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Is ずんぐり(むっくり) at all related to/derived from [栗]{くり}?

Here is a screenshot of the Google Image results when I searched for 「くり キャラ」:

くり キャラ

As you can see, most of these characters fit the description of ずんぐりむっくり.

So is there some kind of etymological connection here, or is this just an adorable coincidence?

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    An interesting thought, but even if you asked a English-speaking illustrator to make a "chestnut character" don't you think a vast majority would also end up ずんぐりむっくり?
    – Leo
    Commented Jul 14, 2016 at 3:19

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No, there's no particular reason to suppose an etymological connection between /kuri/ and the other two words.

This /-ri/ ending is very common in mimetic adverbs, and indeed we find the expected related term /mukumuku/ as well. There is no /zuguzugu/ that I'm aware of, but according to the Nihon Kokugo Daijiten there is a dialect word /zugumu/ which means "to be short and fat".

In other words, we know in similar cases that the /-ri/ is an affix and the specific mimetic meaning is carried by the rest of the word. We have strong evidence that this is the case here too. Therefore the most likely hypothesis is that the appearance of /-kuri/ or /-guri/ in these two words is just a coincidence, same as it is in /bikkuri/, /yukkuri/, etc.

However, it is certainly possible that the design of the characters you show was influenced by the similarity of the two words. Even if the word /kuri/ has nothing to do with /zunguri/ etymologically speaking, an illustrator might still notice the similarity of the words (even subconsciously!) and let it influence her work.

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  • Oh, and, kind of related: japanese.stackexchange.com/questions/18729 . If this new question inspires some of the members who were not here then to share extra knowledge on this topic, I'll be very happy!
    – Matt
    Commented Jul 14, 2016 at 2:15

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