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

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Etymology of ギリシャ: what language does “girisha” come from?

I have trouble remembering that Greece is called ギリシャ. Understanding the etymology behind would probably help me? What is the etymology of the word ギリシャ? What language(s) was the name inspired by?
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112 views

Volitional + が ; ~おう + が

The sentence is :  まあ 何人来ようが || どうってこともないがな... (|| = Column break.) It doesn't matter how many people want to come... I'm not sure whether the first が is the subject particle (and ...
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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 ...
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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 ...
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164 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 ...
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261 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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206 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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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: ...
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442 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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308 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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332 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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194 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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182 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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325 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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146 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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92 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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4answers
934 views

What is the etymology of the word Katsu?

I heard from an English man that the katsu karē (カツカレー) dish was from English inspiration originally: he told me that the word 'katsu' is coming from cutlet and 'karē' would be curry. Please can ...
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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 ...
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395 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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232 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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164 views

Apparent reversals of conjugation patterns in classical 形容詞 and 動詞, origin?

We observe the following peculiar apparent relations between the conjugation patterns of 形容詞 and 動詞 (using 赤し and 行く as examples): 連体形: 赤き / 行きし (past recollective) 終止形: 赤し / 行きき (past recollective) ...
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128 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 ...
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3answers
288 views

If 校 is the kanji for school, why do I need 学 to actually say school?

Perhaps a dumb question, but something that I was wondering and couldn't find a clear answer via search. Since 校 is the kanji for school, why do we also need the kanji for learning 学 to say "school" ...
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3answers
361 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 ...
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2answers
325 views

What is the meaning and etymology of the (slang?) word まめ?

私はあまりまめに書きませんが、ことばを学ぶのは大好きです。 I don't write that well, but I love learning the language. What is the etymology of the word まめ here and what specifically does it mean? My friend gave me this ...
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163 views

Does 被【かぶ】る have any relation to “cover”?

Topic. I've heard/seen somewhere that 被【かぶ】る was "gairaigo-fied" (?) from the English word "cover" (similar to ダブる or デモる), and then presumably given ateji from 被【おお】う since the meanings overlap so ...
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199 views

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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191 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, ...
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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 ...
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185 views

“Dive” = “fly into”?

The words 飛ぶ and 跳ぶ are both read as とぶ, the former meaning "to fly" and the latter meaning "to jump" (generally; don't know if they are interchangeable at all). The compound-verb suffix 〜込【こ】む means ...
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142 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 ...
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271 views

Where does だって come from?

Does だって find it's roots in some different combination of words, or is it it's own, self made, particle? Where does だって come from?
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139 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
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 ...
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2answers
303 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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183 views

Why are 来る and する irregular?

I know that there are more irregular verbs than just this, but their changes are mostly euphonic and not really of any interest to me. What I would like to know is why 来る and する have developed the way ...
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106 views

訓読み for 歳: とせ vs. とし

There are two 訓読み readings of 歳: とし and とせ. Looking at はたち (二十歳), a reasonable hypothesis would be "ち is a contraction of とし". I know very little about sound shifting in Japanese. Is とせ more recent ...
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50 views

Etymology of ずっこけ

Where does ずっこけ come from? It doesn't have kanji, but it also isn't repetitive like onomatopoeia-so does it just not use the kanji anymore, or does it have strange roots?
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144 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 ...
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347 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 ...
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211 views

What's the analysis for たりとも?

Quoth Edict, たりとも means "(not) even; (not) any", and is probably used as such: 一問たりとも答えられなかった。(even one question, cannot answer) Is たりとも made up of the individual portions たり ("such things as") ...
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112 views

Etymology and meaning of ukemi (受け身?) as part of 合気道

I practice 合気道. We do a lot of break falling that we call ukemi. I was led to believe that it meant safe escape from a technique. However, I started looking at the Japanese and found I only had part ...
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168 views

Differences between なし and あらず?

At some point in history, ない replaced *あらない as the negative of ある, at least in the Kantō dialect (Kansai seems to have あらへん; あらん is also apparently attested in some dialects). When did this happen? ...
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200 views

詰まらないとは詰まるから作りました?

I assume 詰まらない came from 詰まる, so my question is then two fold. Why does 詰まらない have the meaning it does (Does it just mean it's not packed, in the sense that it's boring?) and also, are there other 形容詞 ...
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140 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 ...
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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, ...
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1answer
166 views

「春じゃもの」の「じゃもの」はどういう意味?

What does the じゃもの in 春じゃもの mean? The phrase is a koto song title, so I can't give much context. I think my teacher said it meant something like "clearly", or "the essence of". But I can't remember, ...
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107 views

What's the etymology and/or reasoning behind 目撃?

Witness (to a crime), as a legal/technical term, is 目撃 in Japanese. Now why is this? It doesn't seem to relate well with any of the other possible translations for witness, such as 証人、見送る、 or 見届ける. A ...
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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 ...
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166 views

擦れ違う usage and etymology?

擦れ違う is one of my new vocabulary words, so I try to understand as much as I can. I looked up a couple of meanings for the word and I found that it is used to describe 1) when two things pass each ...