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I Googled-translated CUHK, but I don't think they or Yellowbridge expounds the semantic shift to "admire" or "respect"? I read Any direct English equivalent for "佩服"?.

I know that even in 2020, belts can be expensive, but this doesn't explain the semantic shift for the wearer is the Agent, not the Experiencer. The wearer doesn't admire or respect himself, but causes admiration and respiration in others.

Synopsis  : 金文從「」從「」從「」,象人佩巾形。本義是佩戴。

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Elaboration: 「」在古代又指大帶,是古人服飾之一。學者多以「」為聲符,按「」、「」聲母相同,但韻母遠隔,姑備一說。

  金文表示大帶,𤼈簋:「易(賜)佩」。又表示佩繫,頌鼎:「頌拜稽首,受令(命)冊,佩以出。」

  《說文》:「佩,大帶佩也。从人从凡从巾。佩必有巾,巾謂之飾。」

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According to 辞源 (see pictures below): wear something --> keep something on one's body --> remember something by heart --> respect and admire something

It turns out that 佩 and 服 are actually very similar. Both mean both "wear" and "admire".

Also, I just noticed that originally the object of 佩/佩服 is a thing, not a person. So you 佩/佩服 a person's courage, virtue, etc.

The example sentences in 《现代汉语词典》《现代汉语规范词典》 are still used in that way:

这种精神可敬可佩。
我真佩服他那种锲而不舍的精神。

But of course, nowadays you can also just 佩服 a person.

这姑娘真能干,我不禁暗暗地佩服她。

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