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The usage of 代{だい} to mean "replacement" or "era" both seem to have an equivalent in Chinese but the meaning of "payment" seems unique to Japanese. Is this just an evolution of the "replacement" meaning or could this be a contraction of 代{だい}金{きん}?

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I don't think 代 means "payment" by itself. It functions as a suffix meaning "fee" or "charge", such as in キャンセル代 ("cancellation fee") or 残業代 ("overtime fee"). Money is something you pay as a substitute for something, so I think it can be understood as an extension of the concept of "replacement".

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    I think お代 comes close to 代 referring to a payment on its own
    – Angelos
    Apr 12 at 21:29
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    @Angelos I think お代 is closer to "price" than to "payment"... We say お代を払う ("pay the price") but we cannot say お代を完了する, for example.
    – naruto
    Apr 12 at 21:40
  • Makes sense! Just checking though, do you know if there is any special relationship with 代金? Or do they just both happen to use 代 and have roughly the same meaning?
    – acumandr
    Apr 13 at 23:56
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    @acumandr 代 is a suffix, and 代金 is a noun that works independently. The basic meaning is the same, though.
    – naruto
    Apr 14 at 0:45

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