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I have searched on line text bases, especially for 三国志 since the 2010 television version of that is what made me wonder. But I do not seem to get reliable results that way. Perhaps if I understood the data bases better I could do better. But certainly my text base searches will not be a good as asking here.

I wail mention, though it is not important evidence, that the 2010 TV series often uses just 百姓 rather than 老百姓.

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    老百姓 is a modern term (maybe around 100 years old). The prefix 老 was attached in modern colloquial language, but by the time of colloquial language, the meaning has shifted far from the original 百姓. The answer you've accepted does not speak about the phrase 老百姓, but the phrase 百姓. If 老百姓's etymology (rather than first attested usage having the current meaning the common people) is what you're looking for, then that's fine, but you should update the question to reflect that. – dROOOze Apr 28 '20 at 12:41
  • In the quoted text in my answer stated" 现今指平民,普通人。也称“老百姓”"。 already stated 老百姓 is a modern term. But the origin of 老百姓 is still 百姓 – Tang Ho Apr 29 '20 at 21:24
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    @TangHo If I were to ask a question How old is the expression “老百姓” I would not expect an answer talking about general term for nobles - 老百姓 does not mean general term for nobles and never did. The etymology of 老百姓 involves a word meaning general term for nobles. You've answered the etymology part but did not answer when 老百姓 (the common people) first arose (you answered when 百姓 first arose). Since OP already accepted the answer, I'm suggesting that the question is changed to reflect your answer. – dROOOze Apr 30 '20 at 3:41
  • 现今指平民,普通人。也称“老百姓 does not state that 老百姓 is a modern term. It's a subtle wording issue - 现今指平民,普通人。也称“老百姓 states that 百姓 meaning the common people is a modern usage, now also called 老百姓. – dROOOze Apr 30 '20 at 3:43
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百姓:

释义:战国之前是对贵族的统称,战国之后,楚对平民的通称。《诗经·雅·天保》“群黎百姓”郑玄笺:“百姓,官族姓也。” 现今指平民,普通人。也称“老百姓”。

Before the Warring States period, it was a general term for nobles. After the Warring States period, Chu's general name for civilians. Today it refers to civilians, ordinary people. Also known as "The people"

Also: 黎民百姓

百姓 was originally referring to the noble clans united under 黃帝 against the 九黎族 under 蚩尤. After defeating 黎族, 黎民 was taken as slaves by the 百姓. Eventually, 黎民 and 百姓 merged to become 黎民百姓, meaning: "common people"

The relationship between 百姓 and 黎民 was similar to Romans and their slaves

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  • This is much older than I expected. So, would you say that this expression was old by the time of the events described by 三國志 ? – Colin McLarty Apr 27 '20 at 16:38
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    Much older, It first appeared in 诗经 – Tang Ho Apr 27 '20 at 16:40
  • 西周初年至春秋(770- 478 BC) 中叶 is few hundred years older than 三國時代 (220-280AD) – Tang Ho Apr 27 '20 at 16:47
  • 三國志 was finished in 北宋年間 (960—1127AD) – Tang Ho Apr 27 '20 at 16:54
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    I have to admit what @dROOOze says in comments. This answer, while it is very informative, does not actually say when 黎民百姓 began to mean common people, and does not say when the specific expression 老百姓 arose. – Colin McLarty Apr 30 '20 at 12:38
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陶杰这人真是现在过街都没人瞧的老公知了,受众还是香港人,我反正是瞧不上他自诩为香港人发声实则借此上跻的惺惺做派,另外也不见得几分文采,大陆许多所谓“作协”成员那个水准罢。

回到正题。人民群众等词在马克思的哲学饱受污名化的西方自然是贬损的东西,在中国却是奉为至上。人民的对立面是敌人,其划分在于政治立场。正是由于其如此高的地位,才反倒经常被人绑架,标榜民意或是“代表人民”。而群众对应的是非群众(如党员、团员、民主党派人士),其划分在于政治身份。群众历来是党团结和依附的对象。在舆论纠纷之中,把自己群众的身份一摆,便瞬间融入“人民群众的汪洋大海”,仿佛自己的利益也是集体利益一般,然后获得支持,可见群众的力量也是伟大的。百姓/老百姓在大陆的语境中对应的是官员(自古【Edit:古至贵族消弭之后,从此再无贵族,只有世家了】如是),但实际上其划分在于政治地位,是在比较中分别的。对于一县之长,其辖下的普通人是百姓;然而他在部委,省委大员面前,也是百姓。百姓之含义并非贬损,只是反映这种差别而已。

公民/国民,还有居民,分别反映法律的国籍以及定居处。然而正如陶杰说人民、群众在西方被污名化(私以为只有mass稍带些暴民、愚民之含义,我看people好像挺正面的来着???【我们之中必有一个了解的是假西方】我倾向于普通人呼喊的people就是“百姓”在中文语境的含义),公民背后宪法赋予的人权、自由、民主等词语在近年来西方媒体假其名义攻讦、陷构、毁谤又逆火自戕,搬石砸脚的情形之下,已经在中国人民(是的我用了“人民”)心中留下了很不好的印象,以至于也被污名化了,虽然这些都是应该并且正在提倡的。从而,公民/国民所加持的神圣光环已然破碎,而沦为不过是法律名词及讨论西方政治哲学时作为citizen的翻译罢了。其地位正如时下大疫期间某些归国公民欲图凭此享受超格待遇还要鼓舌引援反被人民群众讥笑一般不堪。

不得不说,面向中国观众的节目说英国百姓有什么问题呢?不论是否承认,所谓西式民主下政治地位之差别荡然无存矣?现在看来,citizen手上的那张票,可比他的命重要多了(笑)。陶杰先生解释中文语境的名词,非得搬弄搬弄他主子那一套,可见其向背昭然。

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  • well, . . . his sarcasm is quite good 😸 – 水巷孑蠻 Apr 27 '20 at 16:15
  • @水巷孑蠻 I think my sarcasm is.equally good :) 立场不同 – Toosky Hierot Apr 27 '20 at 16:18
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    I was his fan for few months, but the more I listen to him the more I realize his flaws. My opinion on 陶傑 now is not high. IMO, His view points are close to extremism – Tang Ho Apr 27 '20 at 16:22
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    @TangHo Sadly there was a period where the more extreme your viewpoints are, the more popular you will be.hhh. – Toosky Hierot Apr 27 '20 at 16:27
  • @TangHo Actually in the recent decade, I have hardly heard of anything he voices circulating in the Chinese Internet.... – Toosky Hierot Apr 27 '20 at 16:30
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i suspected it’s a relatively new term. i agreed with the below sarcastic text, written by 陶傑, about “老百姓”:

去年在外地,握着遙控器,無意按到中國一家電視台,一個女記者派駐英國,報道油價飆升的新聞。

中國女記者拿着咪高峯站在油站前,說:「油價上漲,英國老百姓感到很不滿。」

這句話文法通順,女記者說來,也沒有結結巴巴,但有一點點問題。問題在「英國老百姓」這個自我配搭的詞彙。

華文的「老百姓」,是很奇怪的中國獨有觀念。國民,是Citizens,包含了人權和憲法的地位。居民,是Residents,人權的含義不太重,是地理的,提一個人與某地的共生關係。此外,還有人民(People)和群眾(Mass)──這兩個詞,地位差一點,而且經過馬克思列寧的閹割,尤其是Mass,都變成了略帶愚昧。

但「老百姓」沒有精確的英譯,因為「老百姓」絕不是國民公民,也不是居民,而且比帶有順民含義的「人民群眾」低一等。

因為華文的「老百姓」,不但並無人權的意識,也沒有人性中對自由和權利的悟性與追求,「老百姓」只求「溫飽」,在這個意義之上,不錯,確實如同牛羊。但華文有「魚肉百姓」之說,中國的所謂「老百姓」,都又連牛羊都不如。如果「苛政猛如虎」,中國的暴政,是兇猛的牲畜,那麼以「魚肉百姓」的字義來解讀,所謂「老百姓」,地位比牲畜低一點,只是一種飼料(Fodder)。

美國、英國、歐洲、日本,只有國民,他們不是任宰割的一群,而且擁選票、決定政府;他們的人權天賦,不容侵犯;對於溫飽,不必張羅,從來不是問題,對藝術和人文品味的追求,令他們擁有完整的國民人格。

英國的「老百姓」?英國何來什麼「老百姓」?「興,百姓苦,亡,百姓苦」,只有中國才有老百姓。這位女記者身在西方報道新聞,她的眼界,還沒有出國,當然,她說的是中國普通話,這種新聞,是給沒有去過外國(或即使去過也只限於去巴黎掃貨)的中國人看的,她這樣講,「國情」為上,也沒有錯。

the most similar term in literatures of yore is “萬姓”, “父老百姓”, “耆老百姓”, “億兆黎庶”, all of these existed for thousands of years.

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