語源. The study of the origin of words and the historical development of their meanings. Sometimes used for kanji as well; we currently don't have a separate tag for character origins.

learn more… | top users | synonyms (1)

4
votes
2answers
64 views

Is “役立つ” a recent lexicalization of “役に立つ”? Is it less formal?

When did 役に立つ lexicalize to 役立{やくだ}つ? Has 役立つ always been a word, and a word that is used more frequently than 役に立つ? A quick google shows 役立つ is used 3 times more frequently. I am reading the ...
5
votes
1answer
201 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 [...
3
votes
1answer
76 views

Etymology of 米国 (べいこく)

As far as I understand, the Chinese people called America "美国" (among many) which literally translates to 'beautiful country'. I understand it was phonetic transcription of 'America'. But I wonder ...
3
votes
1answer
71 views

Is there a (historical) connection between this オツ construct and Pig Latin?

Recently I was reading this post about conversions like おしゃれ->シャレオツ and I thought: "Wow, that seems very similar to Pig Latin!" (where e.g. "pig" becomes "igpay"; the main rule is that leading ...
11
votes
1answer
221 views

Why are the high-pitched voices of children 'yellow'?

I was reading a little book called 『ひらがな物語』 and came across this passage on page 119: ​ 大臣といえば明治初期の文部大臣森有礼が ​「めんどうだから、いっそのこと、小学校教育は英語にしようか」 ​ と、おおまじめで、いい出したこともあった。もし森文部大臣の発言が通っておれば今頃、 ​ パパ ...
2
votes
1answer
73 views

Similar 音・訓読み: Coincidence, or something more?

Occasionally, some 漢字 will have quite similar 音読み and 訓読み; such as, for instance 困; with 困{コン} and 困{こま}る; or 灰 with 灰{はい} and 灰{カイ}. Are these cases exclusively coincidence, or are there situations ...
14
votes
2answers
474 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 ...
5
votes
0answers
184 views

Etymology of 鼻の下を伸ばす / 「鼻の下を伸ばす」の語源

English Today I've came across the expression 鼻の下を伸ばす/ 鼻の下が長い and had to look up its meaning. Other web dictionaries have different meanings, like to be soft on women, to be spooney, and similar ...
12
votes
4answers
177 views

Is 戦う related to 叩く?

Are 戦う{たたかう} and 叩く{たたく} related? They have a similar pronunciation, and their meanings are close enough (fight vs. hit) that I think they could stem from the same origin. My theory is that 戦う ...
7
votes
2answers
341 views

Counter intuitive meaning of お開き

Apparently 開き means "opening" but お開き means "closure", which seems very counter intuitive. What is going on here? Are there any other similar cases in Japanese language?
2
votes
1answer
191 views

What is 「ピプロシン体」?

This is the first time I've failed to find a word in both dictionaries and Google search: the only hit Google finds is the article where this quote appears: 「本間さんは頭脳頗る明晰、今後優良の成績で卒業される事となつた、卒業論文は『...
11
votes
3answers
4k views

Why do they say 'kawaii' for 'poor thing'?

I've observed that when someone wants to say 'poor thing', they say something like 'kawaii sonna' and I know that kawaii means cute. Can someone please explain? Thanks.
8
votes
1answer
88 views

何も言うでない ! meaning and origin

I have found this sentence in Odin Sphere. I guess it's kind of old fashion for a strong interdiction. I first thought it came from the negative form of である but it doesn't seem to be replaceable by ...
15
votes
2answers
601 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?
8
votes
1answer
121 views

Why are some sharks named after birds?

Some sharks are seemingly named after birds: great white shark: hoojirozame 頬白鮫 from hoojiro (meadow bunting) sandbar shark: mejirozame 目白鮫 from mejiro (white-eye) blue shark: yoshikirizame 葦切鮫 from ...
6
votes
1answer
146 views

What is the origin of 付いてる meaning “to be lucky”?

Where does that come from? Was "to be attached" the only original meaning?
4
votes
1answer
101 views

Common origin of uses of the か particle

The particle か pops up in various places (among others): Turning interrogative pronouns into indefinite ones: なに -> なにか, だれ -> だれか, etc.; Listing alternatives (like the English conjunction 'or'); ...
3
votes
2answers
447 views

Please help me understand [予習]{よ・しゅう}

tl;dr The word 予習 is strange to me. Is its usage related to cultural difference? Does the user's knowledge of the material have something to do with it? I've always had trouble understanding ...
5
votes
3answers
140 views

Etymology of names of playing cards?

According to the Japanese wikipedia, the playing cards ("trump") are named as follows (written in Japanese in katakana): A: Ace 2: Deuce 3: torei 4: keito 5: shinku 6: saisu 7: Seven 8: Eight ...
3
votes
2answers
172 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 ...
6
votes
2answers
222 views

Is 翻す a former compound verb that merged into its current form?

The verb ひるがえす feels like it is made of two part ひる and かえす but I could not find any references backing this interpretation. And I can't figure out what would be ひる. @snailboat also mentioned くつがえす ...
6
votes
2answers
131 views

About 忙 and 忘 using same radicals but having different meanings

Today I confused 忙 with 忘 and now I can see why: they are made of same radicals and yet they have different meanings. Is there a logical reason for this?
18
votes
5answers
2k views

Are there any old loanwords from Korean, especially any not written in katakana?

Given the close proximity and long history of interaction of various kinds within East Asia, the great influence of Chinese in both Japanese and Korean, and the similar structures of Japanese and ...
5
votes
2answers
241 views

Why is たばこ written in hiragana instead of katakana?

While studying my Genki textbook I noticed that the word たばこ uses hiragana instead of katakana. I've always seen loan words to be in katakana, so this was interesting to me. I saw in this answer that ...
20
votes
2answers
866 views

What is the etymology behind したっけ

僕だけがいない街 anime shows the children saying したっけ! translated as 'See ya!' and other terms, these are from Hokkaido dialect. I guess you can switch したっけ to other forms to say 'See ya': じゃあまた また明日 Anyway,...
7
votes
2answers
180 views

Why does 屋根 means roof and 天井 means ceiling? Shouldn't it be the contrary?

I was learning these words with my kanji list, and I thought that I made a mistake and switched their meanings, but after checking the dictionary again I realized that actually their definition is ...
11
votes
1answer
102 views

What is the image/feeling/concept behind 面白半分に◯◯する?

In a phrase like: 面白{おもしろ}半分に見る or 面白半分に言う What is the concept behind the 半分 and why is it connected with the verb using に? Is it like "all things have two parts/aspects": serious (真剣半分?) ...
9
votes
2answers
570 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, ...
14
votes
2answers
483 views

Nouns exhibiting vowel fronting

As touched upon in another thread, there are several nouns that exhibit a kind of vowel shift in older forms, where the ending vowel is fronted when the noun is used on its own to become /i/ or /e/, ...
2
votes
1answer
104 views

Why can a single word have more than one Kanji?

For example, うなずく has 3 Kanji as follows. 頷く 首肯く 肯く Why can this single word have 3 Kanji?
6
votes
3answers
2k views

Why does 丈夫 and 大丈夫 mean what they mean?

Looking at the individual kanji according to a dictionary: 丈 means height, stature, length 夫 means husband, man 大 means big, great They seem unrelated to what these words using the kanji mean: 丈夫 ...
1
vote
2answers
137 views

Origin of this character: 體

The character, 體 (tai) which I think loosly means entity looks different than the what I have noticed in other characters. In particular, the radical on the left looks strange. I tried to find it on ...
5
votes
1answer
72 views

Is 薬指 related to the Latin term “digitus medicinalis”?

薬指 ("medicine finger", ring finger) is interestingly similar to the Latin term for ring finger, "digitus medicinalis". Are they etymologically related?
3
votes
1answer
118 views

同{おな}じ that means “same” is a noun but 違{ちが}う that means “differs” is a verb

When I asked Japanese about the opposite of 同じ, they always answer 違う. For me, it sounds strange that 同じ which is a noun has an antonym 違う which is a verb. Is there a pair of adjectives in Japanese ...
26
votes
3answers
653 views

What is the etymology behind る in 日{ひ}/昼{ひる} and 夜{よ}/夜{よる}?

I noticed that there is this る coming up in 日{ひ}→昼{ひる} and 夜{よ}→夜{よる}. I haven't seen ひる and よる used a lot in Classical Japanese, so ひ and よ probably came first. What is the role of this る? Does it ...
9
votes
1answer
240 views

Was “乎” the man'yōgana spelling of the accusative/object particle “を”?

In the English Wiktionary entry for "を" there is a quote or example sentence using the character "乎" with no explanation seemingly where the particle "を" would normally occur. Now I couldn't find ...
9
votes
2answers
222 views

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 ...
16
votes
2answers
676 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 ...
9
votes
2answers
214 views

What conjugation of 願う is 願わくば, and what does it mean here?

This is my first post here, I'm sorry if I didn't follow any formatting or posting rules. Original sentence, from a character's monologue: 願わくばこの時間が少しでも長く続くことを。。。 The English translation I have ...
6
votes
2answers
333 views

What was the origin for the term 水{みず}色{いろ} to be associated with youth, adolescence and puberty?

I am particularly interested in the phrase 「水{みず}色{いろ}時{じ}代{だい}」. Did it come from the old manga that used the phrase as its title, or has the phrase been carrying that particular cultural connotation ...
12
votes
2answers
4k views

About 「同{おな}じ」 and 「同{おな}じく」

As far as I know, 「[同じ]{おなじ}」 is not a 形容詞{けいようし} (-i adjective) so how does it become 「[同じく]{おなじく}」? Or does 「同じく」 not come from 「同じ」? Also, are there any other non i-adjectives that have -ku ...
10
votes
3answers
1k 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 ...
15
votes
1answer
667 views

Reading and usage of 「垂オます」

A while ago I was chatting with a Japanese man and when he introduced himself instead of using 「申す」 or 「言う」 he used 「垂オます」, as in (His name)と垂オます. Can this be used in the same way as 「申す」 and 「言う」 ...
10
votes
1answer
180 views

Use of テロ in 飯テロ

Why is テロ, which is presumably derived from "terrorism", used in 飯{めし}テロ, which I assume is the Japanese for "food porn"? I checked jisho.org and couldn't find any slang meanings of テロ.
5
votes
1answer
145 views

Meaning of じゃろ and じゃろう

カトちゃんだって、実際は別に毎日長さんに怒られてるわけじゃないじゃろから、本当は ”人気者で怒られない人” じゃろうね。 In reality it's not really the case that even Katochan gets told off by Chou everyday so, in truth, people who don't get told off by ...
16
votes
7answers
2k 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 kanji'...
11
votes
1answer
185 views

Why is the た in 手伝う voiced?

て+つたう→てつだう Unexpectedly, the た from つたう turns into だ. 連濁, at least with the 手+伝う analysis, can't account for this, because it's not the first consonant of 伝う. What happened here? 和訳 て+つたう→...
4
votes
1answer
110 views

Understanding “鯖を読む”

鯖を読む would be naively translated as "Reading a mackerel". Weblio describes it as metaphorically meaning to misrepresent a number, such as their age. jisho.org says that as well as meaning "to read", ...
5
votes
3answers
126 views

Usage of 契り when meaning destiny/fate/karma

I was looking up some examples using 夫婦 and I came across this: 夫婦の契り translated on alc as "marriage bed". No problem, but then I looked as 契り by itself. On WWWJDIC there are 3 definitions: (1)...
7
votes
2answers
214 views

Where does the furigana split on 小路?

Where does the furigana split on the word 小路{こうじ}? Does the う belong to 小 or does it belong to 路? Or is the word considered to have a 熟字訓読み (i.e. no split)? 小 has the reading こ 路 has the reading じ ...