Wiktionary lists 錘, 槌, 鎚, and 椎 to all have the meaning of "hammer", but I'm not sure if that was the original meaning for any of those characters, and they all (or at least some) appear to have different origins and developments from each other. For instance, 說文解字 has the definitions for the following three characters:




None of these entries have hammer as a definition (although 椎 has the definition of "to strike"). 鎚 doesn't seem to be listed in 說文解字, so I'm assuming it was created later on.

How did all of these characters gain the meaning of "hammer", and how are these four characters related?

  • 1
    The basic idea is that 捶 is the morpheme behind the word meaning to hammer, then other characters which contain semantic wood or metal (being what hammers are made of) and sounding like 捶 were either borrowed from unrelated words/meanings or newly created from scratch to represent the word hammer. You can take 說文解字's meaning definitions as some of the earliest (if not the earliest) usages of those characters. Unfortunately to write a proper answer requires a lot of resources and quite a bit of time :(
    – dROOOze
    Jun 8, 2019 at 14:32

1 Answer 1


From my answer to this question If you can use Chinese nouns as verbs, or vice versa

Typically, a word was either coined for a noun or verb first, and then its meaning extended to other word type for convenience's sake.

For example, It is possible that when people invented drill, they called it '鑽' (n); later when they needed a word to describe the action of 'to drill' , it is very convenience to add the meaning to the existing noun and make '鑽' both noun and verb.

Or it is the other way around, people called the action of 'to burrow' as '鑽'(v); when 'drill' was invented, they just use the verb '鑽' to name it, because a drill 'burrow' into things.

So, when a noun is closely associated with an unique action (verb), it would be used as a verb eventually; similarly when a verb is closely associated with an object (noun), it would be used as a noun eventually

  • Either 椎 was coined as a verb for "to strike" and gained the meaning of the noun for "hammer" later; or 椎 was coined as a noun for "hammer" and was given the meaning of the verb "strike" later. Because the main function of a hammer is 'to strike things'

  • It is most likely that 錘 original meant something else, and later became a variant of 椎 because they sounded alike

  • is defined as hammer; mallet; gavel; pestle. It should be the original form of the character for 'hammer' when hammer was made of wood

  • 鎚 is not listed in the dictionary, it seems to be a modern variant of 槌 when metal hammer appeared

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