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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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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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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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161 views

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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181 views

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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266 views

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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126 views

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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154 views

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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179 views

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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241 views

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】 - ...
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How did 控える come to mean “close to”

In Chinese, 控 means:  1. 告状,指出罪恶:~告。~诉。指~。被~。 (accuse of wrong doing)  2. 节制,驾驭:~制。遥~。 (to restrain/cause to move)  3. 开弓:弓不再~。 (to use a bow)  4. 投:~于地。(to throw something)  5....
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Why is the Japanese word for Brunei ブルネイ and not ブルナイ?

The English pronunciation of Brunei is /bɹuːˈnaɪ/ and the Brunei Malay pronunciation ends in something like /ai/, as far as I can tell (I'm not totally sure about this, but here's the Sultan and the ...
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Why is a blackboard called 黒板, but a whiteboard is not called 白板?

I'm curious as to why Japanese uses a 外来語 for whiteboard ホワイトボード, but a native word for blackboard, 黒板. Is there a historical reason this emerged? If you called a whiteboard a 白板{はくばん}, would people ...
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Why does the word for “surgery” 外科 have the 外 kanji?

I can't seem to figure out what "outside" has to do with "surgery". Surely, one type of surgery is amputation (切断【せつだん】) which is about removing (外【はず】す) a body part, but there are many other (much ...
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The etymology of 助っ人

Recently I came across the word 助っ人, surprised to find out its reading was "すけっと." Does its etymology have something to do with 助ける【たすける】 and 人【ひと】? If so, why the disappearance of た, ひ, and the ...
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How can 池仲 be read as 'ikenohata' in the seal 'Ō Ikenohata Jōkin', 大池仲上金? Doesn't 仲 = 'naka'; can it be 'hata'?

If Ō Ikenohata Jōkin is written as 大池仲上金, how can 池仲 be 'ikenohata'? 池 is ike, but 仲 is usually naka? Can 仲 -- and presumably its homonym 中 -- also be read as hata (はた)? Am I missing something? ...
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How to arrive to the meaning of the kanji tonari 隣 through its components?

the kanji 隣 tonari, it is formed by: - the radical ⻖ : こざとへん hill, mounds; - the radical 舛 : まいあし contrary, to err; - the kanji 米 : ベイ rice. Knowing such components, if it is possible, how can I ...
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Why does ―・appear on Japanese dictionary? [duplicate]

For example this definition of 臨む: 風景・場所などを目の前にする。向かい対する。面する。「海に―・んだ部屋」 Why does ―・appear instead of the word itself? What's the reason behind it, how do I call it and why that only exist in a ...
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Where does アフレコ come from?

I looked for the meaning of アフレコ in Jisho.org and after the meaning (dubbing) it says "Abbreviation, Wasei, word made in Japan". So since the word apparently it doesnt come from a foreign language, ...
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Two words from Shinya Shokudou

I have two questions about the TV series Shinya Shokudo. The show focuses on a midnight diner, its chef, known as "The Master", and his involvement with his customers. When the master is taking an ...
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When 大 is read as たい versus だい?

There is a general rule that for a kanji compound of the form 大*, you tend to read 大 using 音読み (タイ・ダイ) if * is 漢語 and with 訓読み (おお) if * is 和語. See e.g. this question on goo (in Japanese). (Of ...
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Did 手取り足取り come from Portuguese?

I came across this question on Yahoo where the answerer claims that the expression 手取り足取り is based on a Portuguese phrase, transliterated as テトゥーリァ・シトル and supposedly meaning "to describe in great ...
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What does “fukugen” really mean?

I read once that it means something like "reconstruction" or "restoration", but that it is an example of a word that cannot be "truly" translated into English. Could anybody here explain in detail ...
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Which language レシート is adapted from?

レシート is supposed to mean receipt. The adaptation of the word looks a bit odd to me. If it comes from English, why does it lose the "p"? Why it uses a "shii" sound instead of a "ce" (to me there are ...
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110 views

Origin of expression ~てならない?

I cannot help but think about the verb なる when I hear or read the expression ~てならない. Are the verb and the expression even related? It feels to me as if it could be the modern shortened version ...
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124 views

In 上旬・中旬・下旬, why is 上 the start and 下 the end of the month?

I understand that 上旬 means the first 10 days of the month, and that 下旬 means the last (approximately) 10 days of the month. However, I would like to understand the underlying logic for the choice of 上 ...