I may just be misunderstanding the etymology of certain words, but I think of certain jukugo e.g. 「大学生」as being derived from patterns like 「大生」, where there is a kanji-level shiritori, leading to a single occurrence of overlapping kanji when the two are merged. Is this merely a misconception on my part, where in fact it is properly treated as 「(学)~生」applied to 「大学」; or is this actually valid?

In general, is there a [name for the] phenomenon where jukugo consisting of several atoms have certain kanji elided (*but not as in the case of 「東京大学>東大」) ?

Other examples that I would tentatively cite as possible examples of this unverified pattern would be cases where duplicated/overlapping kanji are elided, such as:

  • 「新入部員」(new club member) = 「新」+「」+「員」 (newly enter + enter a club + club member)
    • If this is not the case, would it be 「新-」+「入部」+「~員」, or something between the two?

or cases where non-overlapping kanji are elided such as in

  • 入院」=「[病]ること」, as opposed to 「×入病院」?
  • If you already know what those kanji mean, doesn't "new(ly) enter(ed) club member" make sense to you? Commented May 25, 2017 at 3:59
  • I read part of the Japanese wikipedia on 熟語. It seems etymologies and breakdown of 熟語 is more complex than in English. My impression after reading was that the word is first is considered from ideogram point of view and a pronunciation is assigned accordingly. Older written Japanese is more kanji heavy and Chinese was widely read among the educated elite. It seems many words were modeled after their Chinese equivalents and the pseudo-Chinese reading 音読み was given in many cases. I would guess that when formal words were coined the ideogram was created first and a reading was given (usually 音読み)
    – Robert
    Commented May 25, 2017 at 4:46
  • 3
    in fact it is properly treated as 「(学)~生」applied to 「大学」 ←そう思います。 「学+生」「大学+生」「高校+生」「中学+生」「小学+生」「優等+生」「塾+生」「同級+生」などの「生」は、「学問・勉強をしている人」(明鏡国語辞典『生』#6)という意味だと思います
    – chocolate
    Commented Jun 24, 2017 at 6:12
  • You might know tool of morphological analysis.For example, Analysis of 新入部員(新入 新入 新入 名詞 6 地名 4 * 0 * 0 "代表表記:新入/新入 自動獲得:Wikipedia Wikipedia複合地名 読み不明 漢字" 部員 ぶいん 部員 名詞 6 普通名詞 1 * 0 * 0 "代表表記:部員/ぶいん カテゴリ:人 ドメイン:スポーツ;教育・学習 漢字") You can type This website from Kyoto Univ lab tulip.kuee.kyoto-u.ac.jp/demo/…
    – user25382
    Commented Aug 23, 2017 at 11:02

2 Answers 2


The simple answer is: The assumption is incorrect. The merger of words does not happen in the way you described. There are a huge number of patterns for forming jukugo, some historical, some current and many not very logical, but the one shown I never encountered.

In the case of 大学生 we know its ethymology.

学生 is the older word, commonly used at least since mmiddle Chinese. 大学生 was created at the end 19th century in Japan when an equivalent for "universtiy student" was needed. 大学 on the other hand is a shortening of 大学校 to 大学。Where 学校 is the older word (and used since middle Chinese).


I've never thought about the structure of a jukugo before, but I find it very interesting.

As for 新入部員, I think another interpretation like: 「新入」newly entered/entering + 「部員」club member.

I searched for something relating to this topic on the Internet, and I found some of them here.

But I couldn't find the article that explains the way of making jukugo by eliding kanjis; I would call it an "Eliding Technique or Shritori Technique" only in this answer.

Based on your Technique I recalled several jukugos like 営業部部長⇔営業部長、横浜市市長⇔横浜市長、町内会会長⇔町内会長.

As for 営業部部長 and 営業部長, both mean a general manager of the sales department. We usually use 営業部長 based on your Technique but we use formally 営業部部長. When you write 営業部部長, I recommend you to write it as 営業部 部長 by inserting a space between the two words. So are the other examples other than the combination of 営業部部長 and 営業部長.

There are various commentaries and opinions, for example, right here about the difference between 営業部部長 and 営業部長, but I understand both phrases have the same meaning and are used as the same meaning commonly.

It is obvious that these opinions on the Internet couldn't explain rightly the cases of 横浜市市長⇔横浜市長、町内会会長⇔町内会長.

As for 営業部部長, in general, 営業部 is the name of an organization and 部長 is the name of the position/post of the organization.

As the combinations of organization names and the posts of the organization are almost eternity and there are a lot of examples where the last kanji of the organization name and the first kanji of the post name are same, there may be very many same cases that are managed by your Eliding Technique.

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