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If someone, dancer or not, is holding something in each hand, how can possibly describe him? His hands are not 無! I also screenshot Yellowbridge.

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  • As it says on wiktionary, “The character is borrowed”. Could you specify what else you are looking for? – dROOOze Aug 28 at 23:15
  • @dROOOze Even if it's borrowed, how does that pictogram explain 無? My reason remains true. – NNOX Apps Aug 28 at 23:17
  • Do you mean, how does 無 look like a dancing person holding things in their hands? Because that’s a glyph-origin question. “Borrowed” otherwise literally means that a word doesn’t have any meaning relation with what the character originally meant. – dROOOze Aug 28 at 23:20
  • @dROOOze No. I don't think I'm asking how "無 look like a dancing person holding things in their hands". Why's 無 represented by someone holding things in his hands? If you hold things in your hands, you possess something! 無 has no place for you. – NNOX Apps Aug 29 at 5:05
  • @dROOOze Your answer below still deserves to stay though! I can post a new question if you desire. – NNOX Apps Aug 29 at 5:06
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There might be some confusion as to what the word "borrowed" means. The usage of 「無」 to mean without is a rebus borrowing. From Wikipedia:

An example that illustrates the Rebus principle is the representation of the sentence "I can see you" by using the pictographs of "eye—can—sea—ewe".

That is, to ask how the sentence

I can see you

originated from the pictures

Photo of an eye Photo of a can Photo of the sea Photo of an ewe and her lambs

is an incorrect question.


If it is difficult to see how the glyph evolved into its current form 「無」 (Baxter-Sagart OC: /*ma/, without), that is a more tangible query.

Start from a rather vivid picture of a person 「大」 holding a bunch of adornments in each hand, doing a rain dance*.



𡘲
120.3
合集16000

Complexify the adornments, maybe into something highly resembling a sound hint 「某」 (/*məʔ/).

西周

𣞤
毛伯簋
集成4009
春秋

𣞤
寬兒鼎
集成2722


𣞤
10.8
睡虎地秦簡

隸定
𣞤

 

Omit the shape of the person 「大」.

西漢

enter image description here
老子・甲
馬王堆帛書

隸定
𣚨

 

Then finally, abbreviate the bottom of the character into a few dots.

西漢

無
25
定縣竹簡


無

 

Dance is written with the derivative character 「舞」, by adding semantic 「舛」 (picture of two feet).

西周

舞
匽侯銅泡
集成11860
西漢

舞
158
縱橫家書
東漢

舞
華山廟碑
 


舞

 


*The nature of the dance being linked with rain is from the extensive number of fragments where the character 「無」 is found with the character 「雨」. E.g. 《甲骨文合集》12828:

enter image description here

戊𢑚(申)卜今日𡴝(奏)𣞤(舞)㞢(有)从雨

Divination (卜) on the day of wùshēn (戊申): Today (今日), perform (奏) a dance ritual (舞). Rain appears (有从雨).


References:

| improve this answer | |
  • i would further interpret “㞢从雨” as “there’s (有) showers (驟雨)”, then people danced (舞) for celebration / appreciation the divine. – 水巷孑蠻 Aug 29 at 3:27

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