I just watched an episode called:


What is this さらわる? Can it be written with kanji? Any reason why online dictionaries don't seem to understand its structure?

  • It's definitely not さらわれる, correct? Could you provide some context, like where you saw this, newspaper, book something like that? – sazarando Jul 19 '16 at 0:42
  • It's from an anime series, here is the title screen: i.imgur.com/AW8I2Lf.png – kuchitsu Jul 19 '16 at 0:44
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    Similar examples would be 逮捕さる (=逮捕される) and 死す (=死ぬ). This type of classical grammar survived a bit longer in newspaper headlines, and people still occasionally simulate it. – naruto Jul 19 '16 at 2:55

First, you should know that conjugated verb forms will not be found in dictionaries, paper or on-line. All you find generally are the "dictionary" forms.

「さらわる」 is the literary (and classical) passive voice form of 「さらう」 ("to kidnap"). Its modern counterpart is 「さらわれる」.

The passive voice forms:

Classical: 「~~る」 and 「~~らる」

Modern: 「~~れる」 and 「~~られる」

The old form is still in use when the author sees it fit for his/her aesthetic purpose. It is used in titles quite often. To the native ears, the old form sounds more dramatic and just plain "nice" for a lack of word, but that is just like how older forms are treated in English, isn't it?

So, 「~~さらわる」 means "~~ kidnapped" to use the headline grammar.

In prose, of course, it would be "~~ gets kidnapped."

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  • About the "dictionary" forms: true, but for example Jisho.org gives suggestions like "知らなかった looks like an inflection of 知る, with these forms:Nai-form... Ta-form" and Rikaichan adds "< negative < past" as a note. That's what I was talking about. But now I guess it's clear that they are not familiar with this classical form. – kuchitsu Jul 20 '16 at 21:20

To write さらわる with kanji: 攫わる (this is for the "kidnap" meaning of さらう)

In Classical Japanese this was the verb さらふ which is conjugated with ハ行四段活用, like 言ふ.

To make the passive form of さらふ you need to add the Classical Japanese 助動詞「る」 which attaches to the 未然形 (this is 「は」 for ハ行四段活用)

  1. Put さらふ into 未然形 ⇒「さら
  2. Add 助動詞「る」⇒「さらはる
  3. Change the Kana to match Modern Japanese spelling rules: さらはる ⇒「さらわる

This is how you get the meaning of, "to be kidnapped".

There are other, somewhat similarly constructed words which are still in common use as verbs on their own in Modern Japanese, which you can look up in a Modern Japanese dictionary:


さらわる is constructed from similar rules, but is not recognized as a verb in its own right for Modern Japanese, so you wouldn't find it in a modern dictionary as「さらわる」, but you would likely find the dictionary form of the root「さらふ」in a Classical Japanese dictionary.

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  • you would likely find the dictionary form of the root「さらふ」in a Classical Japanese dictionary I can't find さらう or さらふ neither in my 古語辞典 nor Weblio古語辞典. なんで? – Chocolate Jul 19 '16 at 5:59
  • I couldn't find it in my dictionaries either. But I do see it used. – sazarando Jul 19 '16 at 6:00
  • Here's a link from weblio: weblio.jp/content/… – sazarando Jul 19 '16 at 6:03
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    「現代俳句」て書いてあるやん・・その望月秀男って人まだ生きてはるし。。俳句に「コスモス」とか「サングラス」とか使ってはる。。 – Chocolate Jul 19 '16 at 6:19
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    You're probably having trouble finding it in kogo dictionaries because it's only barely kogo - like mid/late-Edo at the earliest. Although there is a probably related older word /sarahu/ that means "remove accumulated underwater sand and gravel", but this in turn is probably too rare to be in many dictionaries. "sarawaru" is a good example of classical inflection patterns being used on a decidedly non-classical word. – Matt Jul 19 '16 at 10:21

In the same way as "襲わる" with "襲われる - be attacked", "奪わる" with "奪われる - be robbed of," "囚わる" with "囚われる- be captured," “さらわる” is a bit oldish way of saying “さらわれる,” which is a passive form of the verb, さらう, and you can put Kanji character, “攫う” to this.

Kenkyusha's Japanese English Dictionary (英和中辞典:5th Edition) defines “攫う” as:

  1. 横合いから持ち去るーcarry away, sweep away.

  2. kidnap, abduct.

“ハロルド王子さらわる” means Prince Harold was kidnapped.

There is another Kanji character, “浚(う)” to “さらう,” which means:

(川、井戸などの)底にたまっているものを取り除く‐clean out (a well) dredge (a river). -Readers Japanese English Dictionary.

攫う and 浚う are different words though pronounced the same.

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  • あの・・くどいようですがReaders Japanese English Dictionaryとは「リーダーズ和英辞典」ということでしょうか。リーダーズのシリーズには和英は出版されていないはずなので、「研究社和英辞典」ということでしょうか – Chocolate Jul 22 '16 at 5:22
  • @Chocolate. It's Kenkyusha's 新和英中辞典. As it is built in Canon's Word tank electronic dictionary back to back as a set with リーダーズ英和辞典, I always mix it up with Readers' Japanese English Dictionnary. Though I corrected it, I might not be able to redress this habbit at my age. So in case you find リーダーズ英和辞典 in my post, please decipher it as you understand. – Yoichi Oishi Jul 22 '16 at 8:31

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