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I find two different explanations for 来, 1. it is a picture of fruit on a tree. 2. It represents ripening corn.

Either way It is a neat symbol for what is coming.

Which do you think is correct?

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  • Grand Ricci History has oracle bone script pictures with definition: 1 (sens primitif très rare) Blé; froment. Which agrees with your picture of wheat/grain/corn
    – Mou某
    Feb 1, 2017 at 10:52
  • Both answers are fine. To remark, I don't find (1) and (2) contradicting. A shape in oracle can well represent something ripening and bending, and may particularly indicating corn in the semiotics field. Feb 2, 2017 at 9:17

2 Answers 2

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很有趣。
Very interesting.

我到今天才知道「來」有這個意思,而且是它的本義。
I didn't know that 來 has this meaning until today, and this is even its original meaning.

「來」的本義是「麥」,也就是「麥」的上半部。
The original meaning of 來 is "grain or corn", which is the upper part of 麥.

《說文解字》說:「來」的意思是「周所受瑞麥來麰也」。
《說文解字》 explains that 來 means 周所受瑞麥, 來麰也.

《說文解字注》解釋為:
《說文解字注》 interprets it as follows.

在周武王時代,天空降下「麥」,故稱之為「瑞麥」,而其名字叫「來牟」。
In the era of King Wu in 周 dynasty, the sky rained down 麥, so it's called the "lucky 麥". Its name was 來牟.

「來牟」原先只有「麥」的意思。
The original meaning of 來牟 is only 麥.

直到《廣雅》才說「來」是小麥,「牟」是大麥。
Until 《廣雅》, 來 was interpreted as "wheat", and 牟 as "barley".

《說文解字》接著說:「天所來也,故為行來之來。......凡來之屬,皆从來。」
《說文解字》 then explained that 天所來,故釋為行來之來。凡來之類,都用"來"。

《說文解字注》解釋: 「自天而降之麥,謂之『來麰』,亦單謂之『來』。因而,凡物之至者,皆謂之『來』。......皆引伸之義行,而本義廢矣!」
《說文解字注》 interprets these as follows. The 麥 fallen from the sky is called 來麰, also simply called 來. Thus, all things that come to us can be called "come"....... These are the cases that the extended meanings are used and the original ones are abolished!

注:此處,來=麳=䅘;牟=麰=𪍓;屬於假借字。
Note: Here, 來=麳=䅘;牟=麰=𪍓. These are phonetic loan characters.
Some users may not see 𪍓. It's 01.png .

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  • 真的很感谢你长长明细的回答!谢谢!
    – Pedroski
    Feb 2, 2017 at 0:08
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I looked up 來 in 說文解字考正 and in 說文新證. These dictionaries are based on classical 說文解字, but also include information based on modern scholarship and palaeography. The character is described as 麥子 and 禾麥, respectively. Therefore, it looks like your second definition (‘ripening corn’) is correct.

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  • 谢谢!英语有'It is raining cats and dogs' and there is a song 'it's raining men' 但是在中国降来牟!我爱中国!
    – Pedroski
    Feb 2, 2017 at 0:14

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