I can understand the link between 閒 and 間/间, being the empty spaces where moonlight or sunlight can shine through the doors --> empty space. But how did this 閒 also end up becoming similar to 閑/闲? And how does a "moon behind the door" or "tree behind the door" correlate with the meaning of "free time"?


1 Answer 1



PY xián (or jiān, jiàn)

閒 originally depicted a door (門), such that the moon (月) could be seen through a crack in the door, indicating the original meaning “crack, split.”


In 閒, 門 “a double-sided door; door, gate; opening” is a form component, pointing to the original meaning “crack, split.”

In 閒, 月 “the moon” is a form component.

1 (orig.) crack, split
2 ○ leisure, free time

1 → room, space (same as 間)
2 ⇒ duration of time

1 → space in between (same as 間)
2 ⇒ separate

The reference they give:

p. 837

It looks like the entry in Xinzheng actually begins on page 836. Here is the combined original

enter image description here enter image description here

The idea of free time is another phonetic loan again. Seems a bit climatic, I know.

Here is p. 1043《字源》talking about 閑

enter image description here

The last sentence is quite interesting.


  • 閑 was originally a character that meant, "fencing around a door."
  • 閒 was orignally a character that meant, "crack/split."
  • 閑 was borrowed for it's sound to indicate, "free time."
  • 間 has derivative meanings of "room/space" from the idea of "crack/split."
  • I guess the real question is: if they were both "hean" in MC when did 閑 split to ---> x- and when did 閒 split to ----> j-?
    – Mou某
    Dec 18, 2020 at 9:57
  • I'm not sure that's the right question. 閒 was never pronounced jiān, crack (閒, Baxter–Sagart OC: /*N-kˤre[n]/) was always cognate to space (間, /*kˤre[n]/). In MC, 閒 merged with 閑 in pronunciation.
    – dROOOze
    Dec 18, 2020 at 10:05

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