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How did 殊, as in: 特殊、殊技、殊荣、殊勋、殊遇、殊遇 come to have it's meaning of special?

歺(歹)+朱 paint out a rather, more, grim meaning if anything...

  • 說文解字:

死也。从歺朱聲。漢令曰:“蠻夷長有罪,當殊之。”市朱切

How did 殊 get to mean special (in a good way)?

  • FYI: The original meaning of「殊」has shifted to「誅」. – droooze Oct 27 '18 at 11:24
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I haven't found any reference on it, so I come out with my own ideas.

Phonetic loan. In the beginning the ancestors created the character 殊, but the same sound also means "special" to them. The ancestors are as lazy as us, so instead of creating a new character, they borrowed the character 殊 to fill the blank. This is not as likely as my next speculation.

Amelioration, a form of semantic change in which a word's meaning is changed from bad to good:

  • Originally means to put to death, which is an extreme measure, hence very and overly.
  • puts life to death, hence different.
  • If it gets to "very" and "different", there is no way to prevent it to mean special.

This, I think, is probably the case. For comparison, the English word dead could also mean very, completely, or exactly, all positive meanings.

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