I am aware that the phrase 「おかわり」 that is used when asking for second helping (of meals especially) is an idiomatic expression, so its usage is understood as it is. But, I'm curious about the origin of this phrase because it seems to be derived from 替わる / 代わる(P) / 換わる, which means "to be exchanged/switched". How did this phrase come into the usage? Is it the case that in the past when people asked for second helping, something was exchanged (bowl, chopsticks etc)?


It means 'replacement'. What is being replaced is the content, not the container. You can use a related expression 替え in a wide variety of replacements. Mostly in Kyusyu area, when you go to a noodle shop, you can ask for 替え玉, which is (a ball of) replacement noodle that fills in your empty bowl still with leftover soup. 替え芯 means a replacement lead for a mechanical pencil or replacement staples for a stapler.

  • So おかわり can also be translated as 'replacement'? It makes a lot more sense that way. Does that mean that the kanji form of おかわり is actually お替わり, instead of 代 or 換?
    – Lukman
    Aug 11 '11 at 4:10
  • Yes, it can be translated as 'replacement', but it usually means 'replacement food'. Yes the kanji is お替わり. お代り is also okay. お換わり sounds wrong.
    – user458
    Aug 11 '11 at 4:11
  • [[ お換わり sounds wrong. ]] - Yes, because this one is "exchange", and you're not exchanging anything.
    – istrasci
    Aug 11 '11 at 14:20
  • 2
    “Yes the kanji is お替わり. […] お換わり sounds wrong.” They sound identical to me. :) Aug 11 '11 at 16:15
  • 1
    @Tsuyoshi_Ito More accurately, using it sounds wrong.
    – user458
    Aug 11 '11 at 16:18

I always assumed it was exchanging an empty bowl/beverage for a full one.

  • But I think nowadays you just fill in the empty bowl with the second helping, so the bowl is not really exchanged? Unless of course if the act of filling the bowl is culturally considered as exchanging the state of bowl from empty to full .. I'm not sure ..
    – Lukman
    Aug 11 '11 at 3:46

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