I am searching for a book (preferably in Japanese, English also okay) on kanji and / or word etymology. Basically I am looking for something that explains the origin of words, for example: why is 馬鹿 written with horse and deer. Or why does 虹 consists of the insect radical. I know "学研新漢和大字典 普及版", but it's still too hard, so I am looking for something around the level JLPT-2. Children's books are also welcome of course ;) Thanks a lot!

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  • Hello Andrea, You should check the chat for askin things like source materials, you could also take a look at this > japanese.meta.stackexchange.com/questions/756/… – Felipe Oliveira Jun 27 '17 at 13:58
  • Tōdō's dictionary, which you've mentioned, is, I think, the standard scholarly Japanese reference on kanji origins. Be aware that kanji origins are quite disputed and uncertain; Tōdō's proposals are tentative. In my opinion, you should stay away from Shirakawa's books on kanji origins; he's popular in Japan, but, I think, his method is… shall we say, not quite scientific. You can use chineseetymology.org to see the old kanji shapes, but don't trust the descriptions. For word etymology, the Kokugo Daijiten is the big one, but you can always browse gogen-allguide.com . – melissa_boiko Jun 27 '17 at 14:40
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    2) All that is above N2 level. I don't know what to offer you at a lower level, but any normal 漢和 dictionary for high-school students (like Ōbunsha's) will have simple kanji explanations (成り立て) with more or less "average" analyses. You can go all the way to children's books, and there's an entire genre of them about linguistic topics; Chibimarukochan alone has books on etymology, kanji and many related topics. I own the first one and I think it's pretty cool actually (but take everything with large grains of salt.) – melissa_boiko Jun 27 '17 at 14:44
  • (late correction: the word often used for analyzes of kanji origins is actually 成り立 not -te.) – melissa_boiko Jun 27 '17 at 15:16

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