Shrimp (えび) is written several different ways in Japanese. For example, there are the words commonly used in Chinese: 蝦 and 鰕. There is also a compound specific to Japan, 海老, and a kokuji, 蛯. Both of the latter contain the character for old age, 老. Is there some reason why the Japanese associate shrimp with old age?

1 Answer 1


The Japanese Wikipedia page for エビ says the following:


Apparently the use of 老 comes from the way shrimp bend forward, like an old person bending forward at the waist.

  • 1
    Ah, I was just typing the same answer. +1 (The part before that about the relation to grapes is also interesting).
    – Jesse Good
    Mar 18, 2013 at 22:08
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    Hmm, you both beat me to it.
    – istrasci
    Mar 18, 2013 at 22:13
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    I heard it was because of their whiskers, that supposedly resemble old men's moustaches. Either way, it comes down to a likeness in appearance. Mar 20, 2013 at 9:17

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