6

Looking under terms that include かみ/神, I was interested to find "八十神" defined as "many gods; many deities". Jisho.org lists it as an "archaism", though. I see the term appear in this Japanese Wikipedia page (thanks Google!), but I can't start to understand it really, and it appears only else in Chinese. I'm really curious behind the story of this term: why 80? I'm guessing so Chinese of Japanese legend?

10

In archaic Japanese, the numbers 8, 80, 800, 8000,... were used as vague pronouns for big numbers. Compare how modern English speakers use "dozens of ~", which usually does not strictly refer to the multiples of 12.

The word 八十神 is relatively uncommon. The concept of "many/countless gods" in archaic Japanese mythology is more frequently referred to as 八百万【やおよろず】の神, literally "8 million gods". Accoring to Wikipedia:

Kami

There are considered to be three main variations of kami, amatsu-kami ("the heavenly deities"), kunitsu-kami ("the gods of the earthly realm"), and ya-o-yorozu no kami (八百万の神, countless kami). ("八百万" literally means eight million, but idiomatically it expresses "uncountably many" and "all around"—like many East Asian cultures, the Japanese often use the number 8, representing the cardinal and ordinal directions, to symbolize ubiquity.) These classifications are not considered strictly divided, due to the fluid and shifting nature of kami, but are instead held as guidelines for grouping kami.

  • The "Ns" being vague (for N in dozen, score, hundred, thousand, ...) goes at least as far back as Shakespeare (that's to say, it's hardly modern English). – muru Jul 24 '17 at 6:52
  • 1
    And, in the present day, It's over 8000! – Andrew Grimm Jul 24 '17 at 9:46
  • (And it's just a complete coincident I posted that while I had 8088 rep) – Andrew Grimm Jul 24 '17 at 9:47
  • @muru Shakespeare is (Early) Modern English. ;-) – Janus Bahs Jacquet Jul 24 '17 at 10:12

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.