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For example, 偏導數 means partial derivative. But my intuition on this character is inclined and remote. How can I derive this meaning from the regular meaning of 偏?

From 説文解字 I got this

enter image description here (偏) 頗也。頗、頭偏也。引伸爲凡偏之偁。故以頗釋偏。二字雙聲。尙書。無偏無頗。絫言之也。周易翩翩。古文作偏偏。从人。扁聲。芳連切。十二部。

  • Partial actually can mean inclined (towards one side). What’s the opposite of an impartial judge? – droooze Feb 24 at 22:27
  • 偏导数=partial derivative – Zuriel Feb 25 at 5:03
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偏's core meaning is 'lean to the side' as in 偏右(lean right) or 偏左 (lean left)

That meaning extended to represent 'away from center' as in 偏僻 (remote/ isolated) and 偏遠 (remote / far away)

Notice: '偏遠地區' (remote area) is referring 'an area that is far away from the center of a country'. Even it is remote, that area is still 'a part of the whole country. Therefore, 偏 also obtained the meaning of 'a part of' (partial) by the virtue of opposing 全(whole)

The idiom "以偏概全" - "generalize the whole by examine only part of it" illustrated 偏 (partial/ incomplete) is the opposite of 全 (whole/complete)

The "away from center" meaning of 偏 further extended to mean "away from the main stream" , therefore 偏 also contains the meaning of 'non-standard' as in 偏方 (deviant prescription)

  • If remote area is a part of the whole therefore it obtained the meaning, how about central area? Central don't have that meaning. – Scripps Feb 25 at 5:24
  • @Scripps "偏" opposite "中" . Example: "central area" (中心地帶) opposite "remote area" (偏遠地帶); "中肯言論" ( unbiased opinion) opposite "偏頗言論" (biased opinion). So, "Central" ( 中 ) does have the extended meaning of "unbiased"; As mentioned before, "偏" (part) also opposite "全" (whole) – Tang Ho Feb 25 at 5:37
  • 區 (remote area) vs. 境 (The whole territory) – Tang Ho Feb 25 at 5:44
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Not too sure what the question is exactly. "How can I derive this meaning for [sic] (from??) the regular meaning of 偏?"

Don't derive the meaning, look it up!

You can find the regular meanings of 偏 here:

  1. 不全面,不正确:偏爱。偏见。偏激。偏狭。偏执。偏废。偏颇。偏听。偏信。

'partial' originally meant 'one-sided, biased (偏颇)‘ then 'not whole, incomplete'

If you want to get the meaning from the character alone, I think that won't work for a great many Chinese characters.

偏:人 + 扁
扁:户 + 冊

For some characters you can pretty much get the meaning from the picture:

集:隹 + 木 = gather (like birds in a tree at dusk) 娶:取 + 女 = marry

  • "meant 'one-sided, biased (偏颇)‘ then 'not whole, incomplete' " Can you tell me how does "then" come about? – Scripps Feb 25 at 1:13
  • Sorry, I was referring to the English word 'partial', not any Chinese words. The meaning of partial changed with time. – Pedroski Feb 25 at 7:45

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