I find 2 very different glyph origins for 入

  1. It shows the roots of a plant entering the ground.
  2. It is a picture of an open tent or tent door.

Which is correct?

  • 2
    說文新證 says that the etymology of the earliest oracle bone form of 入 is unclear. This book seems to be quite well-researched, which means that your question cannot be reliably answered. Most explanations you can see are guesses, and there's probably not enough information to say whose guess is more likely.
    – 米好 '-'
    Feb 7, 2017 at 12:38
  • @Pedroski Where did you find these two "very different etymologies"?
    – Mou某
    Feb 7, 2017 at 15:18
  • zhongwen.com and chineseetymology.org
    – Pedroski
    Feb 7, 2017 at 23:50

1 Answer 1



(象形) Pictographic. Picture of the sharp point of an arrow used to pierce something.



Primitive pictograph 入. An open tent door. Meaning enter.





(入 in oracle looked like a lid facing down to represent "to store items in" , or 'seal something with a lid' . "Enter" was an extended meaning.

The original meaning of the word: the storage of items, stamped sealed.)


(金文 inherited Oracle shape. Some 金文 of 入 looked like "house")

that may had been the origin of 'An open tent door' etymology

After studied the references, my conclusion is the earliest pictographic of 入 resembled a lid facing down. Then evolved into 'open tent' shape.

The 'arrow' representing 'enter' (入) etymology is likely an later interpretation. (depend on how early 'arrow head' was invented, it might had been developed concurrently with 'lid' for the meaning of 入)

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