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

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8
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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
359 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
221 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
436 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 ...
5
votes
1answer
165 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 ...
10
votes
3answers
835 views

Why are wisdom teeth called 親知らず in Japanese?

Why are wisdom teeth called 親知{おやし}らず in Japanese? The literal meaning seems to be something like "unknown to the parents".
7
votes
2answers
1k 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, ...
11
votes
2answers
279 views

What exactly is 「だらし」?

WWWJDIC states that 「だらしない」 can be written with kanji as 「だらし無い」, which suggests that the phrase is a negative construction that uses 「無い」, unlike words like 「すくない」 and 「あぶない」. Furthermore, 「だらしが無い」 ...
9
votes
1answer
327 views

How did 家, 手, and 士 come to be included in the names of professions?

When I look at the words for professions, there are usually kanji such as 員、者、長、師、屋 and such, that end the name. These appear to make sense to me; however, what about ones such as 家、手、and 士? For ...
7
votes
2answers
322 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 ...
9
votes
2answers
290 views

Why do some Japanese men use お袋 to address their mothers?

I often hear Japanese males use the word お袋 in place of お母さん when annoyed or irritated. Is this word slang? How did this word come to mean 「お母さん」 and what are the circumstances it is used in? I am ...
4
votes
0answers
114 views

same reading, similar meaning, different Kanji [duplicate]

Possible Duplicate: do people actually respect the nuances of 探す vs 捜す? There are many kanji that I have come across with similar meanings, and (seemly coincidentally) identical readings. ...
2
votes
1answer
188 views

The plural 等 in おいら, おら

Why do the singular first person pronouns 俺{おい}等{ら} and 俺{お}等{ら} involve the plural affix 等?
17
votes
1answer
700 views

Did ありがとう come from Portuguese “obrigado”?

I have heard before that ありがとう came from the word "obrigado" in Portuguese. Is this true and is there any evidence to support this, or is it an old wives' tale?
4
votes
1answer
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 ...
10
votes
2answers
248 views

What do the parts of じゃんけんぽん mean?

I imagine that in じゃんけんぽん, けん corresponds to 拳 which I interpret as "fist" which is "rock". Do じゃん and ぽん correspond to "scissors" and "paper" ? If not, then do the individual parts of じゃん, けん and ...
6
votes
4answers
292 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 ...
12
votes
2answers
351 views

What is the correct veritable meaning of 水無月 and 神無月?

This question is the result of a conversation with Chocolate in chat, and also this Japanese calendar I have that lists the months according to the traditional Japanese names. For some reason, there ...
8
votes
2answers
280 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 ...
6
votes
2answers
221 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?
6
votes
2answers
297 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) ...
9
votes
1answer
210 views

What's the etymology of 負けず嫌い?

It seems strange to me that 負{ま}けず嫌{ぎら}い means "hate losing" and not "hate not losing". (食わず嫌い for example seems to mean "hate a food without trying it".) Providing credible sources if possible, what ...
7
votes
1answer
641 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 ...
7
votes
1answer
408 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 ...
7
votes
2answers
194 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 ...
10
votes
1answer
289 views

Unifying concept for noun-adjectives of the pattern Xかな

Consider these: ~か: 静か 愚か 厳か ~やか: 穏やか 鮮やか 賑やか ~らか: 柔らか 滑らか 明らか There are many more that I've not listed. The か/やか/らか at the end of these words ...
13
votes
2answers
288 views

Was 俺 ever gender-neutral?

I've heard elderly women in Japan referring to themselves using 俺. This leads me to believe that the usage has changed overtime to become only used by males. Did 俺 used to be gender-neutral?
8
votes
1answer
2k views

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 ...
1
vote
1answer
183 views

The etymology of the word バックシャン

What is the etymology of the word バックシャン? I understand it commonly refers to a woman beautiful only from behind. See this definition- 女性のうしろ姿が均整がとれて美しいこと。また、その女性。多く、前から見ると失望するような 場合にいう。 I ...
2
votes
1answer
84 views

What is the etymology of どんちゃん騒ぎ?

WWWJDIC defines it as this: どんちゃん騒ぎ【さわ】 (n) merrymaking; high jinks; spree 観光客は町中飲み歩いてどんちゃん騒ぎをした。 The tourists painted the whole town red What is the etymology of this word? Is it in common ...
2
votes
1answer
179 views

Is まい as in あるまい really only used in literary texts or TV?

My understanding --admittedly limited-- is that in Japanese, people say as much as they can with as little words as possible. So I wondered why ないだろう would be used in everyday speaking instead of まい? ...
8
votes
1answer
636 views

Ancient practise of sneaking into women's bedrooms…?

I was looking up the meaning of スマ婚{こん}, when my mouse happened to roll over the kanji 婚{こん}, and this definition popped up in Rikaichan: 婚 よばい ancient practice of creeping at night into a woman's ...
10
votes
1answer
202 views

What is the significance of a large く character in literary texts?

I am currently reading an early story by Tanizaki Junichiro in Japanese. I have come across both the hiragana く and ぐ written twice the size they usually are, taking up the same amount of space on the ...
1
vote
1answer
128 views

Different permutations of 気 [closed]

Lots of words/expressions/phrases use 気 in one way or another. For example 気をつけて, 気味, 気になる, 気がつく, 気がする, 天気 etc... Is there a reference somewhere for the seemingly more "interesting" phrases (like the ...
4
votes
1answer
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 ...
5
votes
0answers
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 ...
2
votes
1answer
120 views

What is the etymology for やいかに

I would like to know more about the usage and etymology of やいかに Example sentences: はたして結果やいかに 運命やいかに はたして鑑定やいかに Questions: What is the etymology of the word? I have seen also はいかに ...
4
votes
2answers
234 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?
12
votes
4answers
257 views

History of 十干(じっかん)and modern uses

As I was studying vocabulary today, I happened to come across the titular 十干 which are as follows: 甲(こう)• 乙(おつ)• 丙(へい)• 丁(てい) •戊(ぼ)• 己(き)• 庚(こう)• 辛(しん)• 壬(じん)• 癸(き) There's a somewhat lengthy ...
7
votes
2answers
520 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 ...
7
votes
1answer
217 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.
8
votes
2answers
513 views

Origin of onsen term “wani”

Why was "wani" (crocodile or alligator) chosen as a term for a gawker at a konyoku (mixed gender onsen)? Was it because of the animal's ability to stare, the fact that it is a predator, or was it ...
5
votes
1answer
447 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 ...
5
votes
2answers
319 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 ...
5
votes
2answers
334 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 ...
10
votes
3answers
484 views

Nuance, usage and etymology of お[出]{い}で

I observed in drama and anime (being outside Japan, those are my only ways of keeping in touch with spoken 日本語) that elder people sometimes say お出で to younger people when they want to say something ...
4
votes
1answer
186 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 ...
10
votes
2answers
483 views

What is the etymology of [山葵]{わさび}?

I know that "わさび" 'wasabi' can also be written using kanji as "山葵" and that these two characters mean respectively "mountain" and "hollyhock", but hollyhock doesn't seem at first glance to be related. ...
7
votes
1answer
267 views

Words with metathesis

What common Japanese words underwent metathesis (transposition of sounds)? Examples. 新{あたら}しい < あらたしい 秋葉原 {あきはばら} < あきばはら
12
votes
1answer
635 views

Why “社会の窓” (shakai no mado)?

A few years ago I was told by a Japanese friend "社会の窓" (shakai no mado). It was explained after some giggling that this is what is said to a man who has inadvertently left his fly open, and that it ...