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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What's the reading of kanji "入" in "入る", "hai" or "hairu"?

If I look up the word "入る" in a dictionary, it would tell me its reading is はい・る, but does that mean the kanji "入" is read as はい? If I look up the kanji in 漢字源, It's obviously ...
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1 answer
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What's the origin of "さ", the nonsubjective (dunno how to call it nominalizer)

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....
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Dictionary or website with comprehensive word origin information

When I use an automatic Japanese text analyzer, it provides me with a list of words and also short information about what kind of word it is. Japanese (和), Chinese (漢), Foreign (外) or mixed (混). Is ...
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Is there any practical use of the word 正{せい} meaning 10^40 (ten thousand undecillion) ? Where did it come from? [duplicate]

I came across this definition of 正{せい} and I can't fathom what purpose such a large number (10,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000) could serve, it looks strange to me that there is ...
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2 answers
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Why does Japan still use ペキン for Beijing?

Why not ベジン or even 北京{きたきょう}?
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Origin of 玉(たま) as a circular object

In Chinese, 玉 means jade or something beautiful/valuable. But in Japanese, it can mean a variety of other things such as a circular object, female entertainer, testicles etc. I'm curious as to when 玉{...
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Why 厚かましい is not 厚がましい

I usually encounter adjectives of this form adj+がましい which means similar to adj+らしい based on my understanding. I recently discovered this word 厚かましい. I find it peculiar that it ends with かましい not がましい....
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Portuguese origin of particle -ね

The particle -ね matches somehow the Portuguese 'né' in form and use (as a request for agreement). Since there is proven historical contact between Portugal and Japan and proven influx of Portuguese ...
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Anyone has any idea why 狼狽 means "confusion/panic/consternation" when both kanjis are ways of saying "wolf"?

Basically, I'm asking if anyone knows of a possible etymological reason. Maybe it has to do with the ideogram itself, maybe it's a saying, but I'm not finding satisfying answers online. Apparently, in ...
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1 answer
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What is the etymology of [経緯]{いきさつ}?

The etymology of the word [経緯]{いきさつ}, in the sense of "the details of how something came to be" seems completely opaque. Even on the Japanese internet, the only reference I can find is this ...
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Is "先" an auto-antonym?

An auto-antonym is a word with multiple meanings (senses) of which one is the reverse of another. So apparently the kanji meaning of this word is "previous" or "past". This seems ...
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Do 待つ and 松 (matsu) have a shared etymology?

I saw a tweet that mused on the fact that ‘to pine for someone’ and ‘pine tree’ have the same pronunciation in Japanese, as in English. Is there any shared etymology here? The radicals look pretty ...
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1 vote
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What's the Etymology for using うち to mean "I"?

As some know, うち is another way to say "I" in Japanese, my tutor (and others) saying it's mostly used by younger women. My question is...how did this come to be? Because, I can't help but ...
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1 answer
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How does じろじろ suggest staring?

What is the origin of the mimetic term じろじろ? As in じろじろ見ないでください。 How does jirojiro mimic or suggest someone staring? This answer mentions how anime characters will literally say this, but does not ...
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Are 操る, 釣る, 連れる, 移る and 吊る(つる) etymologically related?

These words, in addition to sharing a common sound (つる) are somewhat related in sense, perhaps through a derivation like to hang > to lure (for fishes) > to follow > to move >to manipulate,...
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Detarame / 出鱈目 literal translation?

I recently encountered the Japanese phrase 出鱈目/デタラメ/detarame to mean... well, what we in English generally refer to as bull****. Which, the implications in the word from what it means is pretty ...
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What is うれション a portmanteau of?

I recently came across the phrase うれション, referring to when a dog accidentally urinates out of excitement. Fairly obviously the first part is derived from 嬉しい, but what else comes together to form ...
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1 answer
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Meaning, origin and "type" of 多き

I have come across 多き being used in combinations such as 恵み多き宝 or 恵み多き地. I believe the correct reading is おおき. However, I was not able to find an explanation to the differences, e.g. to 多{おお}い. Does ...
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Does the "w" to mean laugh in Japanese have any relation with how the "w" could look like a laughing part of an emoji like "^w^"?

I know that in Japanese, text messaging the letter “w” is short for warau (笑う), which means “to laugh". I'm curious if it has any relation to how the "w" could look like a laughing ...
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3 votes
2 answers
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Etymology of 打ち合わせる

How come 打ち合わせる means “to arrange a meeting” or “to agree on something”. I clearly see the 合わせる part signaling an agreement. Yet however I can’t see where the 打つ part became something other than “to ...
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3 votes
1 answer
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なさい and ください using い-stem instead of う-stem

I'm curious as to why these two verbs use their い-stem, instead of う like ます does after the い-stem and くれる/あげる/おく do after the て form. (I know the two are aru special class verbs.) Does this have to ...
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Why is する's potential form できる?

Godan verbs have the potential form える, while ichidan verbs and 来る use られる for both the passive and the potential. する also has the passive される, why isn't that or something like すれる used as its ...
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4 votes
2 answers
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Difference between「なんか」and「なんだか」?

What are some examples of their usage? Is なん the short form of 何【なに】 in both words? Also, not sure if this is correct, but the だ in the middle of なんだか should be the copula. Why is the copula being ...
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5 votes
1 answer
357 views

The は in the phrase そこはかとなく

I just came across the phrase そこはかとなく, which weblio translates as: 特にどこがどうと言うわけではないが、雰囲気として感じられる様子などを表す表現。 Expresses the idea of feeling something as a mood, and not for any particular reason. This ...
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Is there any continuity behind these verb endings?

In Japanese the seems to be a lot of reoccurring verb endings. Some basic ones are fairly easy to understand, like 動く vs 動かす, here it looks like あ plus す is used to indicate acting upon something ...
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4 votes
2 answers
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Why are segments of a TV show, etc., called コーナー?

I've heard the word used in phrases like 質問コーナー, but I haven't heard this usage of "corner" in English. Why is it used this way?
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2 answers
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歓迎しましょう vs 歓迎します vs ようこそ

What is the difference between: 歓迎しましょう (Kangei shimashou) 歓迎します (Kangei shimasu) ようこそ (Yōkoso) They all mean "welcome" but in which occasions should we use which more appropriately. ...
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Understanding japanese verb suffixes

I recently learned the meaning of the verb suffixes す, む and ぶ (respectively to do, to seem like or to indicate volition, to act like). I would have two questions : Does every verb ending with す can ...
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1 vote
1 answer
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What is the etymology of ~らぐ verbs?

What is the etymology of verbs like [安]{やす}らぐ, [和]{やわ}らぐ, [薄]{うす}らぐ, [平]{たひ}らぐ, etc.? I know they all come from adjectives, but where does the 〜ぐ come from? Maybe [揺]{ゆ}らぐ could also fit into this ...
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2 votes
1 answer
102 views

Meaning of キリ型 (can’t find in dictionaries)

Saw this term in a manga and can’t find a good explanation of what it is. The text says ドライバー(キリ型)で底をキレイにするわ (底 refers to the sole of a shoe) However, the image seems to resemble more an awl than ...
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0 votes
1 answer
114 views

How are 造語 like ググる or スタバる used and by whom?

I'm trying to find out more about innovative verbs that come from loanwords, and i have a couple questions about them: Are they used by older people/in formal situations? Or are they really slang? I'm ...
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What do the names 不二夫 and 不二雄 mean?

I am from Hong Kong. I know Chinese language. I know very little about Japnanese language. My question is - What do the names 不二夫 and 不二雄 mean? Do they mean "loyal man/hero"? Links to ...
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What does 聞く actually represent (if it means both ask and listen)?

Usually, when words have multiple meanings (/translations) they're all just translations/branches of the same idea (eg. 頼む is listed as '1. to request; to beg; to ask ​2. to call; to order; to reserve​...
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1 answer
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What does 「フトアゴヒゲ」mean in 「フトアゴヒゲトカゲ」("Central Bearded Dragon​" lizard)?

I'm guessing ヒゲ means hair, which makes sense since the lizard has "bearded" in its name. Not sure about the rest of the フトアゴ.
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1 answer
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Where did 初めて and 初めまして come from, if not from 初める(はじめる not そめる)?

Did 初める(はじめる) used to exist as a verb? It's not present today except as a frequent tripping stone for kanji autocomplete. However, the 初めまして word's まして seems to imply that this was a verb that could ...
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1 vote
1 answer
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What's the etymology of まほし?

What's the etymology of まほし? Considering it goes after the 未然形, is it something like む -> ま (未然形) + [欲]{ほ}し, or is it a totally different etymology altogether? Thanks in advance.
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1 vote
0 answers
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What is the origin and meaning of the street names 一年坂, 二年坂 and 三年坂 in Higashiyama, Kyoto?

Obviously "1-year hill", etc., but what is the context of that? And sometimes we see it spelled with 念 (nen) or 寧 (nei) instead of 年 (nen). Why is that, and which one would be correct?
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Connotations of 身もふたもないこと

My question is about the expression "身もふたもないこと". I know that "身もふたもない" means blunt or point-blank, but is there any additional connotation such as "stupid" or "silly&...
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1 answer
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Etymology of 轢く

I am trying, without luck, to figure out the etymology of the word 轢{ひ}く. Note that I'm not talking about the kanji here, but the usage of ひく to carry this specific meaning. My dictionary, スーパー大辞林, ...
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2 votes
1 answer
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Origin of seemingly opposite figurative meanings of 浮く

I've recently come across the following two definitions of 浮く in two different stories: Being cheerful, happy (in context the character was happy about spending time with friend and telling her ...
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1 vote
1 answer
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Where does the ます形 masu form comes from? I noticed that the す conjugates like the Kyoto dialect [duplicate]

I really can't figure out where the masu form comes from. I thought it might be from kobun volitional む + causative す but that's -(a)ます not -(i)ます. Both conjugations of ません and ましょう are identical to ...
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6 votes
1 answer
283 views

Is 仕方 a particular case of the pattern V連用形 + 方?

There is a pattern to express the way of doing things. First comes a verb in the 連用形 form, and after that comes the word 方{かた}. For example: 食べ + 方 → 食べ方 (the way of eating) 読み + 方 → 読み方 (the way of ...
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1 vote
1 answer
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波比不部保 ([B] sounds) → はひふへほ ([h] or [f] sounds)

Hiragana (平仮名 or 平假名) has its cursive form originated from the Chinese cursive form 草書. You can read from https://ja.wikipedia.org/wiki/%E5%B9%B3%E4%BB%AE%E5%90%8D. Also https://www.hana300.com/aakana....
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4 votes
1 answer
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Is Japanese に related to the Chinese character 仁?

Is Japanese に (pronounced as "ni") related to the Chinese character 仁 (pronounced as "ren" in Chinese mandarin)? Does the に have the root from the Chinese character 仁? They both ...
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3 votes
1 answer
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Why is 「パッと」 part Katakana and part Hiragana?

I have run across this onomatopoeia twice now in music lyrics: 打上花火 by DAOKO × 米津玄師: 「パッと光って咲いた 花火を見てた」 GHOST by 星街すいせい: 「パッと弾けた感情に」 Having seen this occur twice now, I felt it was safe to assume ...
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1 vote
1 answer
310 views

Why are there so many three kana kunyomi verbs beginning with あ?

謝る、扱う、現れる、表す、諦める、争う、改める、… Why are there so many verbs beginning with あ and with three kana kunyomi? Is there some etymological reason for this? I can't imagine this is completely incidental, though ...
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7 votes
1 answer
536 views

Why does あらぬ方向 mean "a different direction"?

「いつになく母親は、 「もう、晩ごはんはないですからね」 と父親に強くいった。そういわれて父親は、黙ってあらぬ方向をみていた。それから一週間というものは、ずーっと暗かった。」(無印良女 by 群ようこ) "Unlike her usual self, my mother said strongly to my father, "There won't be any more ...
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4 votes
1 answer
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Why are 关 and 复 half-width in Japanese?

关 and 复 are the simplified Chinese forms of 關 and 復複覆, respectively. Usually simplified Hanzi that don't exist as kanji don't get any special treatment and Japanese fonts might not even display them, ...
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0 votes
1 answer
130 views

What does 豪 mean?

What does 豪 mean in word 豪州 (Australia). I wanted to know the etymology of 豪 (I know what does 州 part means). Also I wanted to know if it is pronounced as "Gōshū" or not. (I made a mistake ...
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2 votes
1 answer
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What is the meaning of 礼楽?

I was checking the definition of 堂 in my online dictionary (大辞林) when I came across the word 礼楽 in: 堂 → 客に接したり,礼楽を行なったりする所。== Hall → a place where you can interact with customers and perform ritual ...
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