In Japanese, we often see where the beginnings of multiple words are taken to make a contraction word.

  • 短大 → 学 → A juniour college
  • 収支 → 入と出 → income and expenditure; earnings and expenses
  • 国連 → 合 → The United Nations
  • リモコン → リモートコントロール → Remote control(ler)

However, 因果 is an abbreviation for 原と結. I can't say I've seen any other words formed by combining the end pieces. Why did 因果 come about this way? Why isn't the abbreviation 原結?

If you have other examples please list them.

Edit: Oops, yes, of course I meant 結果, not 効果. I was multitasking and my wires got crossed.

  • 8
    「因果 is an abbreviation for 原因と効果」← Who said this? Yourself or a source elswhere? That the word 因果 can be defined as 「原因と結果(not 効果)」 does not automatically mean that 因果 is an abbreviation of those two words.
    – user4032
    Aug 12, 2014 at 23:28
  • 7
    The word 因果 has been used in Japanese for well over a thousand years. However, both 原因 and 結果 (not sure why it's included, but even 効果) are relatively new. I cannot comment on the Chinese timeline, but this has nothing to do with Japanese. Perhaps you could try the Chinese language forum.
    – Dono
    Aug 12, 2014 at 23:29
  • 2
    @Dono How does one find out how old a word is? Is there a site or a book for such purposes? (I know 因果 is old though since it's a Buddhist term) Aug 13, 2014 at 16:13
  • 4
    @3to5businessdays There are various specialty resources and databases for researchers, but they are generally not open or easily accessible for non-affiliated consumption. Omitting those, generally your best source is a good dictionary. For English, this is the OED. For Japanese, this is the 日本国語大辞典. Both are available in print and online (paid subscription, though some institutions such as universities may provide free access).
    – Dono
    Aug 13, 2014 at 16:39
  • 3
    [Continued] Such dictionaries attempt (with varying success) to provide the earliest citations available. Japan has much work to do in this area, but it is much better than a few decades ago.
    – Dono
    Aug 13, 2014 at 16:39

4 Answers 4


Perhaps the following would reek of Chinese thinking, where 原因 for example is traditionally thought of as two words.

原因 = 因 of the 原, i.e. causing reason

結果 = 果 which has 結, i.e. the produced result

Both words arose in Chinese as a way to eliminate homophones by adding redundant adjectives (obviously all reasons are causing, and all results are produced). The original words are simply 因 and 果; thus they are used in compounds. Put it another way, the compound "因果" probably is older than the words "原因" and "結果", which came after sound changes caused much homophones.

This is similar to how 葉{は} had too many homophones and useless っぱ was added, and 田{た} had too many homophones and んぼ was added; you still use は and た in compounds though.

  • Perhaps you could clarify just a little, explicitly saying something about how 原 is the modifier 修飾語 of 因. However, I think this is the right answer and I've upvoted it. Aug 13, 2014 at 18:05
  • 原 means original/primal/causing/basis, as in 原子 "the seeds that are the basis (of matter)", Modern Chinese 原来 "In fact, the reason is...", 原~ meaning "the original/former ~" etc. 元 has a very similar meaning; 元 only means Yuan the currency and the dynasty in Modern Chinese though.
    – ithisa
    Aug 13, 2014 at 19:06

Do you mean 原因と結果?

因 signifies the cause, as in 原因 or 要因.

果 signifies the result, as in 結果 or 効果.

So when you make the contraction, you are using the kanji that holds those individual meanings. In this case, it wouldn't make sense to not use those kanji. In the example you gave, 原効 doesn't hold the intended meaning.

So in this particular case, it seems the words are derived from Chinese from Sanskrit. See Gogen and Wikipedia JP. I don't know what the technical term is but conceptually, it seem the 原因・結果's relation to 因果 was applied after the fact. I don't think it is like your typical Japanese contraction but it has more to do with the Chinese derivation of the word.


Some may have implied this but let me make it even clearer.

Consider Chinese syntax.

There have been 2-char words in the Chinese languages since long ago. One particular way of coining such words is, to combine two words together with one being the entity and the other being a decorator.

For example:

  • 偏见 ("prejudice", n) is from 偏 ("slanted", adj) and 见 ("view", n).
  • 想象 ("imagine", v) is from 想 ("think", v) and 象 ("image", n).

The basic rule is:

  • v + n = v
  • adj + n = n

As we can see:

  • 原因 = 原 ("original", adj) + 因 ("cause", n)
  • 結果 = 結 ("to generate" or "[the] generated"; the implicit subject is the plant, from which the fruit is obtained) + 果 ("fruit", n)

Although 結果 is v+n, it is not used as a verb in real use. Instead, it is used as a noun or a conjunction. So when 結果 is used as a noun, it inherits the part of speech of 果.

In result, if you would like to coin a new contradiction-style 2-char noun based on two 2-char nouns, the best way should be to pick up their noun parts, respectively.

Further readings:

The Chinese languages don't necessarily distinguish parts of speech in writing. 想象 ("imagine", v, "imagined", past, "imagined", past participle), 想象 ("imagining", present participle), 想象 ("imagination", n), 想象 ("to imagine", infinitive), 想象的 ("imaginative", adj), and 想象力 ("imaginative force", n) all use the same substring "想象".


「因果」 literally means "cause and effect".

It is often used in the phrase 「因果関係」, "a causal relationship".

「因果」 is a combination of two ideas 「因」 as in 「要因」 and 「果」 as in 「結果」.

This kind of word formation where two elements of opposite meaning are combined to mean "A and B" is very common in Chinese and Japanese as in words like

「善悪」 - "good and evil"
「生死」 - "life and death"
「勝負」 - "victory and defeat"
「山海」 - "mountain and ocean"
「白黒」 - "white and black"
「是非」 - "that which is good and that which is bad"
「賛否」 - "agreement and disagreement"
「因果」 - "cause and effect"
  • 3
    -1: You didn't answer the question I asked. 熟語 formed from "opposites" is a different topic.
    – istrasci
    Aug 19, 2014 at 15:17
  • Haha, I guess I got a little carried away. I suppose the short answer is that 「因果」 isn't an abbreviation, but rather a word formed from opposites.
    – sazarando
    Aug 20, 2014 at 2:14

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .