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

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143 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
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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 ...
7
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1answer
453 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
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1answer
195 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 ...
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1answer
117 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
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1answer
202 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
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2answers
198 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
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3answers
367 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
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5answers
453 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
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1answer
193 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 ...
2
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1answer
204 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
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1answer
145 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 ...
6
votes
1answer
726 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
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1answer
152 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 ...
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3answers
232 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 ...
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2answers
114 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.
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2answers
443 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
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1answer
174 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
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1answer
392 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?
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2answers
187 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
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1answer
145 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 ...
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2answers
150 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】  ...
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2answers
203 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.
6
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1answer
265 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. ...
2
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1answer
191 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
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1answer
403 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 ...
15
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1answer
808 views

Why do we say 頼もしい instead of 頼ましい?

In a previous question, I posted a list of adjectives produced from verbs using the しい suffix. In each example, it seems that しい attaches directly to the 未然形: 勇む  →  勇ま + しい    isam-a-sii 悩む  → ...
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2answers
400 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 ...
6
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2answers
829 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 ...
5
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1answer
235 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
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1answer
301 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 ...
2
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1answer
276 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 ...
3
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1answer
373 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 ...
7
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1answer
380 views

Etymology of 赤字/黒字

赤字 and 黒字 seem to correspond directly to the English expressions 'red ink' and 'black ink', meaning a (financial) deficit/loss and surplus, respectively. If Wiktionary is to be trusted, Mandarin, ...
8
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3answers
479 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 ...
5
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1answer
219 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?
2
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1answer
189 views

Why do days of the week use on-yomi kanji readings?

I would like to know if there is detailed information as to why days of the week use on-yomi readings, for example 月 in 月曜日 【げつようび】 Were these readings (as spoken) imported from the ...
8
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1answer
208 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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2answers
419 views

Origin of -aru verbs: いらっしゃる、おっしゃる、くださる、なさる

I think all of the mentioned verbs are in the same class, because they all inflect irregularly in the same way: -aimasu for the polite form rather than -arimasu. My question is how these verbs were ...
5
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1answer
409 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 ...
5
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2answers
284 views

Origin of 信じる, 感じる, etc?

Wikipedia claims that Japanese verbs are a closed class and that loanwords from Chinese always use する. 信じる, 感じる seems to be an exception. Why aren't they 信をする and 感をする? Maybe because one kanji is too ...
2
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1answer
173 views

Semantic meaning of 出 in 出会う, 出来る, etc

There seems to be many Japanese verbs that are mysteriously compounded with 出る, like 出来る and 出会う. What is the actual semantic role of the 出? I'm especially curious about the difference between 会う and ...
4
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1answer
218 views

What is the origin of the phrase 一石二鳥?

This particular 四字熟語 is exactly the same as the proverb in English, "kill two birds with one stone." I find it to be a strange coincidence that both would have this phrase independently of each other, ...
3
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2answers
303 views

The 阝-radical (or 部首?) in 部 and 陪

In 部, the right side radical is called the large village radical. For 陪, the left side radical is called the small village radical. Why are their names different on different sides even though both ...
4
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1answer
261 views

Is たとえば the ば form of a verb?

たとえば looks like it should be the ば form of a verb, but is that true? I know of the word 例える, but the ば form of this would be 例えれば. The phrase 例えるなら also exists, which would be a cousin if it were ...
4
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1answer
400 views

The uses & etymology of で

In Japanese, the particle で seems to have multiple uses: Instrumental: 車{くるま}で大阪{おおさか}に行{い}った。 "I went to Osaka by car." Locative: 図書館{としょかん}で数学{すうがく}を勉強{べんきょう}している。 "I'm studying math in the ...
9
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1answer
273 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 ...
9
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2answers
433 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 ...
7
votes
1answer
222 views

Why do we use 子ども to refer to a singular child (and 子供たち for plural)?

I was just thinking about how the term 子どもたち seems redundant since ども and たち are both plural markers. Of course you can use just 子 to refer to a child, but how did 子供 (and thus 子供たち) come to be the ...
6
votes
2answers
498 views

What function did あり perform in classical Japanese 形容詞?

In classical Japanese, many uses of 形容詞{けいようし} had あり "embedded" in them, e.g.: 熱からず = 「熱し」の連用形+「あり」の未然形{みぜんけい}+「ず」 熱かりたり = 「熱し」の連用形+「あり」の連用形{れんようけい}+「たり」 熱かれ = 「熱し」の連用形+「あり」の命令形{めいれいけい} 熱かる人 = ...