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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88 views

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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Where does the -a stem come from with auxiliary-constructed transitive/intransitive verb pairs if the base verb is a 二段活用 (or カ行変格活用)?

It seems to be generally understood that transitive/intransitive verb pairs, when they are not a 四段活用 and a 二段活用 that share the same 終止形, were created by taking a base verb, whether transitive or ...
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What's the etymological linkage of 「眉{まゆ}」and「繭{まゆ}」?

I found the etymology of 「眉{まゆ}」 from 眉/まゆ - 語源由来辞典 眉は目の上にあることから、「マノウヘ(目の上)」もしくは「マウヘ(目上)」の意味と考えられる。 ただし、古くは「マヨ」と言い、「マヨ」が音変化して「まゆ」となっている。 そのため、「マノウヘ」「マウヘ」が直接音変化したものではなく、「目の上」の意味を表す言葉に「マヨ」があり、...
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The etymology and meaning of Oss, Osu, Ossu

I am training at a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu academy, and their use of the word "Oss" is ubiquitous. I have asked and also answered the question What is the etymology and meaning of Oss? in the Martial ...
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What was the movement of tea leaves called before it was called ジャンピング?

I recently learned that apparently the phenomenon of tea leaves moving up and down in very hot water is called ジャンピング (See example videos). This surprises me a bit as I would certainly expect that ...
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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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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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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 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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Does 韓国 mean “South Korea” or “Korea as a whole”?

When I type in 韓国 in Google, I find South Korea. But when I use Google Translate, I find just Korea. I recently read a Japanese news article where they refer 韓国 as South Korea (I think). So what is ...
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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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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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Kanji for native Japanese concepts: Kun'yomi spanning multiple morphemes

There are a few words, which are written with Kanji imported from China, but where the intended native Japanese meaning would prefer a different choice of Kanji. My favourite examples are 雷 vs. 神鳴り (...
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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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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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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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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 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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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 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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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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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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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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239 views

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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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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773 views

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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History of 十干(じっかん)and modern uses

As I was studying vocabulary today, I happened to come across the titular 十干 which are as follows: [甲]{こう} • [乙]{おつ} • [丙]{へい} • [丁]{てい} • [戊]{ぼ} • [己]{き} • [庚]{こう} • [辛]{しん} • [壬]{じん} • [癸]{き} ...
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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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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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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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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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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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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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866 views

Why is the meaning of人一倍 opposite of what it seems to say?

This could be just me, but at first glance the word (phrase?) 人一倍【ひといちばい】 looks like it would mean "one's own share of the work". I assumed 人 to mean one person, and 一倍【いちばい】 means "one ...
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Does 左様なら (sayōnara) have Chinese roots?

A related question: What does さようなら (左様なら) have to do with "left"? The English-language A.Word.A.Day list this week is doing a "Words borrowed from Japanese" theme; today's word was ...
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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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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" is conveyed by 始, ...
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176 views

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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112 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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118 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
182 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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89 views

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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284 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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109 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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