)?

I have always been interested in the negative polite (〜ません) and negative past-polite (〜ませんでした) inflections of verbs. My understanding is that ます is an inflectable function word (助動詞), so I'm ...
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1answer
223 views

How did the originally honorific forms of address 君、お前、貴様 become informal or even insulting?

君 means ruler, お前 honourable one towards me, 貴様 worthy appearance. How did these originally honorific terms of address become informal or even insulting?
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1answer
125 views

What is the origin of スタンド meaning “desk lamp”?

I'm struggling to turn up any answers on why the word スタンド is used to mean "desk lamp". My guess would be that it's a case of metonymy, but I don't know.
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1answer
388 views

_っ_り form adverbs

I keep seeing these onomatopoeic adverbs popping up with the form: _っ_り. Some examples include ぐっすり、ぴったり、すっきり、etc…. Is there a name for these adverbs, and why are they in this specific form?
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510 views

What is the origin and usage of the word いい?

According to Denshi Jisho, いい and よい share the same kanji, and that both roughly mean "good". Why are there two different pronunciations despite the similarity, and what are some ways to figure out ...
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1answer
85 views

Where does だらけ come from?

Where does the phrase だらけ come from? I only know だ as a copula and ら as a conditional marker or pluralizing suffix, are either of these at use in this phrase? My dictionary lists it as "implying (...
2
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1answer
257 views

Where does のみ come from?

I have recently heard that the phrase のみ means "only". Does it come from another compound, like の実 or something? I don't think that's necessarily where it came from, but I would be surprised if that の ...
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153 views

How did 参った come to mean 'defeated' from 参る?

I've heard the phrase 参った and understood it to mean something like 'I/we lost' or 'knocked out'. How did this come from 参る, to visit or go by? I read in a dictionary that it's some phrase said by a ...
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2answers
140 views

Etymological origin of -n in 洗 (セン)

I've always wondered why the 音読み of the kanji 洗 is セン when, in all Chinese topolects I'm aware of, the reading ends in a vowel. I always chalked this up to Japanese having borrowed a Middle Chinese ...
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2answers
527 views

Where does「えっと」come from?

I wanted to describe that 「えっと」 was similar to "Ummm" in English when someone is trying to think about what they are going to say, but I wasn't even sure if that was correct. Is that just a ...
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2answers
433 views

Is “フリーマーケット” sometimes assumed to be derived from “Free”?

Is the term "フリーマーケット" sometimes assumed to be derived from, or meaning, "Free market", as opposed to "Flea market"? (That is, having a false etymology) There is a phrase "Free market" in English, ...
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2answers
531 views

Why is the kanji for luck the same as to carry?

Why is the kanji for うん(運) the same as the kanji for 運ぶ? Did the kanji just somehow end up being the same, or were the two meanings related somehow? All I can think of is some kind of "carrying luck", ...
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1answer
128 views

The origins of なんだ as in 飲まなんだ or せなんだ

Even here in Osaka I don't hear it very often among anyone even remotely young, but where does this come from originally? Does anyone have a reference on hand? If I myself had to guess from what I ...
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3answers
538 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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2answers
406 views

Why does 目 have a counting sense to it?

Why does 目 get used in situations like 二個目? How did it come about getting the meaning of eye as well as some counting meaning?
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2answers
2k views

Etymology of 出来る dekiru

An entry of Tae Kim's blog suggested that 出来る came from Chinese word 出来 that does have the nuance of potentiality, but the most recent visitor's comment claimed that the usage of 出来 in Chinese to show ...
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1answer
200 views

Etymology of 武蔵

What is the etymology of the old province and Japanese name 武蔵? Wikipedia claims that it is non-Yamato vocabulary from an Ainu language. Even if this is true, why were these characters (military/...