I read in a haiku written by Bashō/芭蕉 (source - see my addendum at the end of the post) :




My translation :

From far and near, hearing the sounds of the waterfall(s), ah, the fallen leaves...

My question deals with the word 落{おち}葉{ば}, derived from 落{お}ちる (to drop, to lose) ? I noticed the poet played with the sounds /ochi/ in をちこちに and in 落{おち} 葉{ば}.

Moreover, I know that Classical Japanese words beginning with を have dropped the initial /w/, giving words beginning with /o/, like をんな > おんな.

Hence my questions :

  1. In Classical Japanese, did the verb 落{ちる} start with お (おちる) or with を (をちる). Or did the word 落{おち}葉{ば} begin with お (落{おち}葉{ば}) or with を (落{をち}葉{ば}) ?
  2. Is there any online dictionary giving this information ?

Any help would be appreciated !

addendum : I read this haiku for the first time in a French anthology : "Bashō, Cent onze haiku"(=Bashō, 111 haiku), by Joan Titus-Carmel, page 108. Titus-Carmel's translation : "De loin et de près s'entend le bruit des cascades - la chute des feuilles !". The Japanese text given by Titus-Carmel contains the word 落葉. Alas, the author doesn't give any further details about his source : nothing but a simple "the haikus translated in this book are taken from Bashō's works" on the last page.

  • 5
    学研全訳古語辞典 is available online: kobun.weblio.jp/content/%E8%90%BD%E3%81%A4
    – user1478
    May 5, 2015 at 20:08
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    Most J-J dictionaries also list historical spellings. In this case お is really just お. That said, by the Edo period, お and を were no longer distinguished in pronunciation. (Both were [wo].)
    – Zhen Lin
    May 5, 2015 at 22:57
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    Hate to be the one to say this, but for the sake of the art I shall Are you sure it is 落葉, and not another word? Furthermore, are you sure the author is actually 芭蕉? Fallen leaves hearing or listening to sounds is not a very Japanese idea if I may add.
    – user4032
    May 5, 2015 at 23:48
  • @l'électeur : I updated my post, giving more details about the text.
    – suizokukan
    May 6, 2015 at 8:03

1 Answer 1


I don't know if @l'électeur's comments were rhetorical or otherwise, but I only find the poem as 若葉 (not 落葉) and written by 蕪村 (not 芭蕉). Here's a more reliable reference from 青空文庫



It might not be relevant any longer, but the historical spelling for the お in おちる was just お, and not を, as already answered in the comments (e.g. 大辞林: お・ちる (動タ上一) [文] タ上二 ・つ or also in 大辞泉, which is accessible via https://kotobank.jp/).

  • 1
    I updated my post, giving more details about the text. Thank you for the online reference.
    – suizokukan
    May 6, 2015 at 8:04

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