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着 as in [着る]{きる}. I have tried looking up the kanji at Richard Sear's Chinese Etymology site, Wictionary and other sites. Every one of them points to a variant, 著 but offer no explanation as to why it means wear and write at the same time ?

Richard Sear's Chinese Etymology,

Primitive pictograph 着著. From bamboo 艹竹 and words 曰 and remnant of bamboo scroll threaded together. Original meaning to write.

Wictionary,

This character, 着, is the simplified and variant traditional form of 著

All I know is that the top part of the kanji is grass radical according to wictionary and rest of the part is a phonetic.

Why does the same Kanji mean wear and write ? Where can I find more information about how the kanji evolved to mean seemingly unrelated things ? Why Japanese only took the meaning related to wearing something and dropped the meaning which means to write?

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The "wear" and "write" definitions of 著 are in fact different words (and we don't use the kanji for "wear" anymore). Moreover, as you said, the true old form has the Bamboo radical on the head, in other words, is today's 箸. The kanji is made of 竹 and 者, where 者 indicates the pronunciation. Thus this kanji once became a carpool of several similar-sounding words.

enter image description here

  • チョ/はし{HL} (OC *[d]rak-s): "chopsticks" → today's
  • チョ/あらわす・いちじるしい (OC *trak-s): "to write, to author, written, evident" →
  • チャク/きる{LH}・[つく]{HL} (OC *m-trak): "put on, turn on, get on" →

Note that the distinction of 著 and 着 is tradition in Japan and PRC. Taiwan only recognizes 著 as the proper form for both.

着 was originally handwriting variant of 著. The top part 䒑 was a common variation of 艹 (くさかんむり; radical Grass on the top) now becomes non-standard.

enter image description here
(http://tonan.seesaa.net/article/75499554.html)

  • From what I understand, they separated the words by slightly modifying the original Kanji, since the original Kanji meant a lot of different things. So, 着 is slight modification of original kanji to narrow the meaning to that specific word. Am I correct ? Also, thanks for the links. :) – vadasambar Jan 26 '17 at 11:02
  • @retrazil Yes, they had been the same kanji, but later people started to assign a specific meaning to a specific shape, so we see them as different kanji now. – broccoli forest Jan 26 '17 at 11:12
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To follow on what JACKB has noted and linked to in the comments, 着 and older form (not a variant, more like original form) 著 both express ideas of "something (possibly flat) coming to rest on something else flat". Writing is "at rest on something flat", from one perspective, and so is clothing.

  • So I can think of writing as firmly attaching the paint/ink to a flat surface (paper). Would that be correct ? – vadasambar Jan 26 '17 at 11:07
  • @retrazil: In terms of semantic development, that seems to be how it worked out. – Eiríkr Útlendi Jan 26 '17 at 17:37

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