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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18
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2answers
8k views

Where does the な in 大人 (otona) come from?

As far as I understand, the word 大人 (otona) uses the kanji 大 to represent お and the kanji 人 to represent と. According to this site the readings for 人 do not include な. Where does the な come from then?
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3answers
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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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4answers
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What are the origins of ヶ?

The ヶ in e.g. 一ヶ月 is a bit of an odd character - it looks a lot like a small version of the katakana ケ, but is it derived from that katakana originally? Or is it a normal kanji? Or is it something ...
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1answer
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Origin of ~なければ ならない

The expression ~なければ ならない if I learned correctly means "must not not do ..." as in: 日本語を勉強しなければなりません。 You must not not learn Japanese. (i.e. you need to learn Japanese) However, taken on face value ...
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2answers
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How to tell if a word is Sino-Japanese or Yamato

How can I tell if a word is Sino-Japanese (漢語), or Yamato (和語)? An answer to How 「えい」 should be pronounced in the words like 英語, 先生, etc? talks about the pronunciation of Sino-Japanese words and ...
25
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1answer
877 views

Why is a place that sells さけ a さかや?

Is it known why a さかや normally has a か, rather than a け like in さけ? Are there many other -や constructions for stores that change the spelling of the word added to?
2
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1answer
645 views

What does 持った mean?

If context is needed, please consult this previous question. So, there's a bunch of verbs related to "持っ" but how can any of them evolve to 持った?
18
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2answers
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Exceptional compounding forms

There are a number of Japanese words which have distinct compounding forms: -a/-e alternation: 天・雨、酒、上、風、目 — many examples. -u/-i alternation: 神([神]{かむ}[集]{つど}ふ)、月([月]{つく}[読]{よみ}) -o/-i alternation: ...
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3answers
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Why did の disappear from 山手, but in 御茶ノ水 it's in katakana?

I realize that very likely the answer to this question is likely to be something along the lines of "that's just the way it is", but I thought it worth asking to see if there were some insights that ...
16
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3answers
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Historical differences between colors that are i-adjectives and those that are simply nouns

EDIT: Started a bounty with hope of getting more definitive and elaborate answers, e.g. timeline of when color names started being used in Japan. In Japanese language, there are colors that are i-...
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1answer
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Origin of the kanji for 叶う

One thing that has always confused me is how the word 叶【かな】う took on the meaning of for a (wish) to come true. I find this perplexing because in Chinese, the word has never had this meaning. 叶's ...
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1answer
368 views

What are the origins of the Chinese derived words?

By "Chinese-derived words" I mean words that are read solely in 音読み, e.g. 自転車, 会社, 選択 etc. As a Chinese speaker, I find some of the Chinese-derived words not really Chinese. We don't call a bicycle a ...
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1answer
650 views

Words with metathesis

What common Japanese words underwent metathesis (transposition of sounds)? Examples. 新{あたら}しい < あらたしい 秋葉原 {あきはばら} < あきばはら
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How did 面白い end up meaning “Interesting”?

面 by itself means "face", while 白 by itself means "white". How did these two words combine together to mean "interesting"?
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2answers
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Why is 一日 'tsuitachi'?

Why is it 'tsuitachi' if the pronunciation can only be ichi, hito, or hitotsu?
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4answers
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Is there any reason a lot of body parts use the Month/Moon radical?

腕、胸、お腹、肘、脇、肩 are all body parts, and their radical is 月. I wonder how that came to be?
18
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2answers
724 views

What are the origins of ド when used as emphasis, and is it always negative?

Sometimes I've seen ド as a prefix that adds emphasis to words. So saying someone is ドバカ is saying that they are much more stupid than just バカ. I'm wondering what the origin of ド in this context is. ...
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2answers
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Etymology of 出来る dekiru

An entry of Tae Kim's blog suggested that 出来る came from Chinese word 出来 that does have the nuance of potentiality, but the most recent visitor's comment claimed that the usage of 出来 in Chinese to show ...
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1answer
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Where does です come from?

I've heard various things about this construction from many different people, a few examples of which are: It's a verb meaning "to be". It's a contraction of something like でございます (de gozaimasu) or ...
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2answers
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About 「同{おな}じ」 and 「同{おな}じく」

As far as I know, 「[同じ]{おなじ}」 is not a 形容詞{けいようし} (-i adjective) so how does it become 「[同じく]{おなじく}」? Or does 「同じく」 not come from 「同じ」? Also, are there any other non i-adjectives that have -ku ...
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4answers
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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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2answers
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Origin/etymology of こころ~ words

There are three unique words that begin with こころ~: 快い (こころよい)、 試みる (こころみる)、 志 (こころざし) What is the origin of these words in relation to "heart/spirit/mind", if any??? Or is this just something ...
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How is the wind related to illness?

I've seen the kanji 風 appear in several different illnesses: [風邪]{«かぜ»} (a cold), [中風]{ちゅう・ふう} (paralysis), and [痛風]{つう・ふう} (gout). Conceivably there may be others, but I haven't seen them. What ...
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3answers
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If 校 is the kanji for school, why do I need 学 to actually say school?

Perhaps a dumb question, but something that I was wondering and couldn't find a clear answer via search. Since 校 is the kanji for school, why do we also need the kanji for learning 学 to say "school" (...
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1answer
610 views

About ご[馳走]{ちそう}: two “runs” would give you “a feast”?

ご[馳走様]{ちそうさま}でした is the greeting that people say after being offered a meal while ご馳走 by itself means “a feast”. I looked up this word in the dictionary to learn more about the kanji characters. It ...
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2answers
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明日: あす & あした; Is there a difference in meaning and when each is used?

Is there a difference between these two words for "tomorrow" and when each is used? (and is it just coincidence that あした sounds like the past tense of あす?) We tend to be taught あした and then discover ...
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1answer
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The uses & etymology of で

In Japanese, the particle で seems to have multiple uses: Instrumental: 車{くるま}で大阪{おおさか}に行{い}った。 "I went to Osaka by car." Locative: 図書館{としょかん}で数学{すうがく}を勉強{べんきょう}している。 "I'm studying math in the library....
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2answers
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_っ_り form adverbs

I keep seeing these onomatopoeic adverbs popping up with the form: _っ_り. Some examples include ぐっすり、ぴったり、すっきり、etc…. Is there a name for these adverbs, and why are they in this specific form?
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1answer
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Usage of お+[verb stem]+する for humble form and お+[verb stem]+になる for honorific form

Apart from using verb-specific humble and honorific versions (e.g. 参る < 行く < いらっしゃる), the general method of turning a verb into humble is by using お+[verb stem aka 連用形]+する while the general ...
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1answer
763 views

Etymology of the copula だ

I think of だ as being the only copula, which can be inflected to で and な. In my mind all other copula-like words are derived from these forms, i.e. です ⇔ であります じゃない ⇔ ではない だろう ⇔ であろう etc. But ...
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2answers
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Does every kanji come from a Chinese character? If so, where can I find the origins of a kanji?

I know that kanji are borrowed from Chinese characters but are all of them borrowed? As a Chinese native speaker, I am wondering the origins of modern kanjis. Most of them are exactly same as the ...
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4answers
555 views

The etymology of 関手【かんしゅ】

In Japanese mathematics, the word ‘functor’ is translated as 関手【かんしゅ】. What is the etymology of this word? I suspect that it is a pun on 関数 (function). This leads to two further questions: Why 関手 ...
12
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1answer
649 views

Unifying concept for noun-adjectives of the pattern Xかな

Consider these: ~か: 静か 愚か 厳か ~やか: 穏やか 鮮やか 賑やか ~らか: 柔らか 滑らか 明らか There are many more that I've not listed. The か/やか/らか at the end of these words seem to suggest that they stem from a common ...
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1answer
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何も言うでない ! meaning and origin

I have found this sentence in Odin Sphere. I guess it's kind of old fashion for a strong interdiction. I first thought it came from the negative form of である but it doesn't seem to be replaceable by ...
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Etymology of もん・もの

How do I make sense of the 終助詞 もん as in おいしいもん そうなんだもん Although I have only heard it in 時代劇 speak, I guess it comes from もの, which I think should be も + の. But what も can follow the 終止形 and ...
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2answers
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Historical prospective of ウ音便 transformation (e.g. 有難く => 有難う)

The question ~うございます - keigo い-adjectives explains how 有難う is derived from 有難く as following: ありがたい ありがたく (連用形 of ありがたい forms an adverbial) ありがたう (く changes to う) ありがとう (う changes preceding kana to ...
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2answers
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Why is ローマ字 spelt without an ン?

Why is ローマ字 spelt without an ン? As far as I can tell, it's not because you can't have an ん sound before a じ sound, because 漢字 has an ん sound before 字. Did early Europeans' term for Roman letters not ...
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2answers
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Why is “konnichi wa” written with は and not わ? [duplicate]

Why is "konnichi wa" in hiragana with は and not わ?
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1answer
959 views

What is the rule in assigning kanji to a new word?

For example, Hydrogen was found by Henry Cavendish. Mr. Cavendish was not a Japanese and I'm pretty sure he won't bother inventing the name for Hydrogen in all the languages in the world, especially ...
10
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1answer
535 views

Mukashi-banashi. Do they borrow from other current dialects in addition to older Japanese?

At my schools 日本語クラブ, we studied a 昔話 (舌切り雀), which like most of the others I've read, had some nonstandard grammatical constructions. I've heard that many of these constructions are archaic forms ...
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1answer
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Etymology of ごちそうさまでした [duplicate]

Possible Duplicate: About ご[馳走]{ちそう}: two “runs” would give you “a feast”? ごちそうさまでした gochisousamadeshita 【ご馳走様でした · 御馳走様でした】 expression: That was a delicious meal (said after meals);  What a ...
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2answers
228 views

Origins of -ちゃん

I'm wondering if anyone can provide the origins of the honorific "-ちゃん". It's a diminutive, and German has "-chen" as a diminutive suffix. Is that a coincidence? What is the first recorded use of ...
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8answers
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Is there an objective source of the origins of kanji?

Is there an authoritative source that explains where the different kanji come from and what the radicals mean? I think it's hard to tell from most of the textbooks/other sources whether a shown kanji'...
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1answer
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What is the difference between 良い and いい?

Consider the following: 良い yoi — 良く yoku いい ii — よく yoku When typing いい, IME offers 良い in the lookup table. It makes me wonder whether いい is just an alias of 良い but it is pronounced differently only ...
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3answers
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よかろう - What does it mean? Where does it come from?

This is another question that's come from a 昔話。 We have the following section: 大きい箱と小さい箱がありますが、どちらがいいですか。 どちらも結構じゃが、どうしてもと言うのなら、小さいほうでよかろう。 I'm having trouble with the second sentence. My ...
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1answer
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Why is 島 used in the name of some cities?

I can understand "島" being used in 硫黄島 (Iwo Jima/Iwo To, literally "Sulphur island"), because it is an island, but why is it used in 福島市 (Fukushima city, literally "Good fortune island") and 広島市 (...
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1answer
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i-adjectives that end in a 〜ない which doesn't seem to be 〜無{な}い

I noticed there are many 形容詞{けいようし} (i-adjectives) that end in 〜ない, where the な is not part of the kanji, and doesn't seem to have the meaning 無い. Examples: 危{あぶ}ない means "dangerous", while 危 means "...
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1answer
558 views

人:difference between ひと and -うと

There are two readings of 人, as in these two examples: 恋人【こいびと】 and 素人【しろうと】 Why is 素人 (among others) the way it is and not しろひと or しろびと? Furthermore, 狩人 is かりゅうど. Why is the final mora voiced here?
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2answers
797 views

What function did あり perform in classical Japanese 形容詞?

In classical Japanese, many uses of 形容詞{けいようし} had あり "embedded" in them, e.g.: 熱からず = 「熱し」の連用形+「あり」の未然形{みぜんけい}+「ず」 熱かりたり = 「熱し」の連用形+「あり」の連用形{れんようけい}+「たり」 熱かれ = 「熱し」の連用形+「あり」の命令形{めいれいけい} 熱かる人 = 「熱し」...
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3answers
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Why does 丈夫 and 大丈夫 mean what they mean?

Looking at the individual kanji according to a dictionary: 丈 means height, stature, length 夫 means husband, man 大 means big, great They seem unrelated to what these words using the kanji mean: 丈夫 ...