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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9
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2answers
4k views

What does「英」really mean?

I know that the kanji 英 now really has the exclusive meaning of "English", such as in 英語, but I'm wondering what the original meaning was. It's used in words like 英雄, which obviously don't have ...
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2answers
367 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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0answers
84 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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1answer
420 views

Is there a difference between 嘘つき and 嘘つけ ?

Any subtle differences in meaning or respect? Which is more common? Or is it just another one of those words like やはり/やっぱり/やぱり, しょうがない/しかたない、あんまり/あまり etc. with no difference at all other than ...
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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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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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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】 D【ディ】【ディー】 ...
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1answer
208 views

What are the nuances between the use of 訊く instead of 聞く in the following sentence?

I know that 訊く is another way to write 聞く, so now I'm curious as to why the author of the book used it here instead of 聞く, which has been used for all previous instances in the book. こちらから訊くより先に、...
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1answer
127 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
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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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1answer
3k views

Why aren't マンション mansions? Or are they?

And no, this isn't about property sizes in Japan! As Katakana Mysteries: 6 loan words Japan got wrong put it: Bill Gates or Warren Buffet might be very surprised if they were to buy a Japanese ...
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1answer
257 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
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Why is カラオケ (karaoke) written in katakana?

I noticed カラオケ (karaoke) is always written in katakana on signs/buildings in Japan, despite it being a Japanese word. Why is it not written in Kanji or Hiragana? As I understand it, the usual reasons ...
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2answers
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Why does 皮肉 mean “irony”?

I gather that 皮肉 can literally mean "skin-meat." I also see that one definition for 皮 is "mask (hiding one's true nature);  seeming." So perhaps 皮肉 can be understood as "hiding the real meat," which ...
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1answer
607 views

What is the origin of ゟ (より)?

ゟ is a digraph that is read より. Where does it originate from? Is it a ligature, like & <- et, or German ß <- ſs -> ss? (Wikipedia claims this, citing no source.) Also, if it is a ...
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1answer
385 views

Etymology of 姪 and 甥

姪 "niece" is often pronounced [[me.i]] rather than [[meː]] (see e.g. this comment in chat). I think the reason for this is that there is a morpheme boundary in 姪, presumably 姪 = 女【め】 + イ = female イ ...
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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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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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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
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How did 参った come to mean 'defeated' from 参る?

I've heard the phrase 参った and understood it to mean something like 'I/we lost' or 'knocked out'. How did this come from 参る, to visit or go by? I read in a dictionary that it's some phrase said by a ...
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1answer
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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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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
253 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
250 views

Origin of words for eating manners

What is the cultural/religious origin of itadakimasu and gochisosama?
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1answer
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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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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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1answer
218 views

の: nominalization vs. 'the one that…'

の can be used as a noun with a relative clause in what appears to be two separate situations. Referring to a thing or person, e.g. '来たのは田中です。' ('The one who came is Tanaka.') Nominalizing a verb (as ...
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3answers
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Why does 「(から)というもの」 have a meaning of “recently/since”?

I have given three examples below to illustrate my question. I can't understand why the expression "というもの” equates to "recently/since". この一週間というもの、忙しくてほとんど寝ていない。  For the / since last ...
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1answer
284 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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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 ...
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1answer
2k views

Origin of -tai desiderative suffix

Japanese verbs can take the suffix -tai, which attaches to the ren'youkei form and turns the verb into an -i adjective, expressing desire to do what the verb says. I have recently wondered where this ...
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1answer
733 views

Etymology of ゴミ

I'm curious why is ゴミ commonly spelled in Katakana. What word is it derived from, if any?
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1answer
91 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
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Why does ~なんてもんじゃない / ~のなんのって mean とても?

Both the following two expressions from my text book 完全マスター聴解N1 are explained as とても(高い/人が多かった): 高いなんてもんじゃないよ 人が多かったのなんのって Could someone explain what they are based on/where they come from because ...
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1answer
221 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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0answers
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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
515 views

Origin of ません (-masen)?

I understand that polite forms like yomimasu are actually (or originated as) infinitive yomi + auxiliary verb masu in its plain non-past form. Then past form yomimashita is just infinitive yomi + ...
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1answer
225 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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2answers
885 views

Why is 'no smoking' 禁煙, whereas 'to smoke' is 吸う?

Why is 'no smoking' [禁煙]{きんえん} (lit. 'smoke is prohibited'), whereas 'to smoke' is [吸]{す}う (lit. 'to inhale (smoke)')? In English (and some other languages), the verb 'to smoke' is related to the noun ...
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1answer
12k views

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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2answers
801 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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2answers
360 views

Why would parents ever want to name their daughters with the following names?

During my studying via Kanji Study app I came across the kanji for the word, pardon my French, vagina. Of course, I was curious whether the names with the kanji existed. "Nah," I thought. "There is no ...
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2answers
127 views

Elongated お in the volitional verb form

In native Japanese words (that I know of at least) like 通り and 大きい, to elongate the お-sound, another お is added when written in Hiragana (instead of う like in Sino-Japanese words). However, it just ...
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1answer
769 views

Why the difference in metal between 銀行 and お金?

Money seems to be about gold but banks about silver. Is this due to an evolution of the status of the valuable metals themselves? Is it a complicated (e.g. ateji) etymology?
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2answers
322 views

What is the origin of 落第?

I see how 落 can be a failure. But how is 第 relevant to failing an exam, is this a meaning other than 'number, -th' or implicitly falling below first place?
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1answer
151 views

What is the origin of 落ち着く?

The verb 落ち着く means 'to calm down', but neither constituent pertains to any sort of emotion. Was there originally a subject or object (e.g. temper coming down)?
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1answer
153 views

Etymology of 引き分け: same as English?

The verb 引く gives 引き出し ('drawer'), which is a straightforward etymology shared by Japanese and English (and French and probably more). But 引き分け seems to also have an etymology similar to 'draw' (as '...
5
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1answer
169 views

How to look up for stems (in the etymological sense)

I find it helpful (and fun) to learn a group of words that are connected etymologically. For example, the stem うら(裏、心) is related to so many words ranging from JLPT N1 to N5 including: うら(裏) 憂う 嬉しい ...
5
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2answers
362 views

テキ in 形声: 適・滴・嫡・摘・敵・鏑

適・滴・嫡・摘・敵・鏑 Since all the listed above kanji are pronounced テキ and have the same common element, it is safe to assume that this element is pronounced テキ. The composition of this element is 立・古・冂. ...
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0answers
99 views

Etymology of 山賊

The contrastive pair made by 山賊 (brigand) and 海賊 (pirate) works pretty well on a mountainous island, where there are few other places for banditry. But if the words are of Chinese origin, this ...

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