Hot answers tagged ateji
Etymology There are numerous theories about this. Japanese: The theories restricted to Japanese origins all revolve around the ideas of some larger geographic area that was split into "upper" (-kami or -gami) and "lower" (-shimo) halves. The main theories listed at the JA Wikipedia article on 武蔵国 (Musashi no Kuni) and at the Nihon Jiten page here ...
百足 is an ancient Chinese colloquial name for a sort of arthropod. It can be traced to the 6th century document Book of Wei, which includes the passage 百足之蟲，至死不僵，以扶之者眾也 -> "A worm with a hundred feet does not go stiff upon death, since it has many support". The phrase has since found its way into common Chinese idiom in a slightly altered form. The term 百足 ...
http://www.geocities.jp/holmyow/mukade.html This document seems saying the use of 百足 is at least as old as in the 10th century. So if this research is correct, it shouldn't be considered as a calque from the western languages. (But I'm not sure about the reliability of this document.)
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