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What is the cultural/religious origin of itadakimasu and gochisosama?

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    What do you know about the meanings of these words already? Are you familiar with the verb いただく or the word ごちそう? – mamster Jul 1 at 4:15
  • Possibly related, given the OP's concern with "the cultural/religious origin" of these terms: travel.stackexchange.com/questions/140311/… – Nanigashi Jul 2 at 15:34
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    I have been living in Japan for almost 12 years, but only recently have been really trying to understand the language and the thought behind it. I do know and use those words regularly as per custom but when I ask the natives about the origins, no one seems to know with any type of certainty (even in the Japanese humble sense of confidence)...hence asking the question to this group. Thank you for the responses and the weblink! – JKL Jul 3 at 0:35
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In terms of simple word origins / etymologies, we can explain that pretty easily based on available resources.

Origin of itadakimasu

<joke> This comes from the phrase [板]{ita}[[を]{o}][抱きます]{dakimasu}, and refers to the custom of hugging ([抱く]{daku}) a board ([板]{ita}) in appreciation of the table on which the food is laid. </joke>

More seriously, itadakimasu or 頂【いただ】きます is the so-called "-masu form" or "polite form" of the verb [頂く]{itadaku}.

The original meaning, way back over a thousand years ago, referred to placing something on top of one's head, such as to carry or transport. The idea of "on the very top of something" is still used in the noun derived from this verb -- itadaki can refer to the peak of a mountain, for example.

Over time, this "put on one's head" expanded to mean "get something from on high", and then to "get something from a social superior".

Then, from "to humbly receive", the word was used more poetically in reference to "humbly receiving food", leading to the modern usage just before eating.

As a regular verb, itadaku still means "to humbly receive" or "to humbly get or have someone else do something", such as 回答【かいとう】を書【か】いていただけますでしょうか (kaitō o kaite itadakemasu deshō ka, "could I get you to write a response for me?").

Origin of go-chisō-sama

This term comes from three pieces.

  • go-
    This is an honorific prefix. Either go- or o- shows up on the front of many terms in Japanese as a kind of polite marker.
  • chisō
    The core term. We'll get to this in a moment.
  • -sama
    This is an honorific suffix. It's the ancestor, and now the hyper-polite version, of the modern -san suffix used for people's names.

So we have two pieces of politenss, and one core term.

The core term chisō

The Japanese term chisō is spelled in kanji as 馳走, and this literally means 馳 "to rush about" + 走 "to run". The literal sense first appears in the late 1000s. Over time, this took on overtones of "to rush about taking care of things for someone", and from there, the meaning extended by the early 1600s to mean "to treat someone to a meal".

At the end of a meal, it became the custom to thank one's host for taking care of preparing the food by stating that they have "rushed about getting the food prepared": go-chisō-sama deshita, literally "[you have] honorably been rushing about". More at Kotobank.


Please comment if the above has not answered your questions, and I can update as appropriate.

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    Thank you very much for your detailed (and funny) explanation! I've heard a couple other explanations and no Japanese I have asked (I live in Osaka) knows about the word origins, which interests me. :) – JKL Jul 3 at 0:37

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