What's the story behind this character 盗? None of the components seems to hint at the sound, or the meaning of 'pirate/steal/rob', unless water in the upper left part and is the bottom component a corrupted version of boat 舟?

  • “盗” (u+2f0e), composed by “冫” (u+51ab), “欠” (u+6b20) & “皿” (U+76bf) is different from “盜” (u+76dc), in which the upper left component is “氵“ (u+6c35). which one do you want to ask? – 水巷孑蠻 Mar 3 at 12:48
  • Aren't both 盗 and 盜 the same? One is the traditional and one is "simplified" character which only omits one dot. – Fishuman Mar 3 at 13:50

「盗」 is Simplified Chinese, the orthodox character is 「盜」.

字形 參考資料

⿱㳄舟 6.32.5
⿰舟欠 逆𬅣父辛觶
⿳𣶙火皿 秦公鎛

盜 20.193
盜 春秋 昭廿年

Barring new excavated evidence, 「盜」 is only unambiguously traceable back to around the Qín era. Under these circumstances, the standard practice is to take Shuōwén's explanation on face value:




「盜」, to hold selfish desires towards material goods. From semantic 「㳄」 (drool > to covet), 「㳄」 is that who wishes for 「皿」 (dishes/bowls)*.

*The ancient middle-upper classes often had expensive bronze vessels, so these are a sign of material wealth.

To covet material goods was then extended to to steal. In fact, this isn't too far off from how the glyph origin of 「羨」 (envy) is described - from semantic 「㳄」 (drool > to covet) and semantic 「羊」 (sheep), indicating the original meaning the desire for mutton.

If one wants to trace 「盜」 back to oracle bone script, it is usually explained as


starting off from semantic 「㳄」 (picture of a person with an open mouth with spit coming out > to flood, overflow) and semantic 「舟」 (boat), indicating the meaning flooding (of a river).


「㳄」 was later complexified into 「𣶙」 through the addition of another 「水」, and 「舟」 was corrupted into 「皿」.

These forms are thought to be pronounced similar to 「㳄・涎」 or 「羨」. How this then becomes the meaning and/or sound of 「盜」 is then a bit of a leap.


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