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I assume 雪茄 (cigar) is a loanword. Who can tell me what language this word was loaned from and, if appropriate, how it was transcribed?

My own guess is that the word was transcribed from English and entered the Chinese lexicon via Cantonese - in which case the pronunciation of the characters may actually be similar to the English pronunciation of the word "cigar". This is just my guess though and I have no idea whether it's on the mark of completely off.

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1 Answer 1

From Chinese wikipedia:

“雪茄”这中文译名为徐志摩所译,音译之余,也取其灰白如雪,因以为名。

(Loose!) Translation:

The Chinese translation 雪茄 was created by Xu Zhimo. In addition to the similarity of the sounds, the name also comes from the fact that its ash is white like snow.

My dictionary confirms that it is a loanword from English. If wikipedia is to believed, it probably didn't come through Cantonese since Xu Zhimo is from Zhejiang.

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To add a bit more information, 茄 in most of the southern Chinese varieties has an initial sound that corresponds to pinyin g-. Mandarin underwent a sound change roughly 3-4 centuries ago that turned gi-, ki-, and hi- into ji-, qi-, and xi-; the southern varieties did not undergo this change, so you can often tell that a transcription is likely southern in origin when g- or k- sounds end up getting transcribed with a character that is pronounced with j- or q- in Mandarin (e.g., Canada - 加拿大, Jiānádà). –  Claw Jan 9 '12 at 18:15

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