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

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17
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4answers
500 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
213 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
179 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 ...
5
votes
2answers
199 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
224 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. http://gogen-allguide.com/ma/mara.html
6
votes
1answer
352 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
160 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 ...
17
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1answer
574 views

Why is a place that sells さけ a さかや?

Is it known why a さかや normally has a か, rather than a け like in さけ? Are there many other -や constructions for stores that change the spelling of the word added to?
4
votes
3answers
353 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 ...
8
votes
3answers
918 views

よかろう - What does it mean? Where does it come from?

This is another question that's come from a 昔話。 We have the following section: 大きい箱と小さい箱がありますが、どちらがいいですか。 どちらも結構じゃが、どうしてもと言うのなら、小さいほうでよかろう。 I'm having trouble with the second sentence. My ...
6
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1answer
230 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 ...
7
votes
1answer
257 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
8
votes
1answer
839 views

Left (ひだり) and right (みぎ) as cardinal directions

In many Indo-European ancient languages, there used to be a strong connection between the words for right and left on one side and the words for south and north1 (respectively) on the other side. This ...
13
votes
1answer
246 views

Why did の disappear from 山手, but in 御茶ノ水 it's in katakana?

I realize that very likely the answer to this question is likely to be something along the lines of "that's just the way it is", but I thought it worth asking to see if there were some insights that ...
7
votes
3answers
221 views

Where does the いかない in ~わけにはいかない come from?

My first thought is that いかない in this phrase conveys the meaning of 行かない, that is, not progressing to something. But this is mere guesswork. What is the history of いかない in ~わけにはいかない? Does it have ...
6
votes
2answers
131 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?
4
votes
1answer
209 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") ...
8
votes
2answers
942 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 ...
5
votes
2answers
303 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 ...
11
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2answers
274 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」 ...
10
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1answer
747 views

Usage of お+[verb stem]+する for humble form and お+[verb stem]+になる for honorific form

Apart from using verb-specific humble and honorific versions (e.g. 参る < 行く < いらっしゃる), the general method of turning a verb into humble is by using お+[verb stem aka 連用形]+する while the general ...
8
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2answers
255 views

Saying 「おかわり」 when requesting second helping: what is being exchanged?

I am aware that the phrase 「おかわり」 that is used when asking for second helping (of meals especially) is an idiomatic expression, so its usage is understood as it is. But, I'm curious about the origin ...
15
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2answers
434 views

Exceptional compounding forms

There are a number of Japanese words which have distinct compounding forms: -a/-e alternation: 天・雨、酒、上、風、目 — many examples. -u/-i alternation: 神([神]{かむ}[集]{つど}ふ)、月([月]{つく}[読]{よみ}) -o/-i alternation: ...
9
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1answer
322 views

Was sake always called nihonshu?

Was nihonshu (what English refers to as "sake") always called nihonshu, or was it only called that once western alcoholic beverages were introduced to Japan?
12
votes
1answer
368 views

Why did オレンジ replace 橙【だいだい】?

This question about colours got me thinking: Why, and how, did オレンジ come to replace 橙【だいだい】 to refer to the colour orange? It seems weird to me that a word taken from a foreign language became ...
12
votes
3answers
358 views

The etymology of 関手【かんしゅ】

In Japanese mathematics, the word ‘functor’ is translated as 関手【かんしゅ】. What is the etymology of this word? I suspect that it is a pun on 関数 (function). This leads to two further questions: Why 関手 ...
10
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2answers
311 views

Etymology of 土産 {みやげ}

The pronunciation "みやげ" does not correspond to on'yomi nor kun'yomi of 土産, so I thought it was a gikun (義訓), but the combination of kanji 土 and 産 does not seem to provide the meaning of "souvenir" ...
13
votes
3answers
910 views

Historical differences between colors that are i-adjectives and those that are simply nouns

EDIT: Started a bounty with hope of getting more definitive and elaborate answers, e.g. timeline of when color names started being used in Japan. In Japanese language, there are colors that are ...
5
votes
2answers
294 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 ...
14
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2answers
266 views

What are the origins of ド when used as emphasis, and is it always negative?

Sometimes I've seen ド as a prefix that adds emphasis to words. So saying someone is ドバカ is saying that they are much more stupid than just バカ. I'm wondering what the origin of ド in this context is. ...
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, ...
6
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1answer
198 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?
8
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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 ...
23
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2answers
2k views

Where does “もしもし” (moshimoshi) for answering the telephone come from?

Does the term "もしもし" (moshimoshi) predate the telephone? Does it have any use besides answering the phone? Where does it come from, is it just a reduplication of "もし" (moshi) "if", and if so how does ...
9
votes
4answers
537 views

Are there any common Japanese words which were borrowed from Ainu or other indigenous languages?

I know plenty of Japanese words that came from English and a few from other European languages (obviously tons from Chinese), but what about words from Japan's indigenous languages such as Ainu? Also ...
10
votes
1answer
202 views

How can [数]{す}[寄]{き}[者]{しゃ} both mean a tea ceremony master and a “lewd man, a lecher”?

I would like to understand better the etymology or the cultural context surrounding 数寄者 If I believe wwwjdic, this compound is used to denote a tea ceremony master (with a reference to a ...
10
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1answer
306 views

Why is 五右衛門 read “goemon”?

Why is the name 五右衛門 read as ごえもん? How can the three kanji 五右衛 be read with only two syllables?
12
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4answers
250 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 ...
17
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1answer
402 views

How did 革 “leather” come to mean newness?

How did the character for "leather" - [革]{かわ / カク} - come to also convey the meaning for "newness"? 広辞苑 lists one of the definitions (under かく) as あらたまること, あらためること, and we can see this in some of its ...
7
votes
2answers
212 views

Origin/etymology of こころ~ words

There are three unique words that begin with こころ~: 快い (こころよい)、 試みる (こころみる)、 志 (こころざし) What is the origin of these words in relation to "heart/spirit/mind", if any??? Or is this just something ...
5
votes
3answers
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 ...
7
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1answer
355 views

Do 擬態語 (いらいら, きらきら, すっきり, etc.) generally have root words?

I understand that 擬音語 (ぎおんご) imitate sounds, like どきどき imitates a heartbeat. So, if these onomatopoeia don't have roots I wouldn't be at all surprised. But where do 擬態語 (ぎたいご) come from? Do いらいら (to ...
16
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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.
10
votes
3answers
446 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 ...
15
votes
2answers
431 views

Where does the word ダイヤ come from that means “train schedule”?

For the longest time I've been hearing the word ダイヤ and just always assumed it meant "Diamond", but found recently it all means "train schedule". My question is, what word/language did this word ...
12
votes
1answer
576 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 ...
9
votes
4answers
300 views

Etymology of 右に出る

What is the etymology of 右に出る, as in 「右に出る者はいない」? What on earth makes the right superior to the left? Relatedly, is 左に出る ever used to mean "inferior to"?
13
votes
1answer
240 views

What are the origins of the 「こそあど」 demonstratives?

I've noticed the following sets of words that seem to have a very obvious pattern, and, of course, their meanings are very closely related: これ、 それ、 あれ、 どれ この、 その、 あの、 どの ここ、 そこ、 あそこ、 どこ What are ...
10
votes
5answers
1k views

Is there an objective source of the origins of kanji?

Is there an authoritative source that explains where the different kanji come from and what the radicals mean? I think it's hard to tell from most of the textbooks/other sources whether a shown ...
5
votes
3answers
398 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 ...