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

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10
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1k 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".
10
votes
3answers
2k 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?
7
votes
3answers
528 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 ...
13
votes
3answers
750 views

Why is “Xy” pronounced as “Ki Shi” in Xylitol「キシリトール」?

Why is "Xy" pronounced as "[Ki Shi]{キ シ}" in [Xylitol]{キシリトール}? I believe "Xy" can pronounced as "Zai", which is probably a valid sound in Japanese. I would like to know its etymology too, if there ...
11
votes
1answer
360 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
366 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 ...
19
votes
3answers
1k views

Kanji for native Japanese concepts: Kun'yomi spanning multiple morphemes

There are a few words, which are written with Kanji imported from China, but where the intended native Japanese meaning would prefer a different choice of Kanji. My favourite examples are 雷 vs. 神鳴り ...
10
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2answers
464 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 ...
9
votes
2answers
310 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 ...
9
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3answers
473 views

Imperative used instead of conditional form

This quesion: と言っても vs とは言え . reminded me of a similar case: どっちにしても vs どっちにしろ which are also synonymous as far as I can tell. That got me thinking: Is this coincidental? Are there ...
0
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1answer
693 views

Superdry. 極度乾燥(しなさい) [closed]

How did this brand name Superdry. 極度乾燥(しなさい) come about? Is there any deep consideration behind it? Are the customers having some thoughts?
4
votes
0answers
117 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
198 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?
10
votes
2answers
261 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
343 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
372 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
316 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
228 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?
9
votes
1answer
215 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
2answers
409 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) ...
6
votes
1answer
438 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 ...
8
votes
2answers
216 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
313 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 ...
14
votes
2answers
308 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?
1
vote
1answer
201 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 ...
8
votes
1answer
741 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 ...
2
votes
1answer
201 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
721 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 ...
11
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1answer
209 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
130 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
178 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 ...
18
votes
1answer
764 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?
7
votes
1answer
817 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 ...
5
votes
0answers
95 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
123 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
255 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?
8
votes
1answer
362 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.
9
votes
1answer
693 views

What is the meaning/usage of いざ?

Will someone please explain what this word いざ means? I've found several definitions, but I'm very unclear on what it really means and its usage. I've heard it mostly in the following ways: ...
9
votes
2answers
283 views

Etymology of とんでもない

Where did とんでもない (meaning "not at all" or "outrageous!") come from? Could it be 飛んでもない? ("will not even jump/fly" in a similar way how "When pigs fly" is considered a remark for something ...
8
votes
2answers
594 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
512 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 ...
6
votes
2answers
364 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 ...
18
votes
4answers
548 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 ...
7
votes
1answer
223 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.
4
votes
1answer
205 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 ...
6
votes
2answers
230 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 ...
3
votes
1answer
342 views

What is the etymology of the word マラ?

Does anyone have an opinion on the etymology of the word マラ, a crude term for penis? Any thoughts on usage are also appreciated. (via archive.org) http://gogen-allguide.com/ma/mara.html
6
votes
1answer
385 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 ...
4
votes
1answer
168 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 ...