8

Money seems to be about gold but banks about silver. Is this due to an evolution of the status of the valuable metals themselves? Is it a complicated (e.g. ateji) etymology?

12

Firstly, the native word 金(かね) in お金 only means metal and not gold. You may have mixed it up with the Sino-Japanese 金(きん) that means gold (it also means metal as a morpheme, but not for a standalone word). The native word for gold is こがね "yellow-metal". Thus money is called お金 just because coins are made of metals. No mystery :)

On the other hand, 銀行 is a relatively newly imported word from Chinese originally means 銀 "silver" + 行 "guild". What was traditionally the standard money in Japan is a quite debatable topic (gold, silver, copper, or rice??), but China has a long tradition of silver standard system, so that's why silver is the synonym of money for them.

  • Interesting, I'm finding explanations that 銀行 is a wasei-kango. – droooze Apr 28 at 7:00
  • 3
    @droooze FYI I've found old Chartered Bank and HSBC banknotes issued on 1865, prior to Japanese Meiji restroration, have 銀行 printed on their face. – broccoli forest Apr 28 at 7:28
  • 1
    Ahhh okay, as ja.wikipedia.org/wiki/%E9%8A%80%E8%A1%8C suggests and from what I could find the first appearance of the term does indeed look like its from the name of HSBC. I guess I didn't find the explanation convincing at first because China had bank-type establishments since the Song Dynasty called 錢莊, and 銀行 originally referred to a Silversmith-type profession in Classical Chinese. – droooze Apr 28 at 7:31
  • At some point it was decided to use 金 for かね, not 銀, etc.Why? – Mathieu Bouville Apr 28 at 8:56
  • 1
    @droooze Thank you for your input. That info adds to fun when you know that the earliest form of banking in England was assumed by goldsmiths. – broccoli forest Apr 28 at 10:48

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.