1. What might explain this phonetic change, in Cantonese and Mandarin?

  2. Please educate me if there's a more fitting term than 'phonetic etymon'.

Wiktionary avouches the same etymology as Yellowbridge:

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  • 2
    Outlier: In 褱 huái, 眔 dì is a sound component, but the sound connection is not obvious in Mandarin.
    – Mou某
    Commented Jul 9, 2018 at 7:21
  • Outlier is the most useless dictionary ever - they added 500 (many off them lazy, like your example) entries in two years, so how it covers whooping 1250 characters explained. Give it 10 years and they might cover all HSK chars! Commented Jul 10, 2018 at 7:30
  • @VitalyOsipov I agree that there are lots of essential missing entries - but I don't think their purpose is to cover HSK (if I were running the business, I wouldn't do that). An analogy - if you were to create a product to teach people how to write characters (stroke order and shape) - you'd prioritise some characters first, leave the more obscure ones till later, and not cover some at all (i.e., most of HSK). If you know how to break down chars, checking the broken down components is sufficient to get an idea. At least I find Outlier useful to point me in the right direction.
    – dROOOze
    Commented Jul 10, 2018 at 15:16
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    @droooze I am surprised you find any information in Outlier useful, most of it is extremely basic. And given the speed at which they are moving, it will take them 10+ years (if the business survives that long) to cover at least the basic literacy minimum 4.5k chars taught in mainland Chinese schools. If they are not going to cover that either - I do not know what the point of their dictionary is. A yet another alternative view among several published about characters' evolution? They should have published a peer-reviewed article, and not a learners' dictionary in that case. Commented Jul 13, 2018 at 2:46
  • @VitalyOsipov if they need to cover 4.5k characters, then they've failed to do their job. The whole idea is that the character system has logic and consistency. You not being able to see that is not anyone else's problem, that's like saying that someone didn't teach you addition properly so you expect a textbook to tell you what 8 + 5 is after you've "learned" what 80 + 50 is. It probably doesn't help that you're learning Simplified either :p
    – dROOOze
    Commented Jul 14, 2018 at 6:13

2 Answers 2


Interestingly, there is another character 褢 [same reading as 褱], with 鬼 inside.

Here are a few parts where Humanum mentions the relationship between 褱/褢/鬼 and even 歸:


So there is a usage of 褱 that means 歸 [kjuj] "give" and related to 饋 [grjujs] "make offering to."


Here's evidence that 褱 [gruj] and 鬼 [kjujʔ] were homophones. Actually, 歸 and 鬼 might be cognates (人所歸爲鬼), but I digress. The point is, [kjuj] is the much more likely target reading to hit for 褱, not the [k-l- | -p] initial/final pattern of 眔.


褢 was used in the Han-Tang era to mean "hold in," without the emotional semantics.

又表示安撫、招來,毛公鼎:「率褱(懷)不廷方」,意謂安撫不來朝覲的方國。陸賈《新語.道基》:「附遠寧近,懷來萬邦。」 ... 又借「鬼」為「懷」,表示安撫,《睡虎地秦簡.為吏之道》簡46-47貳:「君鬼(懷)臣忠,父茲(慈)子孝,政之本殹(也)。」

This is the same as the "give" meaning.

We learn several things:

  • 鬼/褢/歸/褱/懷 were near homophones and were interchanged in writing at various times.
  • There is a "hold in" meaning of 褱 that seems cognate with the "hide tears/miss" meaning for which the character was apparently constructed, possibly a direct extension, but more likely to be the actual root -- there is a Proto-Tibeto-Burman etymon [*kway] that means conceal/hide.
  • There is a (fairly archaic) "give" meaning of 褱 that is related to some of the meanings of 歸 (namely its use as 饋), and seems like a phonetic loan and unrelated to the first meaning.
  • The reading of 褱 [gruj] is fairly secure given the readings of the other characters, in particular, the [g/k-r/j-uj] pattern. It is most likely not related to the reading of any crying related etymon, for which there is a fairly established Proto-Sino-Tibetan reconstruction [*krap], nor to the 泣 [khrjəp] that is posited to be 眔, nor to the 徒合切 [dup] spelling given by Shuowen for 眔, nor to 涙 [c-rjuts], 隶 [c-rəts], or 逮 [ləts] that have been written with 眔 in Oracle Bone for its meaning and/or sound.
  • See also my comment to droooze's answer on why I believe 褱 is a rebus.

So, to answer the question: "Why doesn't 褱 sound like its phonetic etymon 眔?" It's because it has no sound component, and 眔 is not its phonetic part. On the other hand, the later character 褢 would be good candidate if you're looking for a legitimate phonetic part for a cognate of 褱.

  • Very nice. The field in general seems to lack PST/PTB scholars, which I think are crucial for interpreting oracle bone forms.
    – dROOOze
    Commented Jul 28, 2018 at 22:51

The more common term would be phonetic component or sound component.

Anyway, if Zhengzhang Old Chinese constructions are reliable,「眔」being the phonetic component of「褱」can possibly be seen:

  • 「褱」, /*ɡruːl/ > /ɦˠuɛi/ > huái (Pinyin), waai4 (Jyutping)
  • 「眔」, /*l'uːb/ > /dʌp̚/ > dà (Pinyin), daap6 (Jyutping)

Bolded parts are my own suggestion of the phonetic correspondence.

Note,「眔」is very commonly interpreted by scholars as a picture of tears「氺」(water) flowing down an eye「目」.「褱」, by most standard dictionaries, is thought to be the original character of「懷」, with the following meanings:

  • 懷藏/包圍/懷孕 (to wrap/conceal/be pregnant)
  • 思念;關心 (to miss/care about somebody)

Supposedly, there is a semantic connection between「眔」and「褱」in the second definition.「眔」is also thought to be the original representation of the word now written as「涕」.


  • 1
    There is some evidence for 眔 to be both a cognate for 涙 in meaning and yet be closer to 隶 in sound. The two are somewhat compatible, except for prefix, but then you're really only left with one consonant to claim a relationship. I'm not sure how one gets from cry/tears (or even baby, which seems more appropriate for 眔) to wrap, even if 褱 *g-r- turned out to be a compound of some *g- word and the *r- word 眔. Maybe end-cry = wrap (referring to the baby)?
    – Nimrod
    Commented Jul 27, 2018 at 19:38
  • @Nimrod Supposedly, they're related through a meaning like 懷念. Missing someone equals holding thoughts of them wrapped up inside, but also getting emotional and crying for them.
    – dROOOze
    Commented Jul 28, 2018 at 6:53
  • It's also possible that Shuowen's "褱从衣眔聲" is simply incorrect, as later notated by 徐鉉 et al. 眔's entry in Shuowen seems completely guesswork: "目相及也。从目,从隶省。" ("Eye watching arrival, 目 plus an abbreviation of 隶/逮 [arrive at]"). The character etymology is wrong given what we know about 眔, which has droplets vs. 隶's animal tail; in fact, didn't 隶 come later to disambiguate Oracle Bone's use of 眔 to write [arrive at]? Being near homophones, it was likely a phonetic loan. So 褱 should probably be 从衣从眔, a pictorial rebus of hiding tears.
    – Nimrod
    Commented Jul 28, 2018 at 18:45

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