In the scenes of fight in old stories, I sometimes encountered a phrase ~やまさりけん usually in the compound form:


What is the exact meaning of the phrase and what part of the sentence is it?


At first I assumed it was 勝り{まさり}剣, but in the above example it was used in a spear fighting scene and it does not seem to work grammatically. It seems neither an adverb nor an adjective.

Also, shouldn't comma be used after まさりけん in the above example?

  • 1
    I would surely suspect a subsidiary verb if I saw a little unfamiliar thing in kana directly attached to a verb. けん = けむ (just as らん = らむ) .
    – user4032
    Dec 2, 2015 at 23:36

1 Answer 1


まさりけん is 連用形 of the verb "勝{まさ}る" + an old verbal auxiliary "けん".

けん means past guess like ~ただろう, so まさりけん is translated as 勝{まさ}っただろう. And けむ=けん.

I first think や was used as a tone of the word including light emotion in this case but as choco-san said, や was used as question, so 力やまさりけん is translated as 力が勝ったのだろうか.

If a comma was used after まさりけん, it might be easy to understand but I think it is no problem without it.

  • Actually the usage of や seems to be fixed for this phrase. There are references to やまさりけん on the internet, there is no single combination of がまさりけん.
    – macraf
    Dec 12, 2015 at 12:46
  • 3
    "力やまさりけん is translated as 力が勝っただろう" >> 「力が勝ったのだろうか 」だと思いますが。係助詞(binding particle)「や」 参照:「係助詞・・・(一)文中にある場合。・・・①〔疑問〕…か。・・・」
    – chocolate
    Dec 12, 2015 at 14:12
  • I'd like to accept the answer, but no matter what, I find it a bit half-baked. It claims verbal auxiliary is けん, while I think you intended to write けむ in the first paragraph. Then I'm not sure it's really relevant that you thought it was "light emotion". I'm not sure "や was used as question" either. If anything, the narrator could either express a "doubt", "uncertainty", or a "rhetorical question" (which is not a proper question, but a form of statement). Finally, what is the meaning of the last paragraph? It somehow says only that I should have understood it even without comma...
    – macraf
    Aug 16, 2017 at 8:47
  • I think the meaning of 太郎の力やまさりけん is close to "I wonder Taro's strength was better" than "Was Taro's strength better?". That is to say, this question isn't the one for asking someone but for wondering to oneself. Aug 16, 2017 at 13:58

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