If I put 許 into a Japanese dictionary I get either the results "gari" or "kyo" for it alone, which don't seem to be words on there own but there is a meaning explained. Jisho says the kanji means permit or approve, which seems to be more in line with kyo words.

Anywho, it is used for the "baka" part in bakari, bakarini and bakaridenaku. I've noticed so far in Japanese that a lot of parts of words combine to make new words (sometimes of another word class entirely). Plenty of times the combination seems to make sense. And I wonder if the same goes here. What does bakari mean at its core if it has one and why does combining it with these other things result in these new meanings?

2 Answers 2


Your post has the etymology tag, and since I'm that kind of word nerd, here it is.

Derivation of ばかり

This arose from regular verb はかる, variously spelled in kanji as 計る, 量る, 測る, 図る, 謀る, or 諮る, with an underlying meaning of "to measure". This derived in turn from the noun はか with an underlying meaning of "measure, amount".

The meaning of ばかり apparently started from a sense of "a full measure of, as much as..., of this amount", in keeping with the term's origins. Over time, this positive sense of fulfilling an amount shifted instead to indicating a negative sense of limitation to that amount: from "a full measure of XX" to "no more than XX".

There was actually a similar shift in meaning in the English term "just". This started as "right, proper, true" with a positive sense, which is still evident when used as an adjective: "a just law". Over time, this shifted to a negative limiting sense when used as an adverb: "just a law".

Online references:


ばか-り is a rare kun-reading of 許. My IMEs (both ATOK and MS-IME) even refused to convert ばかり into 許り. I could barely read it, but I would say you can forget this kun-reading forever unless you're interested in reading historical documents without furigana. (Note that when jisho.org or similar dictionary sites say "usually written using kana", it actually means "almost always written in kana".)

ばかり is categorized as a particle like が, から, こそ. Its base meaning is only or just. As is the case with all other particles, it's probably better to learn from example sentences:

EDIT: "It actually means 'almost always written in kana' " was an overstatement. There are many words marked as "usually written using kana alone" that are almost unreadable to average Japanese speakers (for example this). But many words marked as such are actively written using kanji by some. You may have to use a corpus to determine how frequently each kanji is used.

  • I'm not sure about your jisho.org interpretation. I still heavily enconter words written in kanji where jisho says "usually written using kana“, like 何故 and 可愛い. Wouldn't recommend anyone not learning these kanji spellings. I think not being able to type it using a japanese keyboard is a better metric in this regard.
    – Christer
    Commented May 18, 2017 at 1:13
  • Or maybe to split the difference, jisho.org et al's "usually written using kana" is an impossible to interpret mark that in some instances means (1) exclusively written in kana in contemporary Japanese but in other instances means (2) both are acceptable or even (3) the kanji reading is more common
    – virmaior
    Commented Jun 29, 2017 at 1:09

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