I know that 經濟 is a translation from Japanese, but I do not know why it became this. Could someone explain it in detail?

  • Do you mean why "economy" is translated into "经"+"济" in Japanese?
    – NS.X.
    Commented Jan 1, 2013 at 10:06
  • 1
    Actually in Japanese it'd be 経済 :-) I think the OP means that the word 経済 is originally Japanese.
    – dda
    Commented Jan 1, 2013 at 13:28
  • Japanese 経済 is adapted from Chinese usage. Such adaptation is called Kanji in Japan.
    – John Siu
    Commented Jan 2, 2013 at 2:44
  • 3
    @JohnSiu The characters and were adapted from Chinese. The word 经济 was created in Japan, and it was borrowed into Chinese. Lots of words are like this (e.g., 科学, 社会, 電話) Commented Jan 2, 2013 at 3:57
  • 1
    @StumpyJoePete True. It seems it is going both ways. It is Chinese characters, but the current everyday meaning/usage is adapted from Japan. The terms 经济 do exist in Chinese history, but the meaning is different.
    – John Siu
    Commented Jan 2, 2013 at 4:29

3 Answers 3


The Japanese Wikipedia article to 経済 tells us this:

日本語である経済という語は、はじめpolitical economyの訳語として導入された。この訳語の作者は福澤諭吉であり、世の中を治め、人民を救うことを意味する経世済民(若しくは経国済民)を略した和製漢語といわれる。訳語として同時期に資生も提唱されたが、こちらはあまり普及しなかった。


The term "経済" in Japanese was first derived as a translation from "political economy". The author of this translation was Fukuzawa Yukichi, who understood it as "経世済民" or "経国済民", which he intended to mean "Govern of the world, save the people", and thusly coined the term. He also suggested the term "資生" with the same meaning, which never became popular.

  • 1
    Come on guys. "経済" couldn't be first derived from Japanese. Because they will not use Chinese characters. I think what the passage is saying the Japanese Character "経済"(slight different from Chinese) was first used in his book in Japan. Fukuzawa probably studied Chinese characters, read it some where else and used that term.
    – tipsywacky
    Commented Dec 13, 2013 at 17:41
  • 1
    @tipsywacky Both in the past and nowadays, Japanese use Chinese characters to coin new words for new concepts, just like Euporeans use Latin or Greek roots to coin new words for new concepts. So it's not strange that the two Chinese characters “經濟” was used as a translation of economy by Fukuzawa Yukichi. [continues]
    – ltux
    Commented Jul 4, 2016 at 19:50
  • [continued] Later this translation was introduced to China. But only the translator himself, Fukuzawa Yukichi, is deemed foreign, while the word itself is not. The word is not even deemed as loanword from Japanese because it is just a well-formed word made up of Chinese characters, and conforms to word-formation rules of Chinese language. So the word was quickly adopted and assimiliated, and its Japan-origin was largely ignored and hided.
    – ltux
    Commented Jul 4, 2016 at 19:50
  • 4
    @tipsywacky The characters do come from Chinese a long time ago, but the word 経済 was made up in Japan, and later borrowed from Japan to Chinese. There are quite a lot words in Japanese that are made up form Chinese characters(Kanji) by Japanese people, and among them a lot are borrowed back into Chinese.
    – fefe
    Commented Jul 5, 2016 at 1:33
  • 1
    @tipsywacky it's called wasei-kango 和製漢語 (Japanese-made Chinese) Commented Jul 11, 2016 at 6:19

You can find an explanation here in Chinese.

Pasting verbatim (but let me know if you can't read/understand this):








  • Wikipedia also has a section(詞源) covering the origin of the terms 经济. However the English page does not carry the same section completely.
    – John Siu
    Commented Jan 2, 2013 at 2:50
  • 5
    @BD In (4), replace GM with 革命. The original author is using GM to by pass China web filtering. I cannot fix it as it is only 2 characters.
    – John Siu
    Commented Jan 2, 2013 at 3:20
  • However, I still have no idea why Japanese would use "經濟" for it? Commented Jan 5, 2013 at 12:18
  • I think "食貨" is better, or even "理財"... Commented Jan 5, 2013 at 12:23
  • @MikeManilone Better for what? I'm not quite sure where your confusion lies; are you able to read the Chinese pasted above?
    – user2251
    Commented Jan 5, 2013 at 15:29

“经济”一词在古汉语中是“治理国家”的意思。后来被日本人作为西方经济学概念的翻译。当时中国学者的翻译是“生计学”、“计学”,到 1903 年以后在中国逐渐开始采用“经济学”。至于日本人为何翻译成“经济”,可能是联系了“经济”这个词原来的意义,具体的原因,我觉得应该去日语区问。

  • Please read the post and existing answers... The question is not about the characters. It is about the word. Commented Jan 13, 2013 at 18:59
  • @StumpyJoePete,“经济”一词在古汉语中是“治理国家”的意思。后来被日本人作为西方经济学概念的翻译。当时中国学者的翻译是“生计学”、“计学”,到 1903 年以后在中国逐渐开始采用“经济学”。至于日本人为何翻译成“经济”,可能是联系了“经济”这个词原来的意义,具体的原因,我觉得应该去日语区问。 Commented Jan 13, 2013 at 23:22
  • Your comment is better than your answer! You should edit this information into your answer--you'll get my upvote at least. Commented Jan 14, 2013 at 9:14

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