2

Composite number is translated as 合数, which do make sense; Prime number is called 素数, what does 素 means here?

Is it possible to trace the source of such translation?

3

「素」generically means basal, essential, intrinsic, primal. Hence you have vocabulary like

  • 元素 (atom), the fundamental constituent of matter (well, the name was given before they discovered subatomic particles)
  • 詞素 (morpheme), the fundamental constituent of words
  • 要素 (essential factor)
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  • It 's very interesting to find that google translate `primer number' to '素数' in Japanese. So it borrowed from Japanese. Do you know some Japanese about the word 素? – Calculus Dec 9 '19 at 14:01
  • atom is reasonable, prime number can not be decomposed any more. – Calculus Dec 9 '19 at 14:03
  • @Algebra well「素」in Japanese shares the base, primal meanings with Chinese. As for whether 素數 originated in Japanese, I'm not sure. They might have coined it - there's a heap of words in Chinese that originated from Wasei-Kango. – dROOOze Dec 9 '19 at 14:10
1

素 can mean 物的基本成分 (basic element of something) as an extension from its base meaning of plain, natural, pure, unmodified.

In its synonym 质数, 质 also means the nature of something or being plain and simple.

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1

素 can mean prime in some way. See this definition in dictionaries:

带有根本性质的物质或构成事物的基本成分。

元素;毒素;因素;要素

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