Why does 息 mean news?

The chraracter's etymology suggest it means "rest" - "From nose indicating breath and also phonetic 自 and heart or chest 心. Meaning to rest."

Source: http://chineseetymology.org/CharacterEtymology.aspx?submitButton1=Etymology&characterInput=%E6%81%AF

So I guess, it is something to do with nose + heart as a metaphor for "interest". It might be understood as "What is dear(heart) to me(nose)"

1 Answer 1


Over its long history of usage, the meaning of 息 has evolved.

Yes, has the connotation of message.

(5) 消息 [message]
(6) 又如:信息(音信;消息);息耗(消息,信息)

Its original meaning is to breathe;pant.


And then the meaning was extended,


[ Breathing slowly was called , and it extended again to mean rest, and extended again to mean grow. ]

And then it became to be used with its antonym (get rid of;eliminate) as 消息 from pre-Qin period (先秦), means 增减;盛衰 (growth and decline), and then extended to mean 变化 (change).

Then 消息 began to be used to mean 情况 (circumstances;situation;condition).


[ By the Northern and Southern Dynasties, 消息's primary meaning was situation. The process of evolution is a kind of situation, so 消息's meaning was extended from changing to situation. ]


[ By the later stages of the Northern and Southern Dynasties, 消息's meaning was further extended to mean 音信 (mail;message;news) and 音讯. And that became its primary meaning.]


  • 1
    Great answer. But I think there's problem saying "息 has meaning of message" – can 息 alone mean "message"? (On the other hand, 消 alone has the "message" meaning as in 《玉篇》 "消,消息也" and in 關漢卿《救風塵》第三折 "兩頭往來,傳消寄信都是我".)
    – Stan
    Feb 15, 2016 at 12:20
  • @Stan It might be hard to say could mean message alone, but (1) zdic.net gives it an item of the meaning 消息 [message], (2) besides 消息, there're 信息/息耗 meaning message too, so I think " has meaning of message" should be fine. (It's not equal to "its meaning is message" for me. Maybe should say has potential meaning of message? Sorry I'm not sure about the English expression here.)
    – user4072
    Feb 15, 2016 at 14:48
  • (1) 汉典 is not necessarily an authoritative source. (2) Oh I see. The different terms for the distinction you mentioned are called denotation and connotation in English. "Connote" would be the exact English expression there. Yes I agree it's fine to say 息 connotes message.
    – Stan
    Feb 15, 2016 at 15:26
  • songyuanyao, 你的回答相当专业; 我就是担心让学习汉语的人觉得他太难了。。。:) 现代汉语中 单看 “息” 字, 我觉得没有 news 的意思, 必须加前缀 - 消息, 信息, 讯息。。。 Jul 27, 2016 at 20:57

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