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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1answer
78 views

What does こき mean?

I've seen こき being used in expressions such as in こき使う (with the meaning of work someone hard) and 嘘こき (used to refer to someone who lies a lot, apparently). I haven't found this expression's meaning ...
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530 views

頭【かぶり】を振る and 頭【かしら】を横に振る, why the change in pronunciation?

As the title suggests, why is there a change in pronunciation between 頭【かぶり】を振る and 頭【かしら】を横に振る? As far as I can see, there is no difference between the meanings of the two—デジタル大辞泉 even lists the ...
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Why use 一本 in the expression 一本取る

I was watching an episode of ファニエスト外語学院 on judo. At 6:26, the judoka remarked how his opponent ボビー could win him just by his horrid face, saying 「顔で一本取られた」って感じです. I am interested in understanding why ...
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Why is あやまち written 過ち and not 誤ち?

What's the reason for writing あやまち 過ち and not for instance 誤ち ? Wouldn't that make more sense since it means to err, be incorrect...? I can see how one would get from exceeding/overdoing a mistake, ...
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Where did the terms 「口ばっか大臣」「口だけ大臣」come from?

I just heard the term 「口ばっか大臣」in『荒ぶる季節の乙女どもよ』. Story 菅原:体だけで見られてたって…今はかまわないです。だって…性欲と感情は切り離せないものだから 和紗:ちょ…ちょっと待って!男子は性欲と感情を切り離して考えるって、菅原氏言ってた!確かに言ってた! 菅原:だから、私は口ばっか大臣だったの It seems another similar ...
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パンの耳? How did 耳 end up meaning edge/crust?

100% a curiosity question, but I recently stumbled across some older blog posts about a silly debate of "should you eat all your pizza crust?" and I was surprised to see the phrase ピザの耳 ...
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What's the origin of ~み following a 形容詞?

I found a HiNative question where someone asked about the difference between [痛]{いた}さ and [痛]{いた}み. A native Japanese speaker gave this answer: 「痛さ」は形容詞「痛い」が名詞化した名詞です。 「痛み」は動詞「痛む」の連用形が名詞化した名詞です。 I ...
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How come such a “strong” expression as なるほど is used in such a “soft” meaning?

Usually ほど is used to refer to some degree/extend that is in some way high, or even approaching/reaching some upper limit. Given how precise(※) and reserved Japanese usually is, I find it surprising ...
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365 views

Strictly speaking, are 重箱読み and 湯桶読み mostly 漢語 or 和語, or 50-50?

Today in a comment on a Japanese forum I said: 日本語には主に「漢語」、「和語」、「外来語」三つの語彙体系があります。漢語というのは中国語から借用された語彙体系です。例:漢語、高校、勉強。 二文字の言葉はほとんど漢語です、カタカナ語がほとんど外来語のように。ファン:外来語。質問:漢語。分かる:和語。 Then someone said I was ...
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Where does the irregular reading of 迷子 come from?

迷子 is read as まいご, despite the on-reading of 迷 being めい (for example in 迷惑(めいわく) ). Why is that the case? I would assume that this is not a case of jukujikun. What I do find interesting is that the ...
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Is it correct to split the reading あした of 明日 as 明(あ)日(した)?

As far as I understand 明日(あした) is jukujikun (also called semantic ateji), so, as with for example 今日, I would expect for the "reading" to be considered over the whole word, instead of being ...
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the word “Buster” in action-centered fiction

I've noticed that across videogames and anime that focus on fighting and action, the word "buster" is frequently applied as the name of a super powerful weapon. For example, Gunbusters from ...
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The Origin of のだ

I've recently been trying to fit the explanation particle のだ in with the logic of Japanese and I was wondering if it had its roots in another Japanese word or something of the sort. Particularly, it ...
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733 views

What is the origin of 場所?

The kanji compound 場所 is bugging me. For the longest time, I did not know how to pronounce it, oscillating between ばどころ and じょうしょ. The correct pronunciation, however, is ばしょ. This is weird to me, ...
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Is there a reason for 乞う to conjugate to 乞うて? [duplicate]

Usually, when conjugating Godan verbs ending with う into て-form, you would get って instead. Is there an etymological reason for this exception for 乞うて? I saw this in a rather recent book written in the ...
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What's up with animal names ending in る?

猿・ツル・ホタル・カエル る is a rather uncommon mora in nouns, especially at the end. But there seem to be an unproportional amount of animal names that end in る. Is that just a coincidence? For 猿 at least, there ...
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What is the adverb すこぶる etymologically?

I came across the adverb すこぶる "greatly, extremely" and initially mistook it for a godan verb. This seemed to me an unusual 'shape' for an adverb -- what's the etymology of this adverb, and ...
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Etymology of 「芝生」 and pronunciation of 「生」 here

「芝生」 is pronounced as しばふ, I wonder why 生 here is pronounced ふ, and is there any word containing 生 pronounced ふ?
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たいまつ , why is it in this order: 松明?

So torch is たいまつ, and is written in kanji as 松明. Matsu, however, means pine, which is the first kanji, not the second. Are there many words like this in Japanese that seem "out of order"? Is ...
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What is the reason for the odd vowel values of Japanese ココア?

I've done a bit of digging, and for the life of me, I cannot find any clear record or explanation for why Japanese ココア is pronounced the way it is. Sources researched to date: Lots of different ...
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む verbs and corresponding ましい adjectives

In studying words like 羨ましい and 勇ましい, I've noticed that there are almost always corresponding (mostly transitive) む verbs: 羨む -> 羨ましい 勇む -> 勇ましい (transitive version seems to be archaic) 好む -> ...
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Are there other compounds with 分 where it is read as いた as in 大分県?

Not sure if 分 is ita or ta in 大分県, but anyway, kind of hard to find anything in the dictionary so if anyone knows a compound with that reading off the top of their head it would be appreciated!
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What's the etymology of 「うつむく・俯く」?

Is 「うつむく・俯く」 a compound of 「うつ+むく」? What does 「うつ」 mean here, and what's its origin? Thanks!
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Grammar behind the flower name ワスレナグサ

If I researched correctly (and with that I mean reading a bit of Wikipedia), the plant name ワスレナグサ, or 忘れな草 when written with Kanji, is a calque of German "Vergissmeinnicht" ("forget-me-...
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When did 「ヤッホー」 become a popular greeting?

The etymology of the very casual greeting 「ヤッホー」 appears disputed and undecided. Various theories and hypotheses have been suggested. This site lists German, Hebrew, and 山伏 as possible sources. A lot ...
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Why are there so many カ行、サ行、ラ行五段活用 verbs?

If you go into a dictionary like Weblio, and you look through their list of verbs, you'll see that each of the consonant 行s of 五段 are in separate categories. However, there are a ton of カ行、サ行、ラ行 verbs,...
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I need help with the translations of the word Seido 精度

I am planning to start a small business in the art industry in the UK. I was brainstorming ideas for business names some time ago and I started typing in translations of English words I found relevant ...
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Looking for the History of the Kanji 湯

I was wondering if anyone knows the etymology of this kanji 湯. I'm specifically looking for the Japanese variation of Bath or "yu". My wife's last name in kanji is 湯上 (Yugami).
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108 views

先生 character etymology

先 looks like a teacher holding a pen, and 生 looks like a person sitting cross-legged with a pen, learning. maybe the symbols together mean someone who instructs someone else. Was this originally a ...
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1answer
117 views

Normal is the most difficult" — origin in Japanese?

I'm looking for the Japanese origin of the saying Normal is the most difficult. I believe the longhand version would be Normality in life is the most difficult state/condition to attain/sustain. ...
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2answers
181 views

What semantic notions underlie 和 and Japan?

I was reading about Wasei-kango, and am bemused why Japanese-made Chinese words is translated as 和製漢語. Why not 日本製漢語? How did 和 semantically shift to mean Japan then? Isn't this semantic shift ...
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Apparent honorific use of 参る

I'm puzzled by the appearance of 参る in this dictionary entry. The example sentence is archaic:「こなたにてみぐしなど参る程に」 In the modern language, this becomes: こちらでお髪などおととのえになるころに。 Notice that the modern version ...
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107 views

九百, くひゃく (arch) (derog) fool; idiot

I came across this entry in wwwjdic: 九百, くひゃく (arch) (derog) fool; idiot Is there a fun story explaining how "900" = "fool"?
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サッと: Mix of ひらがな and カタカナ in the same word?

So, I've come across this sentence そのとき、陽が当たった石版に何かの影がサッと横切った。 which I'm fairly sure it means something like At that time, something's shadow quickly crossed the sunlit lithograph. Now, what ...
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How did 賃 get its 慣用音 reading?

賃 has the 慣用音 reading ちん, as in 家賃{やちん}. I understand that a lot of 慣用音 readings arise from interpreting the phonetic wrongly (for example 消耗{しょうこう} vs 消耗{しょうもう}), but in this case how did 賃 receive ...
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124 views

Why do many adverbs end with ず?

A quick search on jisho.org reveals that many of the first page results of words that end with a ず are adverbs. So this type of adverb is common. In fact, it's true (at least for these first page ...
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Which came first: いや (the interjection), or 嫌がる and similar words?

I assume that the interjection いや is cognate with a bunch of other words beginning with iya- such as 嫌がる、卑しい, perhaps via the semantics of 'disagreeable'. But did the interjection come first and get ...
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183 views

What is the origin of pharmacists being called 'yakuzaishi' in japanese? Is there some relation to the yakuza?

I was doing a quick google translate search to look for the Japanese word for pharmacist. Turns out it is yakuzaishi. Ishi means doctor & Yakuza is obviously the well-known criminal syndicate. It ...
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1answer
141 views

Etymology of the exclamation 「よし」

What is the etymology of the exclamation 「よし!」? I mean the one that's made before people decide to take some kind of action (such as standing up, or starting to do the dishes).
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How did 引っ込む and 引き込む end up with different meanings despite looking very similar?

I noticed that most compound verbs take the stem form of a verb and attach it to another verb. When I saw 引っ込む, I just took it as a compound of 引く and 込む... until I found 引き込む which is closer in ...
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94 views

Is ずから a productive structure?

Recently, I was reminded of 手ずから again and connected it to 自ら{みずか} and おのずから this time. I was wondering if the structure ずから is used anywhere else? Some research seems to indicate that might be ...
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258 views

What does the 匂 in 匂い mean?

匂い (におい) refers to a fragrance, or something that is nice-smelling. As far as I know, this kanji is only used for this word in Japanese. I notice that the character 匂 is uncommon. The usage of 匂 is ...
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80 views

How was こき使う formed?

I was reading a manga called Rengoku ni Warau and Kaishin said: ったく、人をこき使いやがって あのジジィほっつき歩いてやがる Jisho says that こき使い means pushing someone around or to work someone hard but it doesn't seem to fit ...
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what does いたまえ mean and how was it conjugated? [duplicate]

I was wondering what does いたまえ mean I really don't know the main word when I searched and I don't know how it was conjugated this sentence was from oregairu season 1 ep 4 near the start 好きな者達と組んでもらうから ...
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599 views

What is オーション and why is it called that?

A recipe for home-made ramen calls for オーション. I am having a hard time figuring out what that is exactly, having checked dictionaries and Google Translate to no avail. I did find several online ...
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295 views

Why does the kanji for coffee have a king 王 radical?

The Chinese character for coffee is 咖啡 while the Japanese kanji is 珈琲. The mouth 口 radical seems more appropriate than the king 王 / jade 玉 radical. Most kanji come from Chinese characters and are ...
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103 views

Why is there a し in 嫉妬し蹴落とそうとする?

Hi I found a sentence earlier with 嫉妬し蹴落とそうとする and I do not know why し is put there. Anyway, I thought it was the reasoning marker but it does not sound like it from the audio and I don't know what ...
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105 views

What is the difference between 言いだし and 言いだす?

I found a sentence earlier containing the word 言いだしづら but I parsed it to 2 words and I found I did not know 言いだし so I looked it up and found 言いだす (which I know the meaning of), but I also found ...
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1answer
58 views

What's the meaning of 通じづらい, and how was it conjugated?

I was wondering what the meaning of 通じづらい is, and how it was conjugated. I know づらい means "difficult" or "hard to" but I can't find the exact meaning of 通じ. Here is the sentence. The context is that ...
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87 views

Do ふえる and へる have a common etymology?

I was reviewing my Anki cards and it said that 減少 and 増加 are antonyms. Now, for extra practice, I try to give at least one kunyomi reading to each kanji. Then it occured to me that ふえる and へる sounded ...

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