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36 votes
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Native Japanese word for フリー

It's because English "free" has two major meanings which are totally different, and no native Japanese word covers both of the two meanings of "free". Free as in "free WiFi", no charge = 無料 Free as ...
naruto's user avatar
  • 317k
23 votes

No word for "time" until 1871?

I think the word [時間]{じかん} was created in the Meiji era, but the word [時]{とき} is older. So it's definitely wrong that "the Japanese didn't have any interest in clocks (until 1871)". I searched in an ...
Faily Feely's user avatar
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21 votes
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What's the original Japanese word for door, other than the loanword ドア?

Your suspicion is leading you down the right path. ドア is in fact a loanword from English. According to Jisho.org, ドア is used in reference to a Western-style door. This is a door that opens on ...
ajsmart's user avatar
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20 votes
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No word for "time" until 1871?

Addendum The word 時{とき} is probably the oldest native Japanese word for "time". This term appears in the 万葉集{まんようしゅう} written in Old Japanese and compiled from poems composed from the 300s through ...
Eiríkr Útlendi's user avatar
15 votes
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Does the etymology of 星 suggest the japanese/chinese knew the sun was a star?

No, because「星」was not the original character for the word meaning star. 「星」was originally written「晶」: These are oracle bone script samples, and by that stage stars were already characterised as ...
dROOOze's user avatar
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15 votes
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Why is ostracism called 村八分【むらはちぶ】?

During the Edo period, villages traditionally had 10 communal activities: 冠 - 成人式 - coming of age ceremony 婚 - marriage 建築 - helping with building/repairing 病気 - helping when sick 水害 - ...
Ringil's user avatar
  • 8,524
15 votes
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Why is there a difference between the hand drawn 道 and the pc font one?

I'm assuming that this is a question on the different shapes of the「⻍・⻌」component of「道」. For reference, the glyph origin of「⻍・⻌」is shown below via the character「過」.「⻍・⻌」is a merger between「彳」and「止」;...
dROOOze's user avatar
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14 votes
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At what time did furigana start being used?

Short answer: In the words of Ariga, they're "as old as writing itself".¹ Long answer: You might be surprised to learn that furigana is older than hiragana! To understand what I mean by that, we'll ...
melissa_boiko's user avatar
14 votes
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Why are Japanese fonts different to Chinese?

I assume you're specifically talking about kanji/hanzi glyphs. (Hiragana are obviously more cursive.) Basically the overall appearances of typical Chinese hanzi and Japanese kanji fonts are not ...
naruto's user avatar
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13 votes

Does the word 名前 have English roots?

I'd like to add onto ssb's answer, further exploring the etymologies for these terms. 名前【なまえ】 I use Shogakukan's 国語大辞典【こくごだいじてん】 (KDJ) as one of my main sources. This dictionary includes more ...
Eiríkr Útlendi's user avatar
12 votes
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Kun Yomi of Chinese origin, like 竹 (take)

Short answer: probably yes, but we don't know a lot about it. We don't have enough documentation about the earliest stages of Japanese to be sure, but the consensus is that a bunch of the oldest ...
melissa_boiko's user avatar
11 votes
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Why is this katakana not reversed?

Historical Background According to the 歴史的{れきしてき}経緯{けいい} section of the 縦書{たてが}きと横書{よこが}き article on the Japanese Wikipedia, apparently in the late 1800s it wasn't altogether uncommon for printed ...
Eiríkr Útlendi's user avatar
11 votes
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The yomikata of 十三

Odd readings of 三: looking back in the history I've read here and there that researchers think that the Chinese-derived reading さん was originally borrowed as さむ. This is based partly on the ...
Eiríkr Útlendi's user avatar
10 votes
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Why are "loanwords" written in katakana?

Because that's the original purpose of katakana. Katakana was invented to denote the readings of unfamiliar foreign words (although, in those days, "foreign words" mainly referred to words in Asian ...
naruto's user avatar
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10 votes
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Why are Japanese characters not used in equations?

Here are some facts, and my speculations. Actual Usuages Japanese as Text In non-technical context, we can use arbitrary text (just like in English) in equations: 長方形について, "面積 = 縦 × 横" ...
Yosh's user avatar
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10 votes
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Is the first supposed invention of romaji in 1548 by a Japanese Catholic called Yajiro fact or fiction?

Well, as a hint, historically, the first people who'd have any interest in, or practical need for, writing down Japanese in the Latin alphabet weren't Japanese people. See the Nanban trade article in ...
Eiríkr Útlendi's user avatar
10 votes
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Computer fonts - Small Hane Inkblot Thing

This is one of characteristics of 明朝体, the stylized emphases at the start and end of a brush stroke. In calligraphy, you are instructed to sink down your brush firmly at the beginning of every stroke. ...
broccoli forest's user avatar
9 votes
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What's the origin of 助 (saving)?

Imagine you are an ancient Chinese scribe. You want to write the word "to help, to assist", which was something like dzryo (modern Chinese zhù, Japanese jo). However, there's no character for it. You ...
melissa_boiko's user avatar
9 votes
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Origin of ません (-masen)?

According to Shogakukan's big 国{こく}語{ご}大{だい}辞{じ}典{てん}, the verb ending -masu ultimately derived from a combination of humble polite auxiliary verb 参{まい}る plus the verb する, as a shift from either &#...
Eiríkr Útlendi's user avatar
9 votes

Why are Japanese fonts different to Chinese?

I basically agree with @naruto's answer - the main reason is that if a Japanese designer chose a relatively unique Japanese font for design aesthetics, it is normally a challenge to get a matching ...
dROOOze's user avatar
  • 9,110
9 votes

Are on’yomi words loanwords?

As far as Japanese is concerned, loanwords (外来語) usually refer to words brought into Japan from countries other than China and written in katakana. But strictly speaking, it depends on how you define ...
naruto's user avatar
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9 votes
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Why is ヒョウ the 音読み of 氷?

TL/DR This is absolutely regular and continues the pronunciation of mid-8th century Chang'an Late Middle Chinese. However, there are details (such as the corresponding go-on) which are not exactly ...
Alexander Z.'s user avatar
  • 2,389
9 votes
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How do Zen students learn the readings for jakugo?

I am not a native speaker, however I am familiar with these texts. My impression is that even native speakers do not necessarily know how to read these texts. It's not that they couldn't come up with ...
A.Ellett's user avatar
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8 votes
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Why was つ originally used to mark consonant gemination? When was that?

Short summary: Heian-period Japanese acquired new sounds, including a syllable-final -t, a geminated tt, and other geminated consonants. The つ kana, originally tu, was a natural match to write the new ...
melissa_boiko's user avatar
8 votes

How do Japanese make language sound old (e. g. in historical dramas)?

The words and phrases vary by time, by occasion, and even by class. Just top of the mind, even the simplest words like “I” and “you” can be expressed in dozens of different ways in old-style Japanese, ...
Yoichi Oishi's user avatar
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8 votes
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What is the origin of the foreign word サクランボ?

From Japanese (and perhaps some Chinese) There is no borrowing here, as the opening part explicitly shows Japanese sakura. The etymology is, as most often assumed, さくらんぼ < 桜{さくら}の坊{ボウ} , where 坊 ...
Alexander Z.'s user avatar
  • 2,389
8 votes

Unknown kana in a late C19th address cartouche

Per l'électeur's response above, 北ミ: 北, kita and ミ, mi 三, mi
musha's user avatar
  • 525

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