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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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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2k 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 ...
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541 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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558 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 ...
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292 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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241 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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659 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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340 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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216 views

Why was 邪 chosen to spell the names of 伊邪那岐神 and 伊邪那美神 in the 古事記?

I had been wondering about this for a while. Consider the spelling of he names of Izanagi and Izanami in the 古事記: 伊邪那岐神【いざなぎのかみ】 and (妹【いも】)伊邪那美神【いざなみのかみ】 (source) Both of their names ...
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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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221 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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289 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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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 ...
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566 views

Where does the な in 大人 (otona) come from?

As far as I understand, the word 大人 (otona) uses the kanji 大 to represent お and the kanji 人 to represent と. According to this site the readings for 人 do not include な. Where does the な come from then? ...
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509 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 ...
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242 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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77 views

何も言うでない ! meaning and origin

I have found this sentence in Odin Sphere. I guess it's kind of old fashion for a strong interdiction. I first thought it came from the negative form of である but it doesn't seem to be replaceable by ...
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228 views

Etymology of 姪 and 甥

姪 "niece" is often pronounced [[me.i]] rather than [[meː]] (see e.g. this comment in chat). I think the reason for this is that there is a morpheme boundary in 姪, presumably 姪 = 女【め】 + イ = female ...
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259 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 ...
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344 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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235 views

Does バラの寝床 come directly from the English expression “bed of roses”?

I came across this phrase in a Haruki Murakami short story, and I was wondering if this is just a literal translation of the English phrase? I tried googling the Japanese phrase, but I could only ...
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110 views

Why are some sharks named after birds?

Some sharks are seemingly named after birds: great white shark: hoojirozame 頬白鮫 from hoojiro (meadow bunting) sandbar shark: mejirozame 目白鮫 from mejiro (white-eye) blue shark: yoshikirizame 葦切鮫 from ...
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1k 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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149 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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What is the most common usage and meaning of もったいない?

もったいない (勿体無い)(勿体ない) can mean "what a waste!" / "too good". Apparently it is originally (?) a buddhist term meaning “The essence or quality of the thing does not exist,” and supposedly has been ...
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253 views

Where does the いかない in ~わけにはいかない come from?

My first thought is that いかない in this phrase conveys the meaning of 行かない, that is, not progressing to something. But this is mere guesswork. What is the history of いかない in ~わけにはいかない? Does it have ...
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106 views

Why are the high-pitched voices of children 'yellow'?

I was reading a little book called 『ひらがな物語』 and came across this passage on page 119: ​ 大臣といえば明治初期の文部大臣森有礼が ​「めんどうだから、いっそのこと、小学校教育は英語にしようか」 ​ と、おおまじめで、いい出したこともあった。もし森文部大臣の発言が通っておれば今頃、 ​ パパ ...
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398 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 ...
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496 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 ...
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217 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 ...
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583 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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634 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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451 views

Are there verbs that end with ず,づ, ふ, ぷ, しゅう, ちゅう and じゅう? Why not?

I noticed that verb ending syllables cover all of -u syllables (る,く,ぐ,す,つ etc) except ず,づ, ふ, ぷ, しゅう, ちゅう and じゅう. I suspect that ず is reserved for the negative conjugation thus no plain form verb ...
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294 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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147 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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935 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 ...
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152 views

Why is there 丼 {どんぶり} in 丼勘定 {どんぶりかんじょう}?

How does 丼勘定 {どんぶりかんじょう} (sloppy accounting) related to 丼 {どんぶり} (bowl of rice with toppings)? I mean, why どんぶり of all foods and things? Was there special history for the origin of this set phrase?
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463 views

What is the meaning and etymology of 蝶よ花よ?

In a book I was reading, a tomboyish character complained about the expectations her parents had of her as their only daughter. She said: 「蝶よ花よと育てたかったらしいんだけど」 EDICT defines 蝶よ花よ as "bringing up ...
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160 views

Is “俎板の上の鯉” related to the Vietnamese phrase “như cá nằm trên thớt”?

Is the Japanese phrase "俎板の上の鯉" - a carp laid on a chopping block related to the Vietnamese phrase "như cá nằm trên thớt" - like a fish on cutting board, either because Japanese got the phrase from ...
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253 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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168 views

Why does 屋根 means roof and 天井 means ceiling? Shouldn't it be the contrary?

I was learning these words with my kanji list, and I thought that I made a mistake and switched their meanings, but after checking the dictionary again I realized that actually their definition is ...
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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?
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271 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?
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460 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 ...
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327 views

Mukashi-banashi. Do they borrow from other current dialects in addition to older Japanese?

At my schools 日本語クラブ, we studied a 昔話 (舌切り雀), which like most of the others I've read, had some nonstandard grammatical constructions. I've heard that many of these constructions are archaic forms ...
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2answers
2k 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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207 views

Where does the furigana split on 小路?

Where does the furigana split on the word 小路{こうじ}? Does the う belong to 小 or does it belong to 路? Or is the word considered to have a 熟字訓読み (i.e. no split)? 小 has the reading こ 路 has the reading じ ...
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1answer
309 views

What is the origin of the word 無{な}し?

The word なし, of course, means ない, and it is defined as such in dictionaries. But why does this word exist? Are there even any situations where you can say なし but you can't say ない? Is it a remnant of ...
7
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4answers
380 views

Where exactly in your body is “心”?

Where in your body is [心]{こころ} located? When people refer to [心]{こころ} do they refer to their heart or brain? I assume heart as the literal translation, but I've heard both so was wondering what the ...
7
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2answers
257 views

What is the etymology of the word プラスアルファ?

What is the etymology of the word プラスアルファ(+α)? This is a neologism I believe, however I hear it quite often nowadays. I'm curious to what the origin would be?