what does 母 have to do with 毎? is there any link at all or did it come together randomly? does it have to do with the Chinese pronunciation?


According to the Wiktionary entry, the 母 portion is purely phonetic -- that is, it has to do with the [ancient] Chinese pronunciation.

  • 2
    Which has been reconstructed as /*mɯʔ/ or /*mˁəʔ/, fwiw. "Muh", in common with most baby words for "mother" across human languages. The word for 'each' had the same pronunciation and no obvious illustration, so they just went with that. – lly May 4 '19 at 8:38

「每{まい}」(Baxter-Sagart OC: /*mˤəʔ/; Shinjitai:「毎」) was originally a picture of a woman「女」wearing a headdress, indicating the meaning married woman > adult woman, mother.「女」was later phoneticised into「母{も}」(/*məʔ/). The meaning married/adult woman is no longer associated with the character「每」, and the modern meaning of「每」(each, every) is a phonetic loan.

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  • Phoneticisation is the name of a change which transforms or replaces one component to another component which gives a sound indication to the character.

  • 「母」and「女」were very similar glyphs - the only difference between the two is that「母」draws out two dots, indicating nipples > breasts, emphasising the meaning mother.

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  • In the earliest inscriptions,「每」was used as a variant of「母」due to the similar meanings and sounds, and you can view the headdress shape or the nipple dots as differentiating marks to distinguish「母」or「每」from「女」.

In the original sense of woman,「每」is a semantic component in e.g.「毓」, which is now replaced by「育」. See Is 云 related to 𠫓 in any way?



每, the old form kanji of 毎, has 母 in it. My dictionary says that 每 is a pictogram representing a woman wearing a hair accessory (presumably, every day).

  • 1
    Hard to blame the dictionary when you don't cite it, but wherever you heard that it's completely wrong. It's phono-semantic, like Mr Utlendi said. Beyond which, the woman in the pictogram would presumably cover her nipples before bothering to set her hair in order... – lly May 4 '19 at 8:37
  • @lly this answer is largely correct. The only thing that's wrong is that the character structure/origin of 每 has anything to do with "every (day)". It doesn't, and 每 is only a phonetic loan. – dROOOze May 4 '19 at 9:22
  • It's 新漢語林 2nd edition. It also mentions that Shuowen Jiezi explains 毎 is a phono-semantic compound but the dictionary editors are apparently against that theory. You can find a similar explanation in okjiten.jp/sp/kanji377.html – Kenji May 4 '19 at 9:26

It is because every person has a mother. The top part is 人. Every human has a mother.

  • 3
    This might be a useful mnemonic (to those who like mnemonics), but it doesn't seem to be the actual etymology of the character. – Earthliŋ Jun 26 '20 at 15:23

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