Questions about the origin and the history of Chinese characters or words.

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1answer
64 views

Does anyone know origins of 万一?

Does anyone knows how 万一 became a phrase with "just in case" meaning? Is it a shorthand of a longer phrase or chengyu?
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2answers
86 views

What can we make of the name 九儿?

Two questions about the childhood name of the pivotal character in Mo Yan's Red Sorghum Clan: Her childhood name was 九儿. Does this suggest she was one of (at least) nine children? I do not recall ...
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2answers
118 views

Etymology of the character 也

I've already done some research on the character 也, but I haven't find something that pleased me. I've seen explanations going from "horn" and "snake" to "vulva" and "around". Where did it come from? ...
9
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6answers
270 views

案: why is a bench also a case?

Sorry about the cryptic title. 案 is a character that can mean "bench"/"desk" but it can also mean "(legal) case" or "file": 长形的桌子或架起来代替桌子用的长木板:~子。~板。书~。条~。拍~而起。 ...
9
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5answers
1k views

A Complex Chinese Character

I randomly saw this character on the blog a while ago and saved a image of it as shown below. Is this even a character? If so, what does it mean? When is it used? What was the origin of it? How do ...
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2answers
57 views

Does anyone know the reason why 生地黃 is called 地黃 [yellow earth]?

Does anyone know the reason why 生地黃 is called 地黃 [yellow earth]? I don't know if 六味地黄丸 took the name from 生地黃 or viceversa, but either way I couldn't find neither the etymology of 六味地黄丸 in English (I ...
5
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2answers
116 views

Etymology of 我 - what it is

Tell me, please, how do it's radicals 手 and 戈 create it's meaning - I. I know this "A Pictogram (象形) of a rake-like tool or weapon, borrowed for sound to mean "me" (note oracle bone script form)." ...
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3answers
206 views

What is the etymology of 餵?

I was surprised to find out about the character 餵 (wei4, 喂) because it doesn't seem to have a meaning other than an expression to answer the telephone. Since the telephone was only invented in the ...
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2answers
419 views

Are the Cantonese word 係 and the Japanese word はい related?

The Cantonese word meaning "to be", written as 係 (Jyutping: hai6) sounds similar to the Japanese word はい ("hai" in various Romanizations). Both words are used to answer "yes" or "it is correct" to ...
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4answers
255 views

What is the origin of the word 猫 (cat)?

I keep on thinking that the way it is pronounced (māo) seemed to mimic the noises a cat makes (meow!). The character seems identical to the one for the same word in Japanese. Was this the original ...
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8answers
436 views

Why is 两 used for quantities of two rather than 二?

I understand that 两 is used instead of 二 when dealing with quantities of two. However, my question is - why? What are the historical reasons behind this? I looked at Wikitionary but it only had ...
0
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1answer
34 views

What is the meaning behind 华胄 ?

I found the sentence 他是华胄,所以气质不凡. It is been translated as "He is the offspring of a noble family, thus his character is not a common one". I also found for 华胄 the translation "offspring of the ...
3
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2answers
300 views

“Thank you” in Tibetan, Cantonese, and Mandarin

I have observed, from subtitled movies, that there seems to be an expression [tɔdʒe] in Cantonese meaning, approximately, "thank you". In Standard Lhasa Tibetan as represented by Nawang Nornang, the ...
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1answer
75 views

Does anyone know why 点 has the meanings of “to light\to ignite” in certain compounds (such as in 点燃\点火\点灯)?

These are the only character's acceptations I really can't relate to, does anyone know why it's used with such meanings?
3
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2answers
146 views

Origin of the term “Sitting the Month”

I've recently learned about the practice of 坐月子 or sitting the month where a woman secludes herself for around a month following a pregnancy. The articles I've read indicate that this practice has ...
6
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2answers
231 views

Why did China opt for 星期 over 曜日?

Korea and Japan seem to have a week system that looks like this: Monday 月曜日 Tuesday 火曜日 Wednesday 水曜日 Thursday 木曜日 Friday 金曜日 Saturday 土曜日 Sunday 日曜日 China ...
0
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1answer
86 views

Why is 遞 = (辶 + (厂 + 虎))?

遞 is most commonly used, nowadays, to mean "to pass" -or- "to give". Here's the definition of its simplified counterpart 递 given on zisea: ①传送,传达:传~。投~。~送。~交。~眼色(以目示意)。呈~国书。 ...
0
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1answer
104 views

Chinese vs English [closed]

There is a lot a gramma points/words in chinese similar to english 生日/ birthday 爸爸的笔 / dad's pen I would like know if it's a radom linguisitic fact or if it could have a chinese influence on ...
2
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3answers
240 views

磨洋工 Why 洋(?)工? Lazy Foreigners?

KEY defines 磨洋工 as slack off on the job, goof off My question is why? 洋 is often associated with foreign things, especially Euro-American (欧美). Are foreigners lazy in the eyes of Chinese?
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2answers
110 views

Does 宝 have its own history separate from 寶?

I was trying to figure out the characters for Sapporo, the Japanese beer, the other day and found: 七宝 was one of the translations for it. My initial reaction was to search 七寶 in my Japanese ...
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5answers
2k views

Why does the word 萌 mean “cute”?

A friend of mine said in a photo of me, my eyes looked very 萌(meng2). 你的眼睛很萌 My dictionary defines 萌 as; 萌 méng (动) sprout; bud; germinate But apparently in this context it means ...
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2answers
124 views

What is the origin of the slang term 6?

I'm speaking about for example: 他很6 To mean: He's very pro/skilled. I've seen this a lot, but I don't quite see what the origin of this comes from.
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3answers
223 views

Is “谐仿” an actual word in Chinese?

The English Wiktionary lists "谐仿" (xiéfǎng) as a translation for the English word "parody". But my other dictionaries don't list it and also my friends here in China say they don't know it, not even ...
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2answers
103 views

What is the origin and meaning of 焗烤

焗 was an uncommon character in Taiwan 20-30 years ago, limited mostly to Cantonese restaurants, and it was an unusual type of cooking. The MOE 國語辭典 gives this description of 焗: ...
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3answers
10k views

What is the exact meaning of 吃豆腐, and where does the expression come from?

I'm not talking about eating tofu, but the expression that means something more like taking advantage of someone. What exactly does 吃豆腐 mean, and where does this expression come from?
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3answers
374 views

Etymology of 对象

When I look up the etymology of 对象 on the internet, most of the answers (link1 link2) refer to an explanation from 《幽默与笑话》. The source makes me doubt if it's the real origin of the word: ...
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4answers
142 views

What is the etymology of “嗨”?

What is the etymology of "嗨"? Is it used because it sounds like the English word "Hi"? I tried looking it up, but Wiktionary doesn't have any etymology information in either the English or Chinese ...
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11answers
299 views

What etymology dictionaries are available?

What dictionaries (online, software-based or in paper form) explain the origins of a word and its evolution over time? E.g. how the character was once written, how the usage – and the meaning – ...
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1answer
87 views

來鴻去燕 interpreting idioms

So I am studying idioms and in many cases I come across one whose words I understand but whose meaning must apparently lie in a deeper story. The Wise Talk app gives: 來鴻去燕 (lai2 hong2 qu4 yan4) ...
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1answer
90 views

Etymological character reference [duplicate]

Is there an authoritative etymological reference for characters? It looks like all books I'm reading about Chinese characters have their own explanation. To me, all of them seem reliable, but I ...
5
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2answers
112 views

When did the words 麻醉 and 麻药 first appear?

I want to know how long 麻醉 and 麻药 have been compounded to mean anesthesia and anesthetic respectively. What is the approximate date of the origin of those two Chinese words? Are their origins ...
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2answers
313 views

Etymology of 至关(重要)

至关重要 strikes me as a four-character idiom instead of a Chengyu, and it didn't even make an entry on 现代汉语词典 or ZDic.net. However, that couldn't explain the fact that the specific character combination ...
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4answers
517 views

The origin of 鸡贼

I speak Mandarin Chinese, but it is the first time that I stumbled upon the word 鸡贼. According to 百度百科 (Baidu wiki), it means being stingy. The wiki page also says that it comes from the Beijing ...
3
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3answers
115 views

洗尘: why is a welcome banquet “washing dust”?

洗尘 refers to the traditional Chinese custom of holding a banquet to welcome visitors from afar. However, the literal translation is "to wash dust", which has nothing to do with eating, and I'm also ...
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1answer
115 views
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3answers
162 views

Why do some Chinese characters have multiple simplified variants?

According to Unihan database some Chinese characters have multiple simplified variants. For example the Chinese character 鍾 have 2 simplified variants: 钟 and 锺 How it could happen? What is the ...
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2answers
708 views

Are 乒 and 乓 used in classical chinese?

乒乓 is the modern word for ping pong, based around onomatopoeia (and similarity to 兵 for phonetic element) and, as some people claim, shape. I was wondering if this shape explanation is true, or little ...
4
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1answer
151 views

Origin of word / term - 怪獸?

While I understand the meaning of 怪獸 - Monster, it does not seems to be a word used in ancient time. Moreover, it seems to be related to Japanese culture (kaij). Is this term originate from Japan?
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4answers
553 views

How did 外国人 become 老外?

From Baidu: 老外,是中国人对国外人的一种俗称,类似与老张、老王、老李之类的称呼。称呼中加“老”显得亲热,比如“老乡”“老表”,称呼你老外,就像称呼老张老李那样,大大咧咧,随便亲切。过去中国人对外国人的称呼都是用在第三人称上,只有“老外”可以用于第二人称。 To translate, it says laowai is a colloquial term for ...
10
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1answer
169 views

What is the etymology of “商” in “商数”

"商数" is usually translated as "quotient" in both its mathematical and common usage forms (eg in "智商"/intelligence quotient, which is in fact an actual quotient.). What is the etymology of "商", and ...
9
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1answer
327 views

乐 Le and Yue: When did they diverge?

In the character 乐, it has two readings in Mandarin. In pinyin, yue4 and le4 (plus other readings I take are literary) In other dialects too, there seem to be 2 distinct forms. In cantonese, lok and ...
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3answers
122 views

How is the meaning of 不得已 formed?

I am under the impression that Chinese multi-character words form their meaning from that of the characters that form these words. (Let me know if I am mistaken!) I know that 不得已 means "to have to". ...
3
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1answer
131 views

Is the Chinese character “蒙” being associated with Mongolia and ignorance coincidence?

In the translingual section, Wiktionary mentions that the Chinese character 蒙 has a variety of meanings: to cover ignorant suffer fourth hexagram of the I Ching Mongolia - radical composition ...
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1answer
541 views

Where did the word “panda” come from?

If pandas are from China and in Chinese they are called 熊猫 ("bear cat"), where did the word "panda", as seen in most western languages, come from?
10
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1answer
263 views

What does “老” in “老虎” and “老鼠” mean

As I remember, 虎 and 鼠 are standalone nouns, meaning tiger and mouse, respectively. However, it seems that 老虎 and 老鼠 are more commonly used. Why is 老 used as a prefix for 虎 and 鼠? Why do we use 獅子 ...
2
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2answers
252 views

Why “保重” means “take care”?

As far as I have learnt, for each Chinese word with more than one character, its meaning is formed from that of each character which it comprises. However, I cannot understand how the meaning of 保重 is ...
10
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1answer
462 views

How come 東/东 has a second meaning 'owner/master' or 'host'?

Examples include 房东 or 财东 and 东道, respectively. What is the etymology behind this additional meaning?
3
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1answer
161 views

Origin of the slang “機車”

I know that "機車" is motorcycle and it is also used as a slang word, but I was unsure of its meaning. Thus, i checked this page, and I was confused by its ambiguity when translated to English, as ...
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2answers
183 views

丼: why is “well” also “bowl of food”?

丼 is an ancient variant of 井, which means "well" (as in the water kind). What's curious is that the former seems to also mean "bowl of food", at least in some dictionaries: 汉典: English bowl ...
4
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2answers
113 views

What is the original meaning of 匈 (besides “chest/breast/thorax”)?

The Wikipedia article on the 匈奴 gives a literal translation as 'fierce slaves'. Did 匈 mean 'fierce' in former times? What is the etymology of this character?