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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2
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1answer
69 views

what does 素 mean in 素数?

Composite number is translated as 合成数 (by google translation to Japanese), which makes sense. Prime number is called 素数, but what does 素 means here? I am trying to trace the source of it. We ...
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213 views

What is the etymology of the phrase 隴を得て蜀を望む?

I just came across this phrase, which is listed in the dictionary as: never being satisfied with what one gets, and always wanting more; giving someone an inch and having them take a mile; taking ...
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57 views

Is the yasumi in oyasuminasai the same as yasumi (day off / break)?

I have known oyasuminasai (good night) for around a year now. Today I learned the word yasumi (break / day off). It instantly rang a bell and then oyasuminasai sprung to mind. Is there a connection ...
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86 views

What are「熄み」's etymology and meaning

「熄み」appears in a song「インフェルノ」 照らすは闇 僕らは歩き慣れてきた日々も淘汰 夢は安泰な暮らしだが 刺激不足故にタラタラ 照らすは熄み 僕らの歩き慣れていた道はどこだ 時はたまに癪だが 温もりに包まれ只 It is pronounced やみ in the song, the same as 闇. I have never seen this word ...
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Is 人孔 from English?

I was discussing with a friend about the word 人孔, and I know I read (or was told) that it's taken from the English "manhole", literally juxtaposing the kanji for "man" with that for "hole", since for ...
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88 views

Loaned female first names

Are Japanese first names Erika, Emiri, Marie etc. loaned from gai(koku)jin languages?
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74 views

Meaning and origin of 「退がる」

I was reading a manga and a character said: 今宵はここまでだ 下がって良いぞ After they noticed that the person they were talking to didn't move, they said: おい 余は退がれと 言ったのだ That's why I'm guessing 退がる ...
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210 views

Why is デレる ichidan? (Etymology of デレる and デレデレ)

I thought modern slangy verbs coined from onomatopoeia and loanwords were all godan verbs (for example, ググる, コピる, ピヨる, ボコる). This has been asked several times: What are the principles behind turning ...
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131 views

Joint etymology of -san/-chan? [duplicate]

Just a "shower thought" I've had: is there any credence to the theory (mine) that ちゃん is a diminutive/"baby talk" form of さん (like when "ureshii desu" becomes "urechii dechu")?
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What is the etymology of パイセン?

As a slang term for [先輩]{せんぱい}, パイセン doesn't seem to be very popular. I occasionally hear it used among young people. Is it mostly a term used in Tokyo (dialectal)? Where did it come from? My ...
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69 views

〜く+あります inflections?

In this post, it was verified that indeed the origin of the い-adjective ending 〜かった stems as a fusion of the ending 〜く and the inflection あった of ある (that is, 〜かった comes from 〜くあった). This makes me ...
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Origin of 〜かった?

Is it by any chance the case that, historically, the い-adjective ending 〜かった is a contraction originating from 〜くあった, where あった is the past inflection of ある? To me, it sure sounds plausible, and ...
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107 views

Meaning and etymology of phrase or interjection いよっしゃあ?

Lately I have been watching a lot of streams and videos of Persona 5 The Royal, which has only released in Japanese. One character in that game very frequently exclaims "いよっしゃあ{LLHHHH}", "iyosshaa", ...
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289 views

What is the etymology of 迷信?

I was curious to see that the word for "superstition", 迷信{めいしん} contains a character meaning lost, perplexed, or astray. Given that Japan and China both have a history of religious belief, I found the ...
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Does the on'yomi of 輪 (リン) have any relation to the English “ring”, or is it a coincidence?

Is there an etymological connection between 輪{リン} as in 車輪{しゃりん} and "ring" in English? Or is this a false cognate?
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Why do the names of some Japanese prefectures contain 『しま』when, clearly, they are not island prefectures? [duplicate]

Why do the names of some Japanese prefectures contain 『しま』when, clearly, they are not island prefectures? For example, 広島 means "spacious/vast island," doesn't it? However, Hiroshima is not an island....
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977 views

The French language, furansugo vs futsugo

I've always used ''furansugo'' to express the French language. But I've noticed another word, namely ''futsugo'' which also means French. My guess is that ''furansugo'' is used in normal speech ...
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1answer
197 views

Why is はじめ written with the kanji 初 as opposed to 始 to convey “the beginning”?

I frowned upon my textbook when I saw the word 初【はじ】め (the beginning) for the first time (no pun intended). The reason is that so far, I understood the idea of "start" are conveyed by 始, whereas the ...
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438 views

Native Japanese vocabulary, pure Wago/Yamato Kotoba

Can you still speak Japanese while avoiding to use most Chinese loan words? The native portion of the Japanese language is called Yamato Kotoba or Wago, but how fluent could you still be without the ...
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443 views

Does the Japanese expression ''peko peko'' come from the English word ''peckish''?

I just learned that ''I'm hungry'' is : Onaka suita but can also be : Onaka peko peko I noticed that the ''peko peko'' was written in katakana. Does it come from ''peckish'' ?
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Is 写真 an onomatopoeia?

Is 写真, the word for photograph, in any way a form of onomatopoeia? That is to say, is it at all based on the sound of taking a photo? I'm aware of the meanings of 写 and 真, but when said aloud I ...
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What is the origin of っこない?

There's a construction V+っこない which means something like "have no way of doing V". お前には分かりっこないでしょう。 There's no way you would understand. Is it known what this construction originates from? I ...
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305 views

What is the etymology of とある?

ある ‘some’ is an obvious rentaikei of the verb 有り, ‘to exist’, and its emergence as a pronominal is due to the kanbun influence of Chinese 有 ɦuwX ‘same’ (Zisk, M. (2018). Middle Chinese Loan ...
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972 views

Why does 「お帰りなさい」 mean “welcome home”?

As far as I know 「なさい」 is the imperative form of 「なさる」. So why does 「お帰りなさい」 mean "welcome home"? Wouldn't it mean something like "please return"? If it was just 「お帰り」, I could understand it as a mean ...
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183 views

Is there an etymological connection between 奇数 in Japanese and “odd number” in English?

I couldn't find any etymological information about 奇数{きすう} online. I found it interesting that it has the characters for "strange/odd" and "number", and wondered if it was influenced by English, or if ...
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1answer
139 views

What is the etymology behind 彼氏(彼) and 彼女 meaning boyfriend/girlfriend?

So according to Can someone break down かのじょ and かれ for me? it seems that 彼 and 彼女 are words that only came to mean "he"/"she" due to the influence of the West. But I'd like to know a bit more about ...
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726 views

How did 象【しょう】 ( ≈かたち、 すがた、ようす) and 象【ぞう】 (どうぶつ) get to be written with the same kanji?

How did each term come to be represented by the same kanji 「象」? I assume there's no connection between both meanings beyond sharing the same kanji because they look so different to me, but I'm not ...
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2answers
311 views

Why is the term for can as in ''aluminum can" written in kanji?

I noticed that the term "can" is written with a kanji term but pronounced as in English. Why use a kanji? The word coffee has a kanji, but is commonly written in katakana. It might be ateji, but I ...
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78 views

How does ジャンケンポン become the meaning for the rock paper and scissors game? [duplicate]

It's the term used for the rock, paper and scissors game. I have also heard the term kai bai bo/bou used. Which term is correct? Kai bai bo/bou sounds Chinese. How does jyankenpon and kai bai bo/bou ...
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Why do Latin letters have English pronunciations in Japanese?

The Latin letters A–Z are used in Japan today and they each have a name just like in English. Take the first five Latin letters, A–E. Source: https://jisho.org A 【エイ】【エー】 B 【ベー】【ビー】 C 【シー】...
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2answers
380 views

What's the connection between a spoon (匕) and the old age (⺹)? (Kanji: 老)

I was studying some radicals and I found this: ⺹ (old, old-age) and this: 匕. But why this: 老 (old + spoon) means "old man, old age, grow old"?? Do Japaneses think a spoon can make you older in a ...
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1answer
93 views

How's ちゃわなきゃ working in this sentence?

I have a question about the usage of ちゃわなきゃ with 寝る in the following sentence, 先週みたいに途中に寝ちゃわなきゃいいけど。 I believe that the ちゃ is for things that must not be done, but I have no clue what わなきゃ is doing ...
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1answer
112 views

Why is a fountain pen called 万年筆?

I am curious about the etymological history of 万年筆{まんねんひつ}, whose actual meaning is a fountain pen in Japanese. If we separate the kanjis we have : 万{マン}: ten thousand 年{ネン}: years 筆{ヒツ}:...
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1answer
179 views

Why are the kanji for suika and kabocha written with the kanji for west and south?

I was able to translate as west melon and south melon. The melon part makes sense, but why were directions used? I saw the sui (water) kanji for watermelon, but it is no longer used.
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What is the etymology of the term “特定厨”? [duplicate]

For those of you who have never heard of the term “特定厨”, please allow me to explain. According to Weblio, there are two definitions: person who identifies someone's private information (esp. ...
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149 views

爵 how do the 'elements' combine to result in 'baron'

The 4 elements of this japanese kanji are understood, but I cannot see/intuit any connection between them that might result in the concept of 'baron'. Can anyone shed some light on this mystery?
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205 views

Origin of japanese metasyntactic variables 「ほげ」

Metasyntactic variables are using in programming as placeholders. Wikipedia mentions several Japanese words used in this fashion, and I would like to know how they came about. ほげ - hoge ぴよ - piyo ふが -...
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244 views

Does the word for squid (ika) come from another language?

My book lists a number of kinds of fishes and sea creatures. The names are given in hiragana for all except that for squid for which it is given in katakana. イカ Does the word ika come from another ...
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1answer
99 views

られる honorific/polite versus passive origin

Is the られる used as a honorific (some sources use "polite", but I assume it's a honorific?) related to the passive form (perhaps it's alternative usage) or is it something that emerged separately? (...
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1answer
202 views

Etymology of 急須

A 急須 (kyūsu) is a teapot. If you are really thirsty you may feel an urgent need for one, but otherwise the etymology is not self-evident. https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/急須#Japanese lacks etymological ...
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Is reasonable to assume that the 食 in 月食/日食 can be interpreted as the sun/moon being “eaten” during an eclipse?

So I'm quite new to Japanese, and I'm having a blast being able to understand some basic compound words based on individual kanji, and in some cases the process is quite straightforward. However, I ...
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1answer
146 views

What is the etymology of あした?

I speak Chinese as well as Japanese. In Chinese, the etymology for 明天 and 明日 are the same in written Chinese and spoken Chinese. This got me curious about the etymology in Japanese. In written ...
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1answer
124 views

Origin of words for eating manners

What is the cultural/religious origin of itadakimasu and gochisosama?
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What is the etymology for 面白い? [duplicate]

With the meaning of the kanji being “mask/face” and “white,” why do they come together to mean “interesting” and “funny”?
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1answer
250 views

What's the origin of the title 親王?

As far as I know, prior to the adoption of the title "Emperor" in ancient China by Shihuangdi (who claimed to be the first 皇帝 (huangdi), from the titles of 8 ancient godly beings), 王 was the sole ...
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1answer
73 views

Understanding the connection between adverbs and adjective negation

い-adjectives negate in the following way. 「大{おお}きい」→「大きくない」 How I've always interpreted process is that we're basically changing the adjective 「大きい」 into the adverb form 「大きく」 and then tacking on 「...
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1answer
159 views

Is there a common etymology for the kanji 巳 and 己 and 已?

The three characters 巳 and 己 and 已 are visually very similar, but do they have a common etymology or any overlap in terms of semantic content? Any information would be appreciated.
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54 views

Why do so many kanji for body parts have the radical 「月」? [duplicate]

What is the etymological reason for words like 胸, 肘, 腹, 腕, and 脚 to have 月? Is it phonetic at all or does it contribute meaning?
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1answer
191 views

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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1answer
215 views

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 ...