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

learn more… | top users | synonyms (1)

2
votes
1answer
177 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
votes
1answer
203 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 ...
5
votes
1answer
322 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 ...
2
votes
1answer
163 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
votes
1answer
190 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
votes
1answer
361 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 ...
3
votes
2answers
279 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
votes
1answer
255 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 ...
9
votes
1answer
256 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 ...
6
votes
1answer
467 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 ...
7
votes
1answer
210 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 ...
14
votes
1answer
673 views

Where does です come from?

I've heard various things about this construction from many different people, a few examples of which are: It's a verb meaning "to be". It's a contraction of something like でございます (de gozaimasu) or ...
16
votes
4answers
1k views

Why is the correct counter for rabbits 羽(わ)

Why is the correct counter for rabbits 羽(わ), the counter that is used for birds. I figured it is because they jump, cause fly and jump are the same verb in Japanese, but then frogs are 匹.
18
votes
4answers
517 views

Words made from strokes of a kanji like 女 toくノ一

According to Wikipedia, one theory for the etymology of くノ一 (female ninja) is that it's made up of the strokes of the kanji 女 (woman). Other theories include that it means nine and one, talking about ...
9
votes
1answer
284 views

i-adjectives that end in a 〜ない which doesn't seem to be 〜無{な}い

I noticed there are many 形容詞{けいようし} (i-adjectives) that end in 〜ない, where the な is not part of the kanji, and doesn't seem to have the meaning 無い. Examples: 危{あぶ}ない means "dangerous", while 危 ...
4
votes
1answer
638 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 ...
9
votes
1answer
305 views

Origin of あしからず

Could somebody explain the origin of あしからず , as found in the following expressions? 今回はお断りしますが,どうぞあしからず| This time I have to say no, I hope you don't mind. ・・ですが、 悪しからず。| I'm sorry ...
4
votes
1answer
161 views

origin of 気にくわない/use of 食う

Does anybody know where the くわない comes from? あいつの態度が気にくわない |i don't like his attitude My dictionary tells me the expression means: 不満である。気にいらない。and the kanji is 食う but I wonder does anyone ...
8
votes
1answer
238 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?
8
votes
1answer
288 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 ...
9
votes
2answers
251 views

Where does the suffix 〜がる come from?

I've read that several bits of Japanese come from contractions with ある: だ comes from で + ある (source) なる comes from に + ある (source) たり comes from て + あり (source) たり comes from と + あり (source) ...
6
votes
1answer
213 views

How is 潔{いさぎよ}い related to 清{きよ}い?

How is 潔{いさぎよ}い related to 清{きよ}い? First, I'd like to point out this question: [潔]{いさぎよ}い meaning Second, I've found a possible etymology for 潔{いさぎよ}い on gogen-allguide.   Gogen-allguide seems to ...
5
votes
2answers
224 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 ...
7
votes
1answer
608 views

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 ...
3
votes
2answers
237 views

Questions on イケてる

イケてる is defined by tangorin as such: noun, or verb acting prenominally: cool;  with-it;  turn-on;  sexy As a noun I can see it as "the state of being cool," as perhaps shown in the following ...
3
votes
1answer
250 views

Etymology of ごちそうさまでした [duplicate]

Possible Duplicate: About ご[馳走]{ちそう}: two “runs” would give you “a feast”? ごちそうさまでした gochisousamadeshita 【ご馳走様でした · 御馳走様でした】 expression: That was a delicious meal (said after meals);  ...
10
votes
3answers
1k views

Why does 「やきもち」 mean to be jealous?

I've heard this word used quite a few times now, and I'm tired of pretending to understand it. Why does 「やきもち」 refer to being jealous? Is this a slang word? How do people use this word?
3
votes
1answer
204 views

Etymology of それはそうと

Can anyone explain the etymology of それはそうと【其れはそうと】and possibly the grammar of how it fits into a sentence, which does not seem to follow the normal rules (It should have a copula だ、そうだと?)? I think of ...
2
votes
2answers
168 views

Is 千{せん} a “current” number construct?

The reason why I ask this question is because of the pattern I've seen with Japanese numbers. Once you have to repeat a number to describe itself, you get a new unit. For example, 十十 = 百, 百百 = 万, 万万 = ...
5
votes
2answers
197 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: ...
2
votes
3answers
107 views

Why does 「頭にきた」signify being mad at something?

Is there any source or explanation for the phrase「頭にきた」and why it means to be angry? For example: 彼の言ったこととその言い方にはイライラして頭にきた。 Why does "what he said and the way he said it came to my head" mean ...
4
votes
1answer
128 views

「のれん代」(Goodwill) and 「のれん」 of 居酒屋

Is there any relation between 「のれん代」(Goodwill) and 「のれん」 of 居酒屋? And how about those kanji, are they using same kanji for both? If there are the same kanji, I would like to know their etymology, ...
5
votes
3answers
543 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 ...
10
votes
1answer
218 views

What is the etymology of 一人前?

I found this word today, and I thought it was pretty interesting. I read it in the context of "becoming and adult", or "coming of age", but I'd like to know the etymology of it. I could only find ...
12
votes
2answers
407 views

What is the breakdown of countries where loan words originate?

Is there any general idea of what percentage of loan words come from which languages? I always thought the majority of them came from English, but I keep seeing more and more that originated in ...
9
votes
1answer
136 views

Etymology of the term お局 and how it is used in slang

Can someone explain the etymology of the word お局 as well as how it is used in modern slang? I took an educated guess as to the colloquial meaning but am unsure of its nuances, be they comedic, ...
4
votes
2answers
222 views

What does 血のしょんべん mean?

I'm trying to figure out what 血のションベン means. I understand the individual words and literal meaning. So assuming it doesn't mean "bloods urine", what does this mean? Perhaps the full sentance is ...
5
votes
2answers
663 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 ...
10
votes
2answers
401 views

Where does the word キレる come from?

I'm unsure of how to use this word 「キレる」. When I looked up the definition, it says something along the lines of "to get angry" or "to lose one's temper". Where does this word come from? I'm somewhat ...
3
votes
1answer
216 views

Question on mnemonic device for characters such as 恋, 変, and 湾

I am currently studying kanji by using a number of sites, some of which provide mnemonics to aid in learning. While not a specific radical per se (I think), the top portions of the following ...
14
votes
1answer
465 views

How did 面白 end up meaning “Interesting”?

面 by itself means "face", while 白 by itself means "white". How did these two words combine together to mean "interesting"?
8
votes
1answer
211 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 ...
13
votes
2answers
356 views

What is the meaning and root of 意味くじピーマン?

Recently a friend of mine threw the term 意味くじピーマン (imi kuji pi-man) into a story she was telling, and it totally threw me off. At first I thought, because I wasn't sure how to parse the くじ part, it ...
8
votes
1answer
355 views

Etymology and usage of 凸待ち

I've seen the internet slang 凸{とつ}待{ま}ち used for "waiting for incoming (Skype etc) calls" pretty frequently, but what is the etymology and usage of the word? I've read on other sites that it came ...
7
votes
3answers
483 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 ...
5
votes
1answer
389 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 ...
8
votes
2answers
251 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 ...
7
votes
1answer
356 views

Why is there a 分 in 自分?

I didn't find anywhere why is the minute's kanji there in 自分? Is it because a meaning of 分 is "part". Please clarify.
8
votes
2answers
217 views

Understanding of the character 叉

I see the character 叉 in a lot of words that do not seem to have anything in common: [夜叉]{やしゃ} [三叉路]{さんさろ} [叉焼]{チャーシュー} [音叉]{おんさ} Is there any commonality here? What does 叉 ...
21
votes
1answer
429 views

How is the wind related to illness?

I've seen the kanji 風 appear in several different illnesses: 風邪 (a cold), 中風 (paralysis), and 痛風 (gout). Conceivably there may be others, but I haven't seen them. What does the wind have to do with ...