Fortunately I can guess a possible ratiocination of this etymology: 5 Houseplants You Can’t Kill by Overwatering. Because these plants won't die even if soaked, immersed, or wet, they can tolerate, forigve your over-watering. They are lenient to the wrongdoing of over-watering. Am I correct? I screenshot Yellowbridge.

enter image description here 涵 - Wiktionary

  1. to soak; to wet
  2. to tolerate; to forgive; to be lenient
  3. to immerse
  4. a culvert
  5. Alternative form of (“to contain, to bear”).

2 Answers 2


The semantic extension is as follows:

  • To be soaked in water

  • To have a large capacity to hold water

  • To have a large capacity to tolerate bullshit

  • To be lenient (e.g. lenient on someone for their wrongdoings)


  • 《漢語大詞典》


"涵" means much water.

——《说文(Shuowen)》,an ancient Chinese dictionary

I think, the original meaning of "涵" is many rivers or lakes. Then, "涵" has a new meaning: Infiltrate; moisturize(浸润;滋润). After that, "涵" also means "contain(包含,包容)". The last meaning of "涵" is "forgiveness and tolerance(包涵,宽容)"

How does "涵" mean from "contain" to "tolerance"?


You can even row a boat in the belly of the Prime Minister Wang Anshi.

——中国俗语/Chinese saying, it means a tolerant person like Wang Anshi.

(There is also a Chinese idiom involved: a big belly can contain more things, including others' mistakes(大肚能容). It's about a big belly monk Budai, also known as Mile Buddha(布袋和尚,大肚弥勒佛).)

A lake(涵) can hold a lot of water, so the ancient Chinese compared water to people's mistakes and tolerant people to lakes.

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