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35 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 ...
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25 votes
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Are there any old loanwords from Korean, especially any not written in katakana?

Any word read in on'yomi in Japanese and using the Sinic hanja reading in Korean is probably ultimately attributable to Middle Chinese, unless evidence can be found of an independent coinage somewhere ...
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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 ...
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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 ...
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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 ...
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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 ...
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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 - ...
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14 votes
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Orthography at the turn of the previous century

Yes, it's common to write in that way. Writing いづみ instead of いずみ and 買ひ instead of 買い are a part of the Historical Kana Orthography (歴史的仮名遣). Writing katakana instead of hiragana is considered more ...
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14 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」;...
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13 votes
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Where does "gold day" originate from?

金 in 金曜日 refers to Venus (金星). In fact, "Fri" in "Friday" also refers to Venus, also known as Frige's star. Both are almost certainly derived from the Roman names for the days of the week.
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13 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 ...
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13 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 ...
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11 votes
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Why is an anachronistic modern conjugation thrown into the lyrics of 軍艦行進曲?

This looks like modern "浮かべる" but it is actually classical "浮かぶ" (四段, "to float") plus what is traditionally taught as the "り" auxiliary verb (助動詞). Etymologically, of course, it is really just "ari" ...
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11 votes
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Origin of the kanji for 叶う

"Come true" isn't the literal translation of 叶{かな}う. The word かなう means "to fit; match; accord", in this sense in accord with 叶's meaning in Classical Chinese. So we are practically saying 願いが叶う "my ...
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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 ...
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10 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 ...
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10 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 ...
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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 ...
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10 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 ...
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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" ...
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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 ...
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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. ...
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9 votes
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On "おてもと" and its many variants for "chopsticks"

おてもと does refer to chopsticks but it is not "another word for chopsticks." That is, you won't say おてもとを取ってください nor 新しいおてもとを買ってこようかな. According to the source article that Chocolate's Wikipedia article ...
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9 votes
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Why can の and が both mark subjects in relative clauses?

This is actually an interesting little story. Old Japanese, as far as we can tell, didn't have a dedicated subject marker - if you wanted a subject that wasn't the topic also, you just left it ...
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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 ...
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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 &#...
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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 ...
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