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Questions tagged [etymology]

語源. The study of the origin of words and the historical development of their meanings. Sometimes used for kanji as well; we currently don't have a separate tag for character origins.

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Origin of こんな, そんな, あんな and どんな

I wondered why こんな, そんな, あんな and どんな can be used prenominally without any particles. Due to the lack of a proper etymology dictionary in my possession (a recommendation would be appreciated), I came ...
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で in the copula である

I have always wondered where the で in ~である (and ~でございます) comes from. In the answer to the question 「です」, what is it really? Is my analysis correct?, Eiríkr Útlendi states that the で in ~である is the ...
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Why is 'no smoking' 禁煙, whereas 'to smoke' is 吸う?

Why is 'no smoking' [禁煙]{きんえん} (lit. 'smoke is prohibited'), whereas 'to smoke' is [吸]{す}う (lit. 'to inhale (smoke)')? In English (and some other languages), the verb 'to smoke' is related to the noun ...
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Elongated お in the volitional verb form

In native Japanese words (that I know of at least) like 通り and 大きい, to elongate the お-sound, another お is added when written in Hiragana (instead of う like in Sino-Japanese words). However, it just ...
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Why would parents ever want to name their daughters with the following names?

During my studying via Kanji Study app I came across the kanji for the word, pardon my French, vagina. Of course, I was curious whether the names with the kanji existed. "Nah," I thought. "There is no ...
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Etymological connection between 戻る and 元

It just crossed my mind that both 戻る and 元 sound really similar. The Japanese Wiktionary page on 戻る even lists its first definition as "元の場所に帰る". Consonants becoming voiced also seems to be common in ...
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Kanji etymology of 毎?

what does 母 have to do with 毎? is there any link at all or did it come together randomly? does it have to do with the Chinese pronunciation?
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What is the etymology of タマ in タマを取る?

It seems that when spoken by/in regards to Yakuza, the phrase タマを取る means to take someone's life. However, I've seen some explanations saying タマ comes from 頭{あたま} and others say that it comes from 魂{...
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Where does っぱい derive from?

As it says in the title, I'm hoping to find out where the adjective ending -っぱい comes from (like in 酸っぱい 'sour'). Is it related to -っぽい (X-like, X-ish) at all? I can't seem to find an etymology for it ...
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Why the difference in metal between 銀行 and お金?

Money seems to be about gold but banks about silver. Is this due to an evolution of the status of the valuable metals themselves? Is it a complicated (e.g. ateji) etymology?
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Etymology of 見舞い

Visiting someone in hospital clearly involves seeing that person. But dancing? Does 舞 have some other, relevant meaning? Did it pertain to a traditional, sacred dance for health? Or is this ateji?
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What is the origin of 落第?

I see how 落 can be a failure. But how is 第 relevant to failing an exam, is this a meaning other than 'number, -th' or implicitly falling below first place?
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What is the origin of 落ち着く?

The verb 落ち着く means 'to calm down', but neither constituent pertains to any sort of emotion. Was there originally a subject or object (e.g. temper coming down)?
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127 views

Etymology of 引き分け: same as English?

The verb 引く gives 引き出し ('drawer'), which is a straightforward etymology shared by Japanese and English (and French and probably more). But 引き分け seems to also have an etymology similar to 'draw' (as '...
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How to look up for stems (in the etymological sense)

I find it helpful (and fun) to learn a group of words that are connected etymologically. For example, the stem うら(裏、心) is related to so many words ranging from JLPT N1 to N5 including: うら(裏) 憂う 嬉しい ...
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Etymology of 山賊

The contrastive pair made by 山賊 (brigand) and 海賊 (pirate) works pretty well on a mountainous island, where there are few other places for banditry. But if the words are of Chinese origin, this ...
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Is the 'wa' in wasabi and wakame related?

Wasabi and wakame seem to have different Japanese characters and also different Chinese ideograms. My first guess is that the 'wa' in wasabi and wakame is coincidence. But. Are they related words? ...
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140 views

What are the nuances between the use of 訊く instead of 聞く in the following sentence?

I know that 訊く is another way to write 聞く, so now I'm curious as to why the author of the book used it here instead of 聞く, which has been used for all previous instances in the book. こちらから訊くより先に、...
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Why does いい加減 have diametrically opposite meanings?

When scolding a misbehaving child, we tell them to be iikagen: いい加減にしなさい。 But we can also tell a misbehaving child to stop being iikagen, or describe something bad as iikagen: もういい加減でやめなさい。 ...
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What is the etymology of the kanji 寺?

This kanji has : - 止(phonetic) + 寸(hand : semantic) and the 止 part became 土 later But I found in some resources this interpretations which explain "止" function in the kanji so I wanna know which on ...
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What is the etymology of the kanji 石?

Kanji "stone" contains (cliff 厂 + mouth 口).. my question is what is the idea of mixing mouth with cliff ... the cliff function here is clear because it's some thing related with stone.. but what is ...
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What is the etymology of モテる?

Where does モテ come from? モテる to be popular with opposite sex.
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What is the etymology of the kanji 金?

Trying to look up the etymology of the kanji 金, every reference seems to give a different explanation. Let me ask about two references (Wiktionary and Hanziyuan) Wiktionary gives the following ...
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Is 長 in Japanese related to “naga” in Thai and Sanskrit?

The kanji 長い (“nagai”) means “long” in Japanese. And “naga” in Sanskrit and Thai means “snake” or “serpent”. It seems to me that there could be a relation between them given that snakes are usually ...
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What is the etymology of the kanji 食?

In the Wiktionary page for this kanji they said that it's a pictogram for someone's mouth over a bowl of rice on a stand .. the question is: are they meaning this was the actual way for eating in this ...
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What is the etymology of kanji 問?

This kanji "ask" when I researched on it I found that the 門 part is a phonetic and this common with kanjis contain 門 .. but i found this site which says that this part 門 in kanji 問 not a phonetic but ...
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What is the etymology of this kanji 厚?

In this wiktionary page https://en.m.wiktionary.org/wiki/厚 the etymology for the kanji 厚 is not complete: they wrote that it's an ideogrammic compound but they didn't write the component functions. I ...
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Etymology of bateren (伴天連 / 破天連)

The archaic Japanese word bateren 伴天連 / 破天連 (referring to a missionary [Jesuit] priest) is derived from the Portuguese padre. The Portuguese word notably does not contain or end in a nasal consonant, ...
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What is the etymology of kanji 関?

I didn't find an explanation or clear etymology for the kanji 関.
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Why is the meaning of kanji 閑 “leisure”?

The kanji 閑 contains 門 + 木. Why does gate + tree mean 'leisure'?
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Etymology of ~かもしれません

So, today one of the topics boarded in the lessons I'm taking was the form ~かもしりません Now, I'm thinking the しれません part comes from the potential form of 知る. That way, in the sentence, it would mean ...
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Is there any difference between 速さand 速度?

From what I understood, both 速さ{はやさ} and 速度{そくど} means "speed". Some say that they are synonyms (just like speed and velocity in English), but I guess there is a nuance between them, isn't it ? 速さ{...
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Why are phone calls cylindrical?

何本か重要な電話をかけ、... He made several important phone calls and ... Originally part of this question but separated due to popular? demand. Why is the counter 本 used in reference to phone calls?
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What are the origins of the words ぐう、ちょき、ぱあ in the context of じゃんけん?

Self explanatory. I've read that they stand for rock, paper and scissors, but I can't find any ultimate origin of why these terms are what they are. Thanks!
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Why is the State of the Union Address Called 一般教書演説?

The President of the United States gives a speech referred to in English as the "State of the Union". Why is this speech called 一般教書演説{いっぱんきょうしょえんぜつ} in Japanese?
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鶴の一声 — Origin and context?

So, I understand what the idiom actually means, roughly -- "the final word," "the word from on high." But where does it come from? Is there a story or a history that gives it context?
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Why is ostracism called 村八分【むらはちぶ】?

While doing some reading of old questions, I stumbled upon the term 村八分【むらはちぶ】, which is apparently means ostracism. I'm curious what the 8 parts (八分) are and how this relates to ostracism.
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What is the etymology of 料理?

料 can mean 'ingredient', which is clearly relevant to cooking. But 理 seems abstract -- 'the logic/theory of ingredients', almost like the name of a science (ingredientology'?).
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Where does ドンピシャ come from?

The fact that ドンピシャ (meaning "right on, fitting to a T") is written in katakana makes me wonder if it comes from a foreign phrase, but I can't figure out which one (out of the European languages I ...
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What is the story behind “peach kanji” 桃?

I wanna know why this kanji is containing the tree kanji 木 + the omen kanji 兆 ? What is the relation between tree and omen to give us a kanji for the peach ? Is it a historical story?
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What is the etymology of 選手 (senshu)?

選ぶ means 'to choose' and 手 means 'hand' or by extension 'ability'. I don't see how this can yield 'athlete'. Is 選 ateji?
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の: nominalization vs. 'the one that…'

の can be used as a noun with a relative clause in what appears to be two separate situations. Referring to a thing or person, e.g. '来たのは田中です。' ('The one who came is Tanaka.') Nominalizing a verb (as ...
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What is the etymology of Honshū (本州)?

Honshū is the main island in Japan (so it could be called something like 大州 or 広州). But it is also common in cosmogonies to say the gods created our land first and foremost, and the rest of the planet ...
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Kanji of そそっかしい

I am wondering about the way to write そそっかしい in kanji, and if this is possible. I've found that the な-adjective 粗忽{そこつ}, a word with very similar if not identical meaning, can in less common cases be ...
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What is the etymology of shamisen (三味線)?

The instrument clearly has 3 (三) strings (線), but where does 味 exactly fit in?
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What semantic role does ⺉/刀(sword/cut) tend to have in Kanji?

判 Has the phonetic component 半, but why the semantic component knife? 刊 has the phonetic component 干, but why the semantic component knife? 剛 has the phonetic part 岡, but why the semantic ...
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How did スマート (from 'smart' in English) shift to mean 'slim, trim' and 'stylish'?

I first learned of this loanword on /r/FalseFriends. Wiktionary: Etymology From English smart. Adjectival noun スマート (-na inflection, rōmaji sumāto) slim, trim, slender ...
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Why is “移民” labelled as a sensitive word in the dictionary? (in relation with or without the history behind the word)

I stumbled again on a word that is labeled as sensitive. This time it's 移民 which means: Noun, Suru verb, No-adjective emigration; immigration [sensitive] (only the suru verb is labeled ...
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Is there a reason why 嚥 (swallow -deglutition) and 燕 (swallow -bird) are similar like in English?

I recently came across the kanji 燕, and found out about 嚥 today. According to jisho.org, both translate to "swallow", except that the first one means swallow bird and the second one (with the "mouth" ...
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What is the significance of number 8 (八) in Japanese? [duplicate]

I've noticed a couple of words with the character 八 that have (seemingly) nothing to do with the number 8. 八百屋【やおや】 - greengrocer 八つ【やつ】当たり【あたり】 - taking out anger on someone 八丁【はっちょう】 - ...