The English word is "secret" The Chinese word is "秘密"

I found 禾 means grain, 必 means must. The second character has 宀 (mián) roof,必 (bì) must and 山 (shān) mountain.

How does it all come together? I believe there is a etymological story here.

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    You may check ancient china dictionary to find how the character comes from, and shape might be different. And from <说文解字> you'll find: "秘,从示。必聲", "密,从山。宓聲" – Shaw Jan 12 at 20:52
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    Why do you want to know it? I am natively Chinese and I never thought it to be interesting... – user27247 Jan 14 at 2:56
  • I didn't know anything about Chinese. I am watching a thai drama called ITSAY where the lead is learning Chinese and explains the meaning of some Chinese words. I found the whole thing fascinating and doing some digging about other words used and Chinese language in general since then. Sorry, it's a little childish. – vertis Jan 14 at 12:52
  • It’s not “childish”, I’m actually confused as to why @XeнεiΞэnвϵς made that comment at all. We’re not “What interests a random ‘native’ speaker’s StackExchange”. Nobody cares if you’re a ‘native speaker’, if you don’t know the answer, and if you don’t have the ability to find out the answer, then please don’t discourage other people from asking, otherwise this StackExchange isn’t actually for you. – dROOOze Jan 14 at 20:09

You're reading too much into it. The only clue to this meaning in the original characters has now been lost.

You can take a look at the following dictionary excerpt to see exactly what information has vanished:



In 秘, 禾 is an empty component. It is a corruption of 礻. The original character was 祕 “god; deity,” from which the meanings “secret, covert, undisclosed” are derived.

密 is a phonetic loan if anything, where it contains the idea of "secret."

  • It seems that OP is unaware of the role of phonetic components in characters, so maybe good to mention that explicitly. Both characters have components that give only sound, so it will be hard to analyse without that (I see you did mention the sound loan, though, but maybe at that 秘 is also a 形聲字? – Olle Linge Jan 12 at 21:27
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    @OlleLinge Feel free to write up your own answer. For the sheer amount of questions we get like this - it's hard to go into great detail each and every time. – Mou某 Jan 13 at 10:22
  • Yes, sorry, I didn't mean to complain! :) – Olle Linge Jan 13 at 21:13
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    @OlleLinge Haha, no I didn't take it that way - I just couldn't be bothered expanding on the answer. But I do really think that it would be helpful to include the information you mentioned. If you do write an answer you're guaranteed at least one up vote. – Mou某 Jan 14 at 10:06

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