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

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Are most kanji characters morphemes?

I've always assumed that kanji characters are almost always morphemes, but I've hardly seen anyone explicitly state that. I think the idea that kanji usually represent ideas, not pronunciation, played ...
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1answer
130 views

Etymologically why do some words have explicit potential sense while others don't have?

Consider the following pairs, can hear: 聞ける (the potential of 聞く) and 聞こえる can see: 見られる (the potential of 見る) and 見える I am interested to know the etymologies of how some words have explicit ...
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97 views

Etymology of 天地無用

WWWJDIC: [天地無用]{てんちむよう} (exp) (yoji) do not turn upside down I see this on some cardboard boxes in the context of shipping and handling. Why is this expression used to indicate "this side up", or ...
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124 views

What do the symbols 女力 mean? [closed]

Also would they have a different meaning if they were written vertically?
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2answers
304 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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91 views

How Is つ/ツ origin 川?

Wikipedia's Tsu (kana) page says つ/ツ hiragana origin 川 katakana origin 川 How Is つ/ツ origin 川?
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176 views

Origin of the kanji for 叶う

One thing that has always confused me is how the word 叶【かな】う took on the meaning of for a (wish) to come true. I find this perplexing because in Chinese, the word has never had this meaning. 叶's ...
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117 views

When did the word 「女性観」 come into standard usage? Is it a more politically-correct form of 「婦人観」?

I need to know when 「女性観」 was coined and, more importantly, when it became widely known/used. Was 「女性観」used in the early to mid-19th century? Did it replace 「婦人観」later on? Nitobe Inazo used 「婦人観」 in ...
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60 views

proper usage of 出かける

What is the proper usage of 出かける because most of the time I am only using 行く or 出る for example 川へせんたくしに行く and I don't get its difference from 川へせんたくに出かける thanks for the responds
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Does the term 大和撫子 predate WWII, or was there an equivalent term for the ideal Japanese lady?

Does the term 「大和撫子」for describing the ideal Japanese lady predate WWII, or was there an equivalent term before that? These sites here and here indicate that the term was co-opted for propaganda ...
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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 ...
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Where does げ come from? [duplicate]

Where does ~げ come from? For example in 地震の影響で工場を閉じることになったと説明する社長は悔しげだった。 it is supposed to mean that we get a slight impression that the manager was "regretful" while explaining why the ...
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342 views

Why is coffee with shochu or awamori called コーヒー割{わ}り “split / divided coffee”?

About five nights ago I went out with a local friend to a traditional Okinawan club in Naha. We were of course drinking 泡盛{あわもり} (awamori) with water and ice. But the girl working there had a drink ...
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374 views

How did やわらかい gain its い?

As we know, there is a class of adjectives that end in 〜らか: 滑【なめ】らか, 明【あき】らか, 清【きよ】らか, 安【やす】らか, etc. やわらか (柔らか or 軟らか) is also in this class of adjectives. However, it can also be written as the ...
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204 views

Doesn't Japan call North Korea “北朝鮮” ? why?

If I remember correctly, North Korea is called "北朝鮮{きたちょうせん}" in Japan? But, I think "朝鮮" might actually be written in Katakana? Anyway, given that "朝鮮" was Japan's colonial name for (all of) Korea, ...
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87 views

Is アルコール from Portuguese?

The word アルコール is very similar to the Portuguese alcohol (pronounced álcool), this seems closer than the English アルコホール. So is the real etymology Portuguese rather than English?
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86 views

手を貸す and 'lend a hand' - coincidence?

At some point I found that 手を貸す both literally and figuratively means 'to lend a hand' - is the resemblance a coincidence?
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1answer
142 views

Why are japanese comic storyboards called names (ネーム)?

ネーム is the rough draft which the finished manga is based on. (reference) I can't for the life of me figure out the origin of this word. Why did it end up being the English word "name"?
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3answers
271 views

What is the か in「か弱い」?

I'm wondering what the か in か弱い, か細い and similar words is. It seems to act as an intensifier. The Daijisen tells me simply that this か is a 接頭語, and translates it as いかにも; it doesn't seem to have its ...
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1answer
95 views

Is it okay to use お帰りなさい on a collegue?

I just want to ask what is the impact of using お帰りなさい on someone who just come back from a business trip? well to elaborate a little, we have a Japanese employee in our company, and one of my ...
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1answer
60 views

Why are the words 「とうもろこし」 and 「とうきび」 used more commonly in Hokkaido than 「コーン」?

Why are the words 「とうもろこし」 and 「とうきび」 so commonly used in Hokkaido, whereas 「コーン」 seems to be more commonly used on the other islands of Japan?
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145 views

Does チャンプルー come from Indonesian?

Quoted from the Japanese Wikipedia entry about チャンプルー ...
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365 views

Where does “gold day” originate from?

Recently I learned what the days of the week are and noticed "kinyobi" 金曜日. I'd like to know where the term "gold" relates to. Were people in ancient Japan paid at Friday each week?
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55 views

Translating “数年の歳月” in this context, is it a unit of time?

In the video game Chantelise, the epilogue starts with: それから数年の歳月が流れました The translated version just says: After several years And while that's a concise and accurate translation... I was ...
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1answer
112 views

Are 臭い{くさい} and 腐る{くさる} related?

Do 臭い{くさい} and [腐る]{くさる} have similar roots? They obviously sound very similar; the only difference in pronunciation is the final mora, but maybe that's only because of the part of speech. The ...
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1answer
65 views

Where does the れ reading of 落 in 洒落 come from?

Both wiktionary and jisho.org list the on'yomi for 落ちる as ラク. The kun'yomi is 落{お}ちる, 落{お}とす, or 落{お}ち. So I'm wondering how this kanji developed the reading れ in お洒落{しゃれ} and 洒落{しゃれ}.
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54 views

Etymology of とにかく

I was wondering with anyone knew the etymology of とにかく or any of its variants. The literal meaning doesn't make sense when you consider its actual meaning, so I got curious.
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998 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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131 views

What does 尿が近い and 尿が遠い mean?

seeing 尿が遠い/尿が近い in some medical documents and sites, what does 遠い and 近い mean in this sense? Does it literally mean the urine is far(ranged)/urine is close (ranged)?
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227 views

Where does the な in 大人 (otona) come from?

As far as I understand, the word 大人 (otona) uses the kanji 大 to represent お and the kanji 人 to represent と. According to this site the readings for 人 do not include な. Where does the な come from then? ...
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90 views

What is the etymology of the “emphatic” ない?

Upon looking up the term 大事ない, I was, shall we say, nonplussed to learn that it could mean both "very important" and "not very important". The explanation of the "very important" meaning clears things ...
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1answer
242 views

Etymology of 宵【よい】

This is a loose follow-up of my first question here on JLSE. I tried to check gogen-allguide.com and 大辞林, but couldn't find anything definitive. Unfortunately I don't know any other resources for ...
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131 views

Is the interjection おう really a Chinese loanword?

In Samuel E. Martin's "A Reference Grammar of Japanese", in a section (Chapter 23, p. 1041) on putative etymologies for some Japanese interjections like さあ or まあ, he asserts: Although others ...
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Is “俎板の上の鯉” related to the Vietnamese phrase “như cá nằm trên thớt”?

Is the Japanese phrase "俎板の上の鯉" - a carp laid on a chopping block related to the Vietnamese phrase "như cá nằm trên thớt" - like a fish on cutting board, either because Japanese got the phrase from ...
3
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1answer
122 views

What is the difference between 良い and いい?

Consider the following: 良い yoi — 良く yoku いい ii — よく yoku When typing いい, IME offers 良い in the lookup table. It makes me wonder whether いい is just an alias of 良い but it is pronounced ...
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2answers
130 views

How did 逸 come to feature in pleasure/idleness words?

I can't judge the reliability of http://www.kanjinetworks.com (and it is probably controversial), but there the speed, movement meaning of 逸 is linked to its claimed origins in 兎{うさぎ}. Hence 逸する, 逸らす ...
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112 views

Why is イチゴ written in katakana?

From which language did it come to Japanese? And why does it have its own kanji?
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122 views

Origin of -tai desiderative suffix

Japanese verbs can take the suffix -tai, which attaches to the ren'youkei form and turns the verb into an -i adjective, expressing desire to do what the verb says. I have recently wondered where this ...
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1answer
1k views

Why is カラオケ (karaoke) written in katakana?

I noticed カラオケ (karaoke) is always written in katakana on signs/buildings in Japan, despite it being a Japanese word. Why is it not written in Kanji or Hiragana? As I understand it, the usual reasons ...
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2answers
211 views

Why 'okane o haraimasu'?

In sentences such as: Jana will pay for the drinks. or Will the kids have to pay?. Why is it okane o haraimasu instead of ... o haraimasu? [Correct] Examples: Jana san wa nomimono no okane o ...
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251 views

Etymological connection between 門 and 円?

I'm curious if there's any historical link between the kanji for "gate", 門{かど}, and the kanji for "circle" or "yen", 円{えん}. If 門 is gate, 円 looks like a closed gate. Am I being whimsical and seeing ...
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490 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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1k views

Why is 島 used in the name of some cities?

I can understand "島" being used in 硫黄島 (Iwo Jima/Iwo To, literally "Sulphur island"), because it is an island, but why is it used in 福島市 (Fukushima city, literally "Good fortune island") and 広島市 ...
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Why was 邪 chosen to spell the names of 伊邪那岐神 and 伊邪那美神 in the 古事記?

I had been wondering about this for a while. Consider the spelling of he names of Izanagi and Izanami in the 古事記: 伊邪那岐神【いざなぎのかみ】 and (妹【いも】)伊邪那美神【いざなみのかみ】 (source) Both of their names ...
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491 views

Why is ホワイト spelled as it is?

What is the precise etymology of the word? Was it borrowed at the time when it was pronounced [hwait] or they just perceived it like that?
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110 views

Why is スタイル used to denote body figure?

You know how Japanese people say "スタイルのいいお姉さん" to basically refer to "that girl with huge boobs" or "that really tall girl"? I've seen this get thrown around a lot but never really got the rationale ...
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452 views

What is the etymology of イギリス?

I'm trying to figure out where the term イギリス for the United Kingdom came from. I suspect 英国【えいこく】 because they sound similar, but that seems a bit odd as Katakana words are usually loan words.
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346 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 ...
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1answer
132 views

レアチーズケーキ: Does 「レア」 originally come from “rare” or from “layer”?

レアチーズケーキ is a kind of cheesecake which is not baked. What is the etymology of the レア part of this word? Academic references needed, as this is a controversial topic: The top Google result claims ...
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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 ...