While having fun looking up random words in my dictionary software, I found out that the phrase "めちゃめちゃ", which is often used in colloquial sentences like "めちゃめちゃかわいい" has two kanji variants:


For the first variant, 滅茶滅茶, I can imagine the significance of 滅, which implies "destruction", but why with "tea"? The second variant is even absurd (or can I use "mecha-mecha" as a pun here :P), because it's from "eye" and "tea".

Does the kanji character "茶" has any significance in the phrase, or are they just ateji?


That's just ateji「当て字」, but they used like that because

  • 滅茶滅茶 related with 滅茶苦茶/無茶苦茶 (muchakucha) and base word is 無茶,
  • There is some saying that 無茶 supposed to mean お客さんにお茶を出さない。 (No o-cha?)
    (Don't provide tea to customer, which is unreasonable just like 無茶苦茶. But meaning from 当て字 are not suppose to be used, so above is wrong approach.
  • There is also another saying that 無茶 comes from Buddhist word 無作 (musa/musaku), which has meaning むさぼる (greedy, covet) and 苦茶 is just to emphasize the former.

ref: http://gogen-allguide.com/mu/muchakucha.html

  • 1
    Just to clarify: According to the page, it is sometimes incorrectly explained that the origin of the words 無茶 and 苦茶 relates to tea. Jun 6 '11 at 13:11
  • @Tsuyoshi Ito, heheh, I just read the first line. I will update with more info.
    – YOU
    Jun 6 '11 at 13:18
  • Updated @Tsuyoshi. Let me know my translation is not ok.
    – YOU
    Jun 6 '11 at 13:41
  • Thanks. I think that your translation is fine. Just to add, 無作 (むさ) here is a Buddhist word and not in common use nowadays. Jun 6 '11 at 13:45

I don't think that the kanji have any specific meaning and are just used for their sounds, ergo Ateji.

  • Any reason why even use kanji at all? Why not just stick to kana for this kind of onomatopoeia phrases?
    – Lukman
    Jun 6 '11 at 7:26
  • @Lukman: Because it makes you look all cultured and intellectual-like, of course! :) Jun 6 '11 at 20:48
  • At one point in time (pre-Meiji era) it was customary to assign Kanji to all new words that were imported. It's become less of a concern in the modern age, however.
    – Kaji
    Mar 30 '14 at 8:36

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