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?


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 '13 at 22:08
  • 1
    Hmm, you both beat me to it.
    – istrasci
    Mar 18 '13 at 22:13
  • 1
    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 '13 at 9:17

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