I know this isn't important, but I am curious about the connection between 足りる (be sufficient), 足す (add) and 足 (leg). Is there any meaning to the common kanji usage? I can see the connection between the first two, but I don't quite understand how they connect to "leg".

2 Answers 2


This is a relic of the Chinese writing system, which some time in the past used the character 「足」 to mean sufficient, enough. From 《上{{kr:海}}博物館藏戰國楚竹書・䊷衣》簡11 (Shanghai Museum Chu Bamboo Slips, section Black Robes, Slip #11:



The Master said: If the ministers are not close to their monarch, then [their loyalty to him] and [his respect for them] will be not sufficient, yet their wealth and rank will be excessive.

Leg and sufficient/enough are not really related concepts, so as far as we know, 「足」 is just a loan character for the meaning enough.

There are some suggestions that 「足」 got its meaning from a misreading of 「正」, with the two characters looking extremely similar*** during a lengthy period in the middle of the Zhōu Dynasty. The evidence surrounding this interpretation is circumstantial (i.e. don't put too much weight on it), and usually comes from a reading of 「正」 as just right:



The Analects, Shu Er

The Master said, "The sage and the man of perfect virtue - how dare I rank myself with them? That I strive to become such without satiety, and teach others without weariness - this much can be said of me." Gong Xi Hua said, "This is just what we, the disciples, cannot imitate you in."

Translation by James Legge, source: https://ctext.org/analects/shu-er?searchu=”公西華曰:“正唯弟子不能學也。

***Glyph origins of 「足」 and 「正」:



It's a great question. You might have already known that Japanese characters originally came from Chinese, so if you google "足" in a chinese etymology dictionary, you will find this

甲骨文中“正”(征)与“足”本是同一个字,后被转注成两个字。足,甲骨文(囗,村邑或部落)(止,行军),表示军队归邑。金文、篆文承续甲骨文字形。因为“疋”(脚,名词)篆文的字形与“足”(凯旋归邑,动词)的篆文字形相似,后人习惯于以“足”字代替本义完全不同的“疋”字,“疋”的甲骨文字形像由大腿小腿、脚板构成的脚部。造字本义:名词,出征得胜,凯旋归邑。隶化后楷书将篆文字形中的写成。古人称得胜凯旋为“足”,称征而无获为“乏”。 https://www.vividict.com/Public/index/page/details/details.html?rid=12270 http://www.zdic.net/hans/%E8%B6%B3

Basically translated into:

Originally, "正" and "足" are the same word in Oracle bone script, but then they are distinguished as two different words. "足" is composed by "囗", which stands for "village", and "止", which stands for "to army", so "足" originally means "the army comes back to their own country/village", which basically equals to "triumphant return". However, Chinese use “足” instead of “疋” (which means "foot") because they look same. Then, “足” lost its originally meaning "the army comes back to their own country/village", but the derived meaing "to satisfy; to fulfill" remains, because if "The army came home victorious, or made a triumphant entry into the city", you get the related meaning "to satisfy; to fulfill/enough; sufficient; not lacking".

Hope you understand.

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