p 1194, ABC Chinese–English Comprehensive Dictionary (2003). I can't access the "slightly revised through July 2005" ed.

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  1. Sset 3 originates from the semantic radical . How did Set 3 (the original meanings of 'hem, margin') semantically shift to Sets 1, 2, 4, 5? Yellowbridge divides 緣 into 3 sets with its 2 semicolons.

  2. Did 3 semantically shift to 6-7 by the semantic notion of climbing up or going up along an edge or fridge?

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2 Answers 2


First, you seemed to have asked a lot of questions about etymology and you are always quoting Yellowbridge. Yellowbridge may have its merits, but it does not seem to provide enough information in this area. If you consulted a good dictionary, you would not need to ask so many questions and could save yourself a lot of time.

For instance, this site as suggested by other users is good enough. The result for 緣 is this. (I have consulted other dictionaries and they are more or less the same.)

As we can see from the link, its basic original meaning is "edge of clothes", which is why it has the semantic radical 糸.

Hence the meaning "edge" in general.

Hence the meaning "go around or along" (as in "go around or along the edge"), and "climb up" (go along the edge upward).

Hence the meaning "follow" (follow this path) and "depend on, utilize" (use this way to achieve your goal).

Hence the meaning "reason, cause, or link between two things" (go from one point to another point following this path -- this path is the link, or the reason).

Hence the meaning "fate" (the link that links two people and make them meet). "Karma" is put here also for this reason, but note that the English word "fate" is already not a very accurate translation, and "karma" is even more prone to misunderstanding. In English "karma" has two senses: one is "destiny, fate", and the other is more like "law of consequences", which is irrelevant here. In Chinese, 緣 does not mean things are predetermined, as fate or destiny, but rather that things or people have links or connections, their lives are intertwined.


Personally, I treat "缘“ as the most difficult word to understand/translate in any other language. It started as the meaning of "hem" or "edge" but gradually shifting to the Buddhism concept of "karma" which itself is not exactly the real meaning of 缘。 I don't know whether there is a language to translate 宇宙的形成是缘起,宇宙的消失是缘灭。;万事万物皆由缘。The most important concept is that 缘 is not accidental. It is the accumulation of efforts to make it exists (not actually happened, because whether it happens or not is due to other 缘). That comes the important "修":十年修得同船渡;百年修得共枕眠。 Is impossible for "your place or mine?" kind of people to understand. A sincere advice to all of you: 尽信书不如无书;尽信网不如无网。

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