CUHK and Yellowbridge don't expound the semantic shift. I'm especially addled by the shift in lexical categories too, from a noun to an adverb.

Synopsis  : 從「」,「」聲,用作副詞,表示才、只。

Elaboration: 從「」,「」聲,用作副詞,表示才、只。《說文》:「材能也。从人,堇聲。」《國語‧周語中》:「今天降災於周室,余一人僅能守府。」


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  • 2
    It seems you are trying to find semantic connections for a phonetic component, or am I misunderstanding your question? It says in both your quoted entries that 堇 gives the sound, so why are you looking for a semantic relationship?
    – Olle Linge
    Sep 11, 2020 at 17:45
  • 2
    @OlleLinge I'm asking about the Semantic (not Phonetic) Component, 人.
    – user11787
    Sep 18, 2020 at 2:42

1 Answer 1



1 (orig.) ability, talent
2 ○ only

Here the ○ icon is an indicator of a phonetic loan. So, basically it is just a:

character that is "borrowed" to write another homophonous or near-homophonous morpheme

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