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I was just wondering about the Chinese words for 'Ferry Pier' 碼頭.

If we take the word, 馬頭, it means horse's head. 碼頭 has the 石 or rock character in it.

I wanted to confirm, is it possible then that the word 碼頭 is indeed derived from the shape of the horse's head? or is it just a co-incidence?

Horse's head vs Ferry Pier outline

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“码头”这个写法出现得较晚,是后人加会意偏旁新造的词形。早期语料中基本上都是“马头”的。 《资治通鉴》中就出现过“马头”。胡三省(读[xǐnɡ]!)《注》:“附河岸筑土植木夹之至水次,以便兵马入船,谓之马头。”这个解释是可信的。其中这个“头”字,应该是表某特定功能的建筑的后缀。比如文献中常见的“宿头”,就是住宿的地方。

@清洁工 on 果壳问答

According to this, you're half right. It is original "马头", but not because its shape, but its use. Its use in ancient time is to make soldiers, especially cavalry, easy to board. "头" doesn't have actual meaning here, the same as "子" in "筷子", "勺子", etc. It doesn't mean "head".

And why is it "码头" now? People added a "石" next to "马", to make this Chinese Character looks closer to its meaning.

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