Questions tagged [ateji]

当て字. Kanji assigned to words based on their sound rather than their meaning.

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21
votes
3answers
7k views

Why is 「昨夜」 pronounced as 「ゆうべ」 {yuube} and 「今日」 as 「きょう」 {kyou}?

「ゆう」 is neither the kun'yomi nor on'yomi of 「昨」 and 「べ」 is not a pronunciation of 「夜」 either. The same can be said about the pronunciation 「きょう」 for 「今日」. So how come the pronunciations of the two ...
16
votes
1answer
1k views

What does さようなら (左様なら) have to do with “left”?

What is the relationship between 左様なら and 左? I assume there's some idiomatic meaning for "left" but how does it fit?
15
votes
2answers
802 views

What is the correct veritable meaning of 水無月 and 神無月?

This question is the result of a conversation with Chocolate in chat, and also this Japanese calendar I have that lists the months according to the traditional Japanese names. For some reason, there ...
13
votes
2answers
2k views

What is the etymology of [山葵]{わさび}?

I know that "わさび" 'wasabi' can also be written using kanji as "山葵" and that these two characters mean respectively "mountain" and "hollyhock", but hollyhock doesn't seem at first glance to be related. ...
13
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2answers
245 views

What is the etymology of shamisen (三味線)?

The instrument clearly has 3 (三) strings (線), but where does 味 exactly fit in?
9
votes
2answers
965 views

Significance of the kanji 茶 in the set phrase 滅茶滅茶{めちゃめちゃ} / 目茶目茶{めちゃめちゃ}

While having fun looking up random words in my dictionary software, I found out that the phrase "めちゃめちゃ", which is often used in colloquial sentences like "めちゃめちゃかわいい" has two kanji variants: 滅茶滅茶 ...
7
votes
3answers
2k views

うるさい written as 五月蝿い

This is a follow-up question to Does うるさい have a "negative" connotation. I've seen うるさい written as 五月蝿い. 現代では、is this form used often / at all? What does this have to do with flies (蝿【はえ】) in May? ...
7
votes
2answers
382 views

Reading 男 or 女 as ひと

Why is it that in Japanese sentence one sees 男 or 女 with furigana that says ひと? Furigana is supposed to help clarify the meaning of a kanji character, but using ひと doesn't seem to help clarify ...
7
votes
1answer
2k views

Common 四{よ}字{じ}熟{じゅく}語{ご} that use/are 当{あ}て字{じ}

Are there any commonly used known 四{よ}字{じ}熟{じゅく}語{ご} that use/are 当{あ}て字{じ} besides the following? Just crossed my mind, and now I'm curious. 滅{め}茶{ちゃ}苦{く}茶{ちゃ}, 夜{よ}露{ろ}死{し}苦{く}, 無{む}理{り}矢{や}理{り}
7
votes
1answer
473 views

Are both spellings for ふけ (fuke) “dandruff” ateji? If not what's actually going on?

The other day after washing my hair I decided to add the Japanese word for "dandruff" to my vocabulary. It turns out to be an interesting word. It has only one pronunciatation, ふけ (fuke), but two ...
6
votes
2answers
2k views

Why is the kanji of idiot written with the kanji for “horse” and “deer” together?

I'm learning Japanese, but I'm a beginner, and I need to understand why this kanji is a compound of the kanji for "horse" and "deer": 馬鹿 = idiot 馬 = horse 鹿 = deer Why?
6
votes
2answers
257 views

Does the use of 百足 as ateji for ムカデ come from calquing “centipede” (or a cognate)?

The English word "centipede" refers to basically the same type of disgusting creepy-crawly arthropod as the Japanese ムカデ. Sometimes, ムカデ is written in kanji as 百足. This is an obvious case of ateji (...
5
votes
3answers
2k views

The logic behind kanji choice for country name ateji

亜米利加【アメリカ】 伊太利亜【イタリア】 独逸【ドイツ】 I know these spellings are rarely used... My question is: Why did they choose exactly these kanji characters for spelling these countries' names? Could they use other ...
5
votes
1answer
401 views

無茶 - “bad tea” = absurd; unreasonable

I have the following in a Zelda guide book I am translating. It is talking about being faced with a problem and trying various ways to solve it (you know the Zelda games). I am interested in "むちゃな". ...
5
votes
2answers
2k views

Is “豪斯多拉利” an ateji way to write “Australia”?

Several years ago I invested some time and energy digging up more ways to write "Australia" in Japanese than I ever expected would exist: オーストラリア is the usual spelling these days 濠太剌利 is a rare old ...
4
votes
2answers
437 views

世話【せわ】: Do the kanji have meaning?

Are the kanji in 世話【せわ】 as in 世話になります used for their meaning, or are they ateji? If they aren't ateji, what exactly is the reasoning?
4
votes
1answer
3k views

Origin of 夜露死苦?

I've seen よろしく written out as 夜露死苦 on a couple of occasions where it's being used sardonically. At first I thought it was just authors having fun substituting characters that sound the same, but it ...
4
votes
2answers
252 views

What are these types of 当て字?

I was trying to find ways to translate people's names into 当て字, and came across this website that seems to list 4 types of 当て字: 暴走族風【ぼうそうぞくふう】, 宝塚風【たからづかふう】, お子様風【おこさまふう】, 難読文字【なんどくもじ】 The best ...
4
votes
1answer
120 views

How was 細 chosen in 亜細亜?

Mostly why 細 is read じ? In every list I looked up 細 can only be read サイ and 亜細亜 is never referenced as 難読 in the entries (about 細) I looked up. What was the reason to pick 細 for the じ sound? Can we ...
4
votes
1answer
459 views

Why would one use 当て字?

I came across 当て字 in my N1 vocabulary list, and while I think I understand what it is from the definition "kanji used as a phonetic symbol, rather than for its meaning", I'm not sure what the point of ...
3
votes
1answer
100 views

What is the reading of the town 北谷?

What is the reading of the town 北谷? ちゃたん or ほくたに? It is a town in Okinawa. Most Japanese read it as Hokutani or Kitatani. Okinawans say Chatan. Is it a dialect? Could all terms be correct?
3
votes
1answer
438 views

Etymology of 武蔵

What is the etymology of the old province and Japanese name 武蔵? Wikipedia claims that it is non-Yamato vocabulary from an Ainu language. Even if this is true, why were these characters (military/...
2
votes
2answers
403 views

Is there a Kanji for the Japanese word イクラ as in salmon roe?

I can't find anything in the dictionary. My book gives the word in hiragana but the dictionary also shows katakana. A quick google revealed that it is a loanword from Russian so katakana seems more ...
2
votes
2answers
122 views

Could 十角形、九角形、七角形 be read as デカゴン、ノナゴン、ヘパタゴン?

As per dic.yahoo.co.jp the following four geometric figures seem to be read as (ateji / gairaigo) 十角形、九角形、七角形、十二角形 (decagon, nonagon, heptagon, dodecagon). As per the same dictionary, all the other ...
1
vote
1answer
405 views

Is 基督{キリスト} really an 当{あ}て字{じ}?

I am learning the word for Christ, キリスト. According to the dictionary I make use of, it can be written in kanji as 基督, but the entry indicates that it is an ateji 当て字 spelling. I did some extra ...
1
vote
2answers
237 views

Looking for ateji for Colombia

My mother's name is Colombia (like the country) and I'm trying to give her a gift because she loves the Japanese landscapes (like trees or combinations of red, black and white). I want to write her ...
1
vote
1answer
223 views

Custom ateji (?) made by authors

I don't know if it's even called ateji in this case and maybe there's another name for this stylistic device? But I wonder how to translate (to English) custom ateji made by author. For example when ...
1
vote
1answer
136 views

Nuance of saying “同い年”? And, it is 当て字?

If saying 同{おな}い年{どし} in daily conversation is just something you'd say without thinking twice, then I have no further questions. But, doesn't saying 同い年 sound sort of stand-offish. Saying 同い年 is a ...
0
votes
1answer
148 views

Are there kun'yomi ateji?

In a Linguistics SE question on loanwords from Japanese into Chinese, it was said that the Chinese import the kanji and use their own reading thereof. So words in kun'yomi are unrecognizable in speech....
0
votes
1answer
89 views

Why the pronunciation of some words is different than their components? [duplicate]

美味しい is being pronounced おいしい, but it is not the sum of the way its kanji components are being pronounced. I think I have also seen it in some other words. So why is that the pronunciation of some ...