There seems to be many Japanese verbs that are mysteriously compounded with 出る, like 出来る and 出会う. What is the actual semantic role of the 出? I'm especially curious about the difference between 会う and 出会う.

  • I always thought of 出来る as 当て字 (like in お目出度う). 出会う seems just to be the normal "ます-stem + verb" rule, like in 切り落とす or お見合い...
    – Earthliŋ
    Commented Mar 13, 2013 at 0:26
  • 出来る doesn't seem to be 当て字, since it actually seems to match its kanjis' meaning, if you consider that the "object" of the verb gets the subject marker. I've always mentally read "私は日本語が出来る" as "As for me, Japanese goes and comes (i.e. can be spoken)"
    – ithisa
    Commented Mar 13, 2013 at 0:29
  • 4
    Related: Etymology of 出来る dekiru
    – user1478
    Commented Mar 13, 2013 at 3:54
  • You said 出会う, 出来る, etc. Did you have more words in mind?
    – Earthliŋ
    Commented Mar 13, 2013 at 12:46
  • 2
    @Earthliŋ 出来る isn't ateji, it actually meant "come to, appear". It somewhat reminds me how English become and German bekommen have diverged. Commented Mar 13, 2017 at 6:06

1 Answer 1


Since there is already a question for 出来る, I'll add my two cents for 出会う.

I think 会う and 出会う have clear distinct uses. 会う means "to meet", as in

I went to see my mother.

This type of meeting someone is usually planned. (Of course あう can mean more than meeting someone, but these uses are not comparable to 出会う any longer.)

出会う means "to come across, to meet by accident, to encounter", e.g.

Sorrow is at parting if at meeting there be laughter.

The 出 just means what it always means and the structure of 出会う is just ます-stem + verb, like in 見合わせる, 作り直す, etc. I don't think it's too far a stretch to imagine that "to go out and meet" came to mean "to encounter" or "to meet by accident".

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