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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154 views

Etymology of bateren (伴天連 / 破天連)

The archaic Japanese word bateren 伴天連 / 破天連 (referring to a missionary [Jesuit] priest) is derived from the Portuguese padre. The Portuguese word notably does not contain or end in a nasal consonant, ...
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Is the 'wa' in wasabi and wakame related?

Wasabi and wakame seem to have different Japanese characters and also different Chinese ideograms. My first guess is that the 'wa' in wasabi and wakame is coincidence. But. Are they related words? ...
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257 views

What is the etymology of the kanji 寺?

This kanji has : - 止(phonetic) + 寸(hand : semantic) and the 止 part became 土 later But I found in some resources this interpretations which explain "止" function in the kanji so I wanna know which on ...
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What is the function of と in とある? [duplicate]

What is the function of と in とある? It doesn't seem to be the particle と--it doesn't seem to attach to whatever comes before it, which particles generally do. It also doesn't seem to fit any of the ...
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Is there a list of “pieces” all the kanjis are made of?

I started to make a list of all the "pieces" (I don't know how to call them) all the joyo kanjis are made of, for me to be easier to memorize all the kanjis (I memorize them by remembering the "pieces"...
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What is the etymology of モテる?

Where does モテ come from? モテる to be popular with opposite sex.
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What is the etymology of the kanji 金?

Trying to look up the etymology of the kanji 金, every reference seems to give a different explanation. Let me ask about two references (Wiktionary and Hanziyuan) Wiktionary gives the following ...
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Is 長 in Japanese related to “naga” in Thai and Sanskrit?

The kanji 長い (“nagai”) means “long” in Japanese. And “naga” in Sanskrit and Thai means “snake” or “serpent”. It seems to me that there could be a relation between them given that snakes are usually ...
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What is the etymology of the kanji 食?

In the Wiktionary page for this kanji they said that it's a pictogram for someone's mouth over a bowl of rice on a stand .. the question is: are they meaning this was the actual way for eating in this ...
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What is the etymology of kanji 問?

This kanji "ask" when I researched on it I found that the 門 part is a phonetic and this common with kanjis contain 門 .. but i found this site which says that this part 門 in kanji 問 not a phonetic but ...
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What is the etymology of this kanji 厚?

In this wiktionary page https://en.m.wiktionary.org/wiki/厚 the etymology for the kanji 厚 is not complete: they wrote that it's an ideogrammic compound but they didn't write the component functions. I ...
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The etymology of 助っ人

Recently I came across the word 助っ人, surprised to find out its reading was "すけっと." Does its etymology have something to do with 助ける【たすける】 and 人【ひと】? If so, why the disappearance of た, ひ, and the ...
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What is the etymology of kanji 関?

I didn't find an explanation or clear etymology for the kanji 関.
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Why is the meaning of kanji 閑 “leisure”?

The kanji 閑 contains 門 + 木. Why does gate + tree mean 'leisure'?
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What are the origins of the names of tanuki and kitsune noodle dishes?

Two of Japan's native wild animals are the きつね fox and たぬき raccoon dog. Interestingly there are also noodle dishes apparently named after each. (Not containing the meat of those animals!) The terms ...
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Etymology of ~かもしれません

So, today one of the topics boarded in the lessons I'm taking was the form ~かもしりません Now, I'm thinking the しれません part comes from the potential form of 知る. That way, in the sentence, it would mean ...
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Why is the State of the Union Address Called 一般教書演説?

The President of the United States gives a speech referred to in English as the "State of the Union". Why is this speech called 一般教書演説{いっぱんきょうしょえんぜつ} in Japanese?
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Is there any difference between 速さand 速度?

From what I understood, both 速さ{はやさ} and 速度{そくど} means "speed". Some say that they are synonyms (just like speed and velocity in English), but I guess there is a nuance between them, isn't it ? 速さ{...
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Why are phone calls cylindrical?

何本か重要な電話をかけ、... He made several important phone calls and ... Originally part of this question but separated due to popular? demand. Why is the counter 本 used in reference to phone calls?
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What are the origins of the words ぐう、ちょき、ぱあ in the context of じゃんけん?

Self explanatory. I've read that they stand for rock, paper and scissors, but I can't find any ultimate origin of why these terms are what they are. Thanks!
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Why is ostracism called 村八分【むらはちぶ】?

While doing some reading of old questions, I stumbled upon the term 村八分【むらはちぶ】, which is apparently means ostracism. I'm curious what the 8 parts (八分) are and how this relates to ostracism.
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鶴の一声 — Origin and context?

So, I understand what the idiom actually means, roughly -- "the final word," "the word from on high." But where does it come from? Is there a story or a history that gives it context?
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What is the story behind “peach kanji” 桃?

I wanna know why this kanji is containing the tree kanji 木 + the omen kanji 兆 ? What is the relation between tree and omen to give us a kanji for the peach ? Is it a historical story?
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Is 云 related to 𠫓 in any way?

Depending on the kanji face the left element 言 in multi-element kanjis like 語 is sometimes depicted with 丶 instead of top 一 . It makes me think that the same transformation occurs for 𠫓: 云 changes to ...
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What is the etymology of 選手 (senshu)?

選ぶ means 'to choose' and 手 means 'hand' or by extension 'ability'. I don't see how this can yield 'athlete'. Is 選 ateji?
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Kanji of そそっかしい

I am wondering about the way to write そそっかしい in kanji, and if this is possible. I've found that the な-adjective 粗忽{そこつ}, a word with very similar if not identical meaning, can in less common cases be ...
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What is the etymology of Honshū (本州)?

Honshū is the main island in Japan (so it could be called something like 大州 or 広州). But it is also common in cosmogonies to say the gods created our land first and foremost, and the rest of the planet ...
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What is the etymology of shamisen (三味線)?

The instrument clearly has 3 (三) strings (線), but where does 味 exactly fit in?
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How did 服 come to have meanings related to both “clothing” and “submission”?

服 by itself means "clothing" (e.g. 服を着る), and there are also some related derivative terms like 私服, 制服, 和服, 洋服, etc. On the other hand, you have words like 征服 "conquest", 克服 "overcoming", 承服 "...
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What semantic role does ⺉/刀(sword/cut) tend to have in Kanji?

判 Has the phonetic component 半, but why the semantic component knife? 刊 has the phonetic component 干, but why the semantic component knife? 剛 has the phonetic part 岡, but why the semantic ...
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How did スマート (from 'smart' in English) shift to mean 'slim, trim' and 'stylish'?

I first learned of this loanword on /r/FalseFriends. Wiktionary: Etymology From English smart. Adjectival noun スマート (-na inflection, rōmaji sumāto) slim, trim, slender stylish What type of semantic ...
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Why is “移民” labelled as a sensitive word in the dictionary? (in relation with or without the history behind the word)

I stumbled again on a word that is labeled as sensitive. This time it's 移民 which means: Noun, Suru verb, No-adjective emigration; immigration [sensitive] (only the suru verb is labeled ...
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Naming things after people

European languages seem to name things after people (or people-like things) on a very regular basis. We have everything from 'Mount Everest' and 'Washington, DC' to 'Robert A Welch Hall'. Places named ...
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Is there a reason why 嚥 (swallow -deglutition) and 燕 (swallow -bird) are similar like in English?

I recently came across the kanji 燕, and found out about 嚥 today. According to jisho.org, both translate to "swallow", except that the first one means swallow bird and the second one (with the "mouth" ...
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What is the significance of number 8 (八) in Japanese? [duplicate]

I've noticed a couple of words with the character 八 that have (seemingly) nothing to do with the number 8. 八百屋【やおや】 - greengrocer 八つ【やつ】当たり【あたり】 - taking out anger on someone 八丁【はっちょう】 - ...
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How did 控える come to mean “close to”

In Chinese, 控 means:  1. 告状,指出罪恶:~告。~诉。指~。被~。 (accuse of wrong doing)  2. 节制,驾驭:~制。遥~。 (to restrain/cause to move)  3. 开弓:弓不再~。 (to use a bow)  4. 投:~于地。(to throw something)  5....
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Occurrence of っ in verb stems

Today when I came across the verb [訴]{うった}える in a sentence somewhere, it suddenly hit me that I don't very often see verbs like that: ones that have a sokuon (little っ) in their stem. The only verbs ...
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Why is the Japanese word for Brunei ブルネイ and not ブルナイ?

The English pronunciation of Brunei is /bɹuːˈnaɪ/ and the Brunei Malay pronunciation ends in something like /ai/, as far as I can tell (I'm not totally sure about this, but here's the Sultan and the ...
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Why is a blackboard called 黒板, but a whiteboard is not called 白板?

I'm curious as to why Japanese uses a 外来語 for whiteboard ホワイトボード, but a native word for blackboard, 黒板. Is there a historical reason this emerged? If you called a whiteboard a 白板{はくばん}, would people ...
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Why does the word for “surgery” 外科 have the 外 kanji?

I can't seem to figure out what "outside" has to do with "surgery". Surely, one type of surgery is amputation (切断【せつだん】) which is about removing (外【はず】す) a body part, but there are many other (much ...
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Difference between 「彷徨う」 and 「彷徨える」、「狂う」 and 「狂える」 etc

In 大辞林, the definition of さまよえる as in さまよえるオランダ人 is あてもなくさまよっている。 while the (primary) definition of さまよう is 当てもなく、あるいは目指す所が見つからずにあちこち歩き回る。 What's the difference between the two words, and ...
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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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When 大 is read as たい versus だい?

There is a general rule that for a kanji compound of the form 大*, you tend to read 大 using 音読み (タイ・ダイ) if * is 漢語 and with 訓読み (おお) if * is 和語. See e.g. this question on goo (in Japanese). (Of ...
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How can 池仲 be read as 'ikenohata' in the seal 'Ō Ikenohata Jōkin', 大池仲上金? Doesn't 仲 = 'naka'; can it be 'hata'?

If Ō Ikenohata Jōkin is written as 大池仲上金, how can 池仲 be 'ikenohata'? 池 is ike, but 仲 is usually naka? Can 仲 -- and presumably its homonym 中 -- also be read as hata (はた)? Am I missing something? ...
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How to arrive to the meaning of the kanji tonari 隣 through its components?

the kanji 隣 tonari, it is formed by: - the radical ⻖ : こざとへん hill, mounds; - the radical 舛 : まいあし contrary, to err; - the kanji 米 : ベイ rice. Knowing such components, if it is possible, how can I ...
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Why does ―・appear on Japanese dictionary? [duplicate]

For example this definition of 臨む: 風景・場所などを目の前にする。向かい対する。面する。「海に―・んだ部屋」 Why does ―・appear instead of the word itself? What's the reason behind it, how do I call it and why that only exist in a ...
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Origin of expression ~てならない?

I cannot help but think about the verb なる when I hear or read the expression ~てならない. Are the verb and the expression even related? It feels to me as if it could be the modern shortened version ...
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154 views

Where does アフレコ come from?

I looked for the meaning of アフレコ in Jisho.org and after the meaning (dubbing) it says "Abbreviation, Wasei, word made in Japan". So since the word apparently it doesnt come from a foreign language, ...
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Two words from Shinya Shokudou

I have two questions about the TV series Shinya Shokudo. The show focuses on a midnight diner, its chef, known as "The Master", and his involvement with his customers. When the master is taking an ...
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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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