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I had always thought that the phrase お高くとまる consisted of the adverbial お高く combined with the verb とまる. I never actually paid much attention to the literal meaning since it is obviously a figurative phrase (meaning 'to assume an air of importance'). However, I noticed in a dictionary that the might actually be an adverbial rather than being part of the verb. See below:

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In the 例文 example, it is written in katakana as , presumably to differentiate it from まる. So I searched for the verb まる (lemma) but I could only find one instance:

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The doesn't seem to make sense in the context unless the meaning is derived from something like "to excrete from a high place" or something like that. Maybe that's possible?

So is it とまる (one word) or is it ~(と)まる (particle plus verb)?

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I'm curious which dictionary you used to find that odd kana-ization?

Searching for the kana string おたかくとまる over on Kotobank, a decent online dictionary aggregator sourcing from reputable native-language Japanese dictionaries, gives us several relevant pages. The Nihon Kokugo Dai Jiten entry for the 御高くとまる spelling includes the following sample sentence from the 1898 novel 恋慕【れんぼ】ながし by 小【お】栗【ぐり】風【ふう】葉【よう】:

悪【わる】くお高【たか】くばかり留【とま】ってゐりやがって

We also find an entry in the same dictionary for 高【たかく】止【と】まる, with alternative older Western-influenced reading たこうとまる, and a quote from the 1686 work 好【こう】色【しょく】一【いち】代【だい】女【おんな】:

高【たか】ふとまって鶏【けい】鳴【めい】別【わか】れにも客【きゃく】ををくらず

Then in the Daijirin entry for 止まる・留まる・止る・留る・停まる (all various spellings of とまる), we see a note at the bottom of the entry:

[慣用] お高く- ・ 御【お】目【め】に- /目にも留まらぬ

We have multiple entries in at least two different dictionaries from separate publishers, all indicating that the とまる is the verb, and not adverbial と + some other verb まる. So ultimately, I think the online dictionary you referenced has a typo.

PS: Grammatically, adverbial と after an adjective in the adverbial ~く form would be very odd. That said, language is a human affair and thus inevitably messy and full of oddness, so it's best to check. :)

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    It was the NHK 日本語発音アクセント辞典 which had the erroneous katakana. Given the evidence in your answer, I tend to agree with you that it must be a typo. – kandyman Jul 8 at 16:53
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    I’m not sure why, but that is how the NHK accent dictionary behaves on all entries that have a parenthesized suffix. The first character of the suffix becomes katakana, and the rest hiragana. – Darius Jahandarie Jul 8 at 21:13
  • How perfectly odd. Makes me wonder if there was some sort of algorithmic hiccup there? I just perused the 凡例 of my electronic version, and there's no explanation of the change between katakana and hiragana that's evident in some entries. – Eiríkr Útlendi Jul 8 at 21:55

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