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I'm a Korean so I know many Chinese letters. In Japanes あけましておめでとうございます means Happy New Year. Litterally it's 'It's new year so congratulations.' おめでとう is written in Kanji as 御目出度う. 御 : to rule, or to control 目 : eye 出 : go out 度 : degree How does the Kanji words combine to mean 'to congratulate'? Is it just borrowing sound from Kanji?

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The kanji in (御)目出度う and (御)芽出度う are ateji (meaning they are chosen in a word for their sound, except that 芽出 and 目出 also match the meaning of めでたい, and they both have to do with auspiciousness, the auspicious aspect of 目(が)出(る) coming from rolling a good number on a die and 芽(が)出(る) coming from the auspiciousness of a sprout). The word おめでとう actually is a phonetic change from おめで度(たく), which comes from the adverbial form of the honorific form (due to お/御 affixing it) of 愛でたい, from 愛でる (to admire), and たい (very, an adjectival suffix found in certain words) coming from 甚い which is the etymology of the word 痛い (to the) extreme) meaning admirable. The 御 here still makes sense with the meaning you find to make no sense, more sense when you read its other meanings (honorable/manipulate), and even more sense once you see what its' kanji stands for, which is driving a vehicle. So, the congratulate meaning of おめでとう comes from its literal meaning, to be auspicious/admirable.

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    Japanese usage of 御 as kanji spelling for several honorific prefixes is probably semantic extension of already Chinese usage of 御 as prefix meaning "royal, imperial". See first meaning here. So other meanings, including "to manage; to govern; to control", can be ignored here. Remaining kanji (目出度 / 芽出度) are, as said in this answer, ateji.
    – Arfrever
    Commented Jun 11 at 15:55
  • Thanks for the kind explanations!
    – Chan Kim
    Commented Jun 12 at 6:13
  • @Arfrever Interesting; I wouldn't have been able to make that sort of connection. Please feel free to edit my answer correspondingly. Commented Jun 12 at 6:35
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Sorry in advance if I tell you things that you already know about Chinese characters. I want to explain what I can for everyone - specifically, how the characters are used in Japanese.

おめでとう is an honorific prefix お, plus めでたく (the verb [愛]{め}でる, turned into an i-adjective めでたい and then into an adverbial form), which is then affected by a sound shift. You will probably notice this uses the character [愛]{あい} for "love". It could also be written with [賞]{しょう} for "prize". We can say that 愛でる means things like "cherish" or "adore", but also "celebrate".

The characters [目]{め}[出]{で}[度]{と} are ateji, i.e. chosen specifically to spell the word phonetically but write it with kanji.

In ateji readings, the characters aren't specifically chosen to convey meaning, but they often have some connection to the intended meaning. In this case, as Star Peep points out, there is an expression 目が出る, literally "eyes go out (protrude)" - which can refer to being surprised (the same metaphor as in English) but also describes being lucky. The kanji 芽 may substitute for 目 here; the core meaning is "sprout" - metaphorically, one's good fortune grows wildly, from seemingly inconsequential dirt.

However, the 度 is, as far as I can tell, completely unrelated. I can find no evidence that 度 was ever a standard, generalized kanji for the helper i-adjective たい, which we normally write only in hiragana. This たい has a completely different etymology. And 度 can mean a lot more than "degree", but I can't see a way that it relates to "desirable". My guess is, 度 was chosen for its on-reading of たく, as in [忖]{そん}[度]{たく} or [臆]{おく}[度]{たく}, before the sound shift happened. Then maybe the う okurigana was added to make the pronunciation clear.

As for , this is in a sense also ateji - but it's the standard ateji for the honorific prefix お or おん (typically on native Japanese words using a kun-reading) or ご (typically on Chinese loanwords using an on-reading).

The kanji itself may have meanings (derived from Chinese) like "manipulate" or "govern" (as Jisho glosses it). It also gives a meaning like that to some noun phrases. But as far as I know, it isn't used to write any verb like "to rule" or "to control" in Japanese - or any other verb. In Japanese, it's just a fancy way to write such an honorific prefix (or occasionally suffix), and I don't think that use is connected to the kanji meaning.

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    Regarding 御, for "rule, control" meaning there are e.g. 御す, 御する, 制御(する), 統御(する), for "imperial, emperor-related" meaning there are e.g. 出御(する), 入御(する), 着御, 発御, 崩御(する), for "driving, riding" meaning there are e.g. 御者, 下御(する).
    – Arfrever
    Commented Jun 13 at 5:33
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    Regarding 愛{め}でたい, this is from medetasi, which is phonological simplification of earlier medeitasi, from mede + itasi. See etymology here.
    – Arfrever
    Commented Jun 13 at 5:48
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    " from mede + itasi" - well, yes, but (per the "completely different etymology" link in my answer) this same itasi is proposed as the origin of -たい as a desiderative suffix generally. Commented Jun 13 at 9:41

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