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What is the etymology of 一緒{いっしょ}に? Why kanji 緒{しょ} (meaning "thong") is used in this expression, and not 諸{しょ} (meaning "together")?

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    It has plenty of meanings; why not interpret it as 'string', 'lace', 'tie', or 'knot'?
    – Angelos
    Apr 30, 2017 at 18:12
  • Aren't those synonyms to "thong"? They still do not have any connection to "together".
    – user1602
    Apr 30, 2017 at 18:42
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    Strings, ties, laces, and knots tie things 'together', don't they?
    – Angelos
    Apr 30, 2017 at 18:58

1 Answer 1

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The basic meaning of 緒 sho is "thread" (or "thread end"). Some say 一緒 issho comes from the homophone 一所 issho, "in one place", which appears in old works such as the Heike Monogatari with the meaning of "together". If this is correct, then 一緒 issho must be a reanalysis meant to distinguish the "together" nuances from the basic "physically at the same place" meaning. That is:

  • In the first stage, you have 一所 issho = "one place; physically at one (and the same) place".
  • Then 一所 issho starts to be used metaphorically to mean "together", not just in the same place but also "performing in combination", "united in a single whole", "in a relationship" etc.
  • Then 一緒 issho is devised to distinguish the latter nuances.

Why did they choose "thread" to mean "together"? I don't know, but if I had to speculate, to me at least the idea of "together as if in a single thread" brings to mind things like this:
enter image description here

Why not use 諸 sho-? Well, the meaning of the word 諸 sho- isn't "together" at all. Rather, it's "all" or "various", used as a prefix quantifier (in constructions like 諸君 sho-kun = "all of you in the audience; ladies and gentlemen!" or 諸国 sho-koku = "the various countries, the many provinces"). You can say, for example, 「諸国が別々に解決した」 "each/every country settled it separately". Not only the meaning doesn't match, but also the grammar doesn't fit. 諸 sho- was already a prefix in its Chinese origins, so it would probably feel weird and nonsensical to put a prefix modifying a ni in the already-existing expression issho-ni (which, you'll note, makes perfect sense with the original analysis as 一所に). 緒 sho, by contrast, is a standalone noun, not a prefix.

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  • Can KanjiDic be trusted at all? edrdg.org/kanjidic/kanjd2index.html One of the meaning is "together" in this dictionary.
    – user1602
    May 4, 2017 at 17:01
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    Kanji themselves don't have unequivocal meanings; kanji represent morphemes and words, and it's those morphemes and words that have meanings. The prefix sho- as written by 諸 means "various" or "several"; it never means "together". 諸 is also used to write the somewhat uncommon morpheme moro, which has several meanings including "both" (諸手 morote), "many, all" (諸人 morobito), and "together" (諸寝 morone), so that's where kanjidic may have taken the gloss. But you shouldn't put much faith in the notion of "meaning of a kanji", from any dictionary. Look at the words and it'll make sense. May 4, 2017 at 18:41

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