So, I know that the subjective nominalizer み comes from the imperfective/irrealis form of む, apparently the subjective particle that makes things into subjective verbs?? I just heard this on a website. But if that exists... Then what does さ come from? Unless it doesn't have an origin. My closest guess is the su in suru but it doesn't really make any sense.

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    The auxiliary verb suffix ~む appears to be the same thing (derivationally, at least) as the volitional / suppositional / hortative suffix ~む that turned into the common ending in modern Japanese. The underlying sense seems to be "seems like, looks like". I suspect this is ultimately the same root as in 目【め】 and 見【み】る. Commented Apr 21, 2022 at 22:12
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    In Old Japanese, we do see examples of noun formation via verbs taking the -a ending, such as 塚【つか】 ("hill, mound") from verb 築【つ】く ("to build up into a structure"). I wonder if the "objective amount or degree" nominalizing suffix ~さ for adjectives might be a similar kind of shift from the adjective terminal ending ~し? This is purely speculative, and I am uncertain if any academic author might have explored this possibility. Commented Apr 21, 2022 at 22:17
  • oh i didnt know that its the same as the volitional!
    – Star Peep
    Commented Apr 21, 2022 at 22:27
  • well there might not be an answer
    – Star Peep
    Commented Apr 21, 2022 at 22:27
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    Digging around in the 日本国語大辞典【にほんこくごだいじてん】 (NKD) entry for suffix ~さ (search or scroll to the section marked 〘接尾〙), I see in sense [三] that this might be related to the さ in さま ("resemblance, way, likeness"), which suggests a connection to さ ("like that, in that way"), precursor to modern そう. However, I don't see anything in that entry that explicitly says this. The Kotobank version of the NKD is abridged, however -- I wonder if someone with access to a fuller version of the NKD might find additional details? Commented Apr 21, 2022 at 22:50

1 Answer 1


As @EiríkrÚtlendi suggests, 日本国語大辞典 contains a more explicit entry on the etymology, but essentially the same:


反 should mean 略 (source)

  • Dang I was thinking about that and I didn't approve it until I was browsing my posts... Atleast i didnt see it and thought about it before so I can say I knew it... But now I am curious about ら や and か but they probably don't have a 由来
    – Star Peep
    Commented Aug 28, 2023 at 17:53

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