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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5
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3answers
301 views

Squareness of kanji characters

Is there, even if it's speculative, any explanation to the squareness of kanji characters? Why are 口, 回 or 円 not circles or round like の, for example? Was making circles with early day tools too ...
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1answer
295 views

How did 沢山 (たくさん) come to mean “many”?

There are understandably a lot of words in Japanese that are made of Kanji totally unrelated to the meaning of the actual word. However, it's hard to ignore the ubiquitous 沢山. How did a combination ...
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1answer
425 views

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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3answers
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Why does the word for “high school” use 校 instead of 学?

I'm learning Japanese on Duolingo and they're starting to teach me some vocabulary about schooling. Things like 大学, 中学, 小学, and... 高校? I know that 学校 is the kanji spelling of "school," but why does "...
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1answer
256 views

Where does っぱい derive from?

As it says in the title, I'm hoping to find out where the adjective ending -っぱい comes from (like in 酸っぱい 'sour'). Is it related to -っぽい (X-like, X-ish) at all? I can't seem to find an etymology for it ...
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2answers
667 views

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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1answer
507 views

Name for Spain in kanji 西班牙

I wonder if the name for Spain in Japanese is 西班牙 (west, group, tusk?) because it has some implicit meaning (like English expression as 'horn of Africa', 'strait of ...', Middle Kingdom, ) or it just ...
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2answers
556 views

Did my teacher make this etymology for もしもし up?

I was reading this question, and realized that I had been told something outlandishly different. To be clear, what I was told didn't change the usage of もしもし to be something different. I was told ...
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2answers
608 views

Connection between 〜い adjectives and 〜く verbs?

The following pairs of inflections got me thinking a little bit. 〜く verb plain/te, for example: 働く・働いて 〜い adjective plain/nai, for example: 甘い・甘くない Both of these suggest that there is perhaps some ...
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1answer
639 views

What is the origin of word 勉強 meaning “to study/learn”?

As a native Chinese speaker, 勉强 means something very different (it means to be reluctant or forced to do something) for the same kanji/漢字. Might anyone know how it came to mean learning or studying in ...
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1answer
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Differences between ひ弱い and か弱い

How did the prefixes ひ and か come about and what are the differences in meaning between ひ弱い and か弱い? Are either of the prefixes pejorative like how ド is in the examples in dainichi's answer to '...
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3answers
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名前, does it have English Roots?

I know it's a stretch, and I'm pretty sure it's not, but is 名前 related to name? I always thought it was weird that they were so similar in pronunciation.
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1answer
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How did 達 (~tachi) come to mean `pluralize` something?

When doing some studying, I came across the verb 達成する which means to achieve/accomplish. When looking up 達 I realized that this is the commonly used ~達{たち} suffix which used to pluralize something. I ...
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1answer
169 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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1answer
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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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1answer
156 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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1answer
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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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1answer
107 views

Loaned female first names

Are Japanese first names Erika, Emiri, Marie etc. loaned from gai(koku)jin languages?
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Counter intuitive meaning of お開き

Apparently 開き means "opening" but お開き means "closure", which seems very counter intuitive. What is going on here? Are there any other similar cases in Japanese language?
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1answer
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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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1answer
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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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1answer
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What does 尿が近い and 尿が遠い mean?

seeing 尿が遠い/尿が近い in some medical documents and sites, what does 遠い and 近い mean in this sense? Does it literally mean the urine is far(ranged)/urine is close (ranged)?
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9answers
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Are there any common Japanese words which were borrowed from Ainu or other indigenous languages?

I know plenty of Japanese words that came from English and a few from other European languages (obviously tons from Chinese), but what about words from Japan's indigenous languages such as Ainu? Also ...
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1answer
112 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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1answer
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Why is watermelon written in hiragana, whereas melon is written in katakana?

For the two words, watermelon and melon: watermelon → 西瓜(すいか) melon → メロン Watermelon uses hiragana, whereas melon uses katakana. Why is this set up this way? Is there a special rule that dictates ...
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1answer
151 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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3answers
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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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1answer
439 views

Oceans ー Thick or Big?

Straightforward question. The Pacific Ocean is 太平洋【たい・へい・よう】 and the Atlantic Ocean is 大西洋【たい・せい・よう】. What was the reasoning in using a different character for the たい in each? And why 太 for Pacific ...
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1answer
436 views

Why is こおり spelt with an お rather than an う?

I thought that syllables with an "お" sound get lengthened by an "う" rather than another "お". I've seen this question asked on hinative, which mentions 遠い(とおい), 大きい (おおきい), 多い (おおい), 通り (とおり/どおり) and ...
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2answers
334 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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1answer
298 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 ...
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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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0answers
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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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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
701 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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1answer
944 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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4answers
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What does it mean when a Japanese called you 天然?

ok to make it short; my senpai called me tennen; I am forgetful person and I always do a lot of mistakes so I assume he means I am stupid based on its dictionary meaning but according to my other ...
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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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1answer
158 views

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? ...
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2answers
399 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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1answer
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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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4answers
20k views

Is the Japanese word “pan” (パン) related in its origins to the Spanish word “pan”?

"Pan", in both Japanese and Spanish means bread. Is this purely coincidental, or do they have the same origin?
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1answer
226 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
269 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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2answers
10k views

How did コンセント come to be used for an “electrical outlet”?

Saw this on a charger I bought online and was really perplexed. What foreign word does it represent? "concentric"? What does that have to do with electrical outlet and where did it come from?
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2answers
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Why is a baby called 赤ちゃん?

Why is a baby called 赤ちゃん? The term means red. Is the term "red" specific? Can the term refer to baby animals as well?
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1answer
216 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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1answer
785 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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