In classical Japanese, did standalone noun “好き” mean a person who likes something? I do not think that it does in modern Japanese, although it sometimes means a person when used as a suffix (e.g. 野球好きが集まる公園).

If it did, it explains why 好き can be equated with ものの上手 (a very skilled person) in the proverb “好きこそものの上手なれ,” which I failed to explain in my answer to the question “Help on a specific usage of こそ” by yadokari.

  • +1 for finding an intelligent question about classical japanese
    – ixtmixilix
    Feb 4, 2012 at 17:04
  • Possibly related: japanese.stackexchange.com/questions/4489
    – user458
    Feb 4, 2012 at 17:45
  • @sawa: I do not think that this is an instance of zero-nominalization. For if it were, the form should be 好くこそ instead of 好きこそ, if I am not mistaken. But maybe my understanding of term “nominalization” is flawed. Feb 4, 2012 at 20:16
  • 1
    +1, I wondered about this myself. Just one question: Although I'm aware that 上手 was used for a skilled person (as in 上手の手から水が漏れる), are you sure that it wasn't also used in the 形容動詞 way? In other words, are you sure that 好きこそものの上手なれ means "liker = exceller', not 'liking = excelling'?
    – dainichi
    Feb 5, 2012 at 3:39
  • @dainichi: You have a good point. Honestly, I do not know, but both Daijirin and Daijisen define ものの上手 as a person. If ものの上手 in 好きこそものの上手なれ means skillfulness instead of a skilled person, I expect that the entry for ものの上手 in dictionaries mention also that meaning. Feb 5, 2012 at 14:10

1 Answer 1


I don't think it did. I haven't encountered it with that meaning, I can't find that meaning in a dictionary, and there was already the word "sukisha" or "sukimono" (spelt various ways) with that meaning.

All that is just negative evidence, but there is additional evidence re what "好き" means in this context if you look at the full version of the proverb. 日本国語大辞典's oldest attestation is from 其角十七回 (1723), and is inside a poem, as follows:


There are other websites that attribute the poem, or a very similar one, to Sen no Rikyū (1522-1591), which would obviously predate Kikaku, but I haven't been able to find a reliable source for this. Here's an example of a slightly different version attributed to SR:

器用さと 稽古と好きの そのうちで 好きこそものの 上手なりけれ

In both of these you can see that 好き first appears in the same "slot" as 器用さ (skill) and 稽古 (practice), which are definitely abstract nouns. I guess the second appearance of 好き might be intended to mean "a person who has 好き", but interpreting the なりけれ part more flexibly (or adopting dainichi's "liking = excelling" suggestion) seems like a more natural strategy to me than forcing 好き to behave that way.

  • I did not know that the proverb had a longer version, and such possibility did not occur to me. All your evidences convinced me that 好き probably did not have the meaning “liking person” and that 好き in the proverb means the abstract action of liking. I will wait for a day or two to see if there is another answer, and I will accept your answer unless the situation changes. Thanks a lot! Feb 7, 2012 at 11:40
  • Yeah, I didn't know about the longer version either until I decided to try answering this question :)
    – Matt
    Feb 7, 2012 at 11:43

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .