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

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337 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
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2answers
130 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?
6
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193 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?
6
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4answers
269 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 ...
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168 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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2answers
607 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 ...
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185 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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182 views

regarding the kanjis 嗚呼; 於乎; 於戯; 嗟乎; 嗟夫; 吁; 嗟; 噫; 鳴呼

This question has 2 parts. Why is it that ああ has so many different kanji 嗚呼; 於乎; 於戯; 嗟乎; 嗟夫; 吁; 嗟; 噫; 鳴呼 (source) and is the average japanese (16 yr old and above) able to recognize them all?
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406 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 = ...
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689 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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408 views

What is the function of と in とある?

What is the function of と in とある? It doesn't seem to be the particle と--it doesn't seem to attach to whatever comes before it, which particles generally do. It also doesn't seem to fit any of the ...
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3answers
342 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 ...
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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 ...
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110 views

Where does 見 come from in 見捨てる or 見殺し?

I wonder if there is a certain meaning of 見 that isn't immediately obvious or straight-forward. 見捨てる and 見殺し both carry this idea that, through inaction, something bad is allowed to happen. There may ...
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5answers
357 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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3answers
379 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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438 views

Why does 「というもの」 have a meaning of “recently/since”?

I have given three examples below to illustrate my question. I can't understand why the expression "というもの” equates to "recently/since". この一週間というもの、忙しくてほとんど寝ていない。  For the / since last week I ...
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2answers
274 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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513 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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274 views

What is the difference between 照{て}れる and 照{て}れてる?

According to my dictionary, both 照{て}れる and 照{て}れてる mean to be shy, or be awkward. I don't think one is a different verb form of the other. The て+いる form of 照れる would be 照れている, not 照れてる. So I think ...
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2answers
190 views

What is the etymology of 赤の他人?

彼は赤の他人だよ — He's a total stranger to me How did "red stranger" come to mean "total stranger" in Japanese? Is there anything that makes this expression make sense more than "That's just what it ...
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1answer
439 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 ...
5
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1answer
208 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 ...
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280 views

Why do ~なんてもんじゃないよ/~たのなのって=とても?

Both the following two expressions from my text book 完全マスター聴解N1 are explained as とても(高い/人が多かった): 高いなんてもんじゃないよ 人が多かったのなのって Could someone explain what they are based on/where they come from ...
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104 views

On “おてもと” and its many variants for “chopsticks”

I've always known the Japanese word for "chopsticks" to be (お)箸{はし}. Today in my usual practice of reading everything around me I looked up what was written on the wrapper of the disposable ...
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1answer
154 views

The thin line? What is 線がうすい's meaning and etymology?

I just found this phrase in my book (I don't know how much context is relevant, this is the entire sentence): それにな、わたしが商人の線がうすい、といった理由はもうひとつある。 I looked up the phrase and found this 線が細い. It ...
5
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1answer
217 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 ...
5
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1answer
197 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 ...
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1answer
192 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?
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357 views

What is “ブチャイク”?

ブチャイク All I know is it's referring to someone's "looks" or appearance, and is not flattering. I suspect this is simply one of those "modern" Japanese slang phrases popular among young people that's ...
5
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1answer
361 views

Confusion between causatives and intransitive-transitive

I read the answer to this question How different is 冷やかす from 冷やす? And 散らかす from 散らす? but somehow wasn't satisfied. What's the difference between the 2 causative forms ~す and ~せる, e.g. 待たす and ...
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2answers
179 views

Reading 塞 and 省: When on and kun readings go together

I looked up 塞 in my 漢和辞典, and I found four readings: 音:サイ、ソク 訓:とりで、ふさ・ぐ What I noticed is that サイ is used when the kanji means とりで, and ソク is used when the kanji means ふさぐ: 「とりで」の意味: ...
5
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2answers
113 views

漢字 classification: 象形、指事、会意、形声

I'm looking at this table of classifying 漢字 into the types 象形文字、指事文字、会意文字、形声文字 (and 転注文字 and 仮借文字, but I'll focus on the first four for now). I like the idea of 見 "to see" being an "eye" on "legs", ...
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254 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 ...
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172 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 ...
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237 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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2answers
295 views

Where does the ド in ド素人 comes from?

素人 means beginner. ド素人 means total beginner. ド means "very", "total". Any idea where does this word come from etymologically? It is sometimes also written in hiragana. Are there other current ...
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1answer
94 views

Are 万葉仮名 (man'yōgana) chosen consistently?

This answer got me wondering how relevant the presentation in 万葉仮名 is to finding a 漢字 for a given word. As far as I understand, 万葉仮名 are used largely for phonetic value. Knowing that some word was ...
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0answers
94 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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284 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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91 views

Why is “there” pronounced あそこ and not just あこ? [duplicate]

Possible Duplicate: Irregularity of あ-series in demonstratives Maybe this is a little hard to answer, but I'm curious why the typical これ/それ/あれ pattern doesn't apply to ここ/そこ/あそこ. Is anyone ...
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3answers
119 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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1answer
599 views

Why is ローマ字 spelt without an ン?

Why is ローマ字 spelt without an ン? As far as I can tell, it's not because you can't have an ん sound before a じ sound, because 漢字 has an ん sound before 字. Did early Europeans' term for Roman letters not ...
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2answers
409 views

Why does 丈夫 and 大丈夫 mean what they mean?

Looking at the individual kanji according to a dictionary: 丈 means height, stature, length 夫 means husband, man 大 means big, great They seem unrelated to what these words using the kanji mean: 丈夫 ...
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2answers
222 views

Understanding the たがい in 仲たがい

What is the etymology of the suffix(?)たがい in 仲たがい and how is it used to express discord? If this is a suffix as such, is it used in combination with any other words?
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2answers
209 views

The origin of one of the usages of 狼{おおかみ}

I was watching the anime かんなぎ, and heard the following line: 男はみんな[狼]{おおかみ}だわ! "Men are all wolves!" I was curious as to what it means to call someone a "wolf", so looked 狼 up in Daijisen and ...
4
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3answers
330 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 ...
4
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1answer
180 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. ...
4
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1answer
107 views

Questions about `〜はる` 敬語

One thing I've never fully gotten a grasp on is the 〜はる form of "敬語", and I have some questions about it. Is it official 敬語 recognized by the 文部省, or is it just more of a regionally accepted ...
4
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3answers
239 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 ...