I think from looking up ありき that it means "based on", but it's usage is unclear to me.

I've come across it in these two examples:


Which I think means "the conclusion is based on the premise." Or, in other words, that the question is begged.


"In the beginning, there was the word." I believe that's a more or less standard translation of the phrase from the Bible. But it doesn't say "based on," so would it be accurate to say a more literal translation is "the beginning is based on the word"?

Assuming I'm right about the meaning, then are the phrases above complete sentences? Does ありき acts in the same way です or does? It's not a verb, so what is it?

Note that my goal is not so much to classify it and give it a name, as it is to understand how to use it so I can make my own sentences with it. So an answer that gets marked as correct would contain instructions for usage.

Here's my attempt to create a sentence using ありき:


Does that mean "success is based on effort," like I think it should? Is it a complete sentence?

1 Answer 1


ari-ki is the verb ar- "be, are" plus the recollectional past suffix -ki. The recollectional sense is all but lost and is essentially just a past tense now. -ki is not used much in modern Japanese except for fossilized patterns such as ariki and omoiki ya. ariki means that something was there; essentially atta.

Your examples:

  • mazu wa keturon ariki: This means that there was a conclusion from the beginning. This could be ironic since usually a conclusion is reached upon analysis and debate.
  • hazime ni kotoba ariki: This is a quotation from the bible. In the beginning, there was word. (Modern Japanese: hazime ni kotoba atta)
  • gōkaku wa douryoku ariki: Success is due to effort. The effort was done in the past and lead to the success.

Another example: There is place that I pass everyday in Shibuya that says "恋文横丁此処にありき": Here was Koibumi street. I do not know the historical significance, but this koibumi yokochō could be "Lovers' Lane".

  • 恋文 has historical significance. There is a book 恋文 where in the story the main character's job is to write love letters in English that women in Japan would give to American soldiers after World War II (the sign you see is the place that the story depicted).
    – Jesse Good
    Commented May 8, 2012 at 21:35
  • @Jesse Your comment got me interested. Turns out, this story was based on actual events. There really was such a person, Sugaya Tokuji, and his letter translating shop was on that street. articles.latimes.com/1985-12-25/local/me-21169_1_love-letter
    – Kaz
    Commented May 8, 2012 at 22:59
  • @Kaz: Yes, Japanese history about World War II is very interesting.
    – Jesse Good
    Commented May 8, 2012 at 23:07
  • Dono, I'm just a little hesitant to mark your answer as correct. While your first and last paragraph provide useful etymology and examples, there is no usage guidelines. Also, you went through the trouble of repeating all the translations I already provided in the question, so I don't know why you did that.
    – Questioner
    Commented May 9, 2012 at 2:59

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