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In English, before clocks were commonplace, the word "clockwise" was obviously not in common use. Instead, the closest alternative to "clockwise" was the now-archaic word "deasil", and its antonym was "widdershins" (or, perhaps, people just used "right" and "left"; see also: What did we say before “clockwise”? on English.SE).

The Japanese word for "clockwise" - 時計回り - also involves clocks. What was the Japanese word for 時計回り before 時計 became commonplace? I see that 右回り is given as a synonym/definition for 時計回り in some dictionaries; is this what was most commonly used in olden times?

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The content below is an exact copy of a deleted answer by user l'electeur.


Noun: [右]{みぎ}ま

Verb: 右へま

は > わ back then.

Even today, 「右まり」(は changed to わ over time) is a far more intuitive word than 「[時計回]{とけいまわ}り」 for native speakers. The only time I myself used 「時計回り」 and 「[反]{はん}時計回り = "CCW"」 often in my life was when I was working for a machine manufacturer. Even then, I was using 「右まわり」 and 「[左]{ひだり}まわり」 outside of work.

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According to this source http://detail.chiebukuro.yahoo.co.jp/qa/question_detail/q114784381 , the term 時計回り was also used with sundials, and though the length and time of sunlight varied with seasons, the direction didn't, so 「時計回り」was always in use.

This link http://kids.gakken.co.jp/box/nazenani/pdf/12_kikai/X1130042.pdf presents the other versions 「右回りと左回り」.Clockwise is 右回り.

  • OP is asking about the word for 時計回り before any kind of 時計 was introduced to Japan. – a user Jan 18 '15 at 3:07
  • @kmk Well, to be fair, I hadn't considered sundials, which I imagine would have been in Japan since before historic times. If sundials were called something like 時計 even before the introduction of mechanical clocks, then it would make sense that 時計回り would have been used for a long time. It looks like sundials are called 日時計 today, but I don't know whether they were called that in the past or if the name is sort of a "back-formation" from 時計 as in "mechanical clock". – senshin Jan 18 '15 at 8:15

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