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As noted in the question comments, the kanji 円 was originally 圓. The nutshell version of the article Yang Muye linked is that monks developed a shorthand version of 圓 that looked like a box with a vertical line through it: . Over time, the shape of the surrounding box changed, likely due to the same anatomical and mechanical processes that inform any ...


Turning comments into an answer. Credit should go all to the commenters on original question! Choko: 「さざれ石(=細かい石)が巌【いわお】(=大きな岩)になって、(それに)苔【こけ】が[生]{む}す(=苔が生【は】える)まで。」って意味です。 jogloran: Is the fact that が=の in this text commonly known to ordinary Japanese speakers? Choko: 私学の中高に通っていた大学生は結構知らなかったりしますね・・・ College students that went to ...

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