What is the etymology of 策 and 朿 ?

As per dictionary the meanings are as below:

朿 cì stab

策 cè policy, plan, scheme, bamboo slip for writing(old), to whip (a horse), to encourage, upward horizontal stroke in calligraphy

2 Answers 2


朿 means "thorns". From 说文解字朿,木芒也

Its variant character 刺 is more widely used in modern Chinese.

More ancient usages of inscriptions on bones or tortoise shells of the Shang Dynasty of 朿 is "to stab (ritual animal sacrifices) to death" as in 「朿豕」、「朿羊」、「朿魚」etc, according to 甲骨文合集.

策 means “horse whips” in ancient times, which was usually made of bamboos, some of which have thorns at the front end.


Another hypothesis is 策 evolves from the riding command 敕 which meant to drive the horse. 说文解字: 以策擊馬曰敇

  • Mou, Felix Zhang Thank you very much for the pictures and detailed explanation. It will help in remembering the meaning of both the characters. Thanks
    – user27485
    Mar 25, 2021 at 7:15
  • @user27485 If you think this answers your question, you should click the "accept" button to mark it as the accepted answer. :)
    – Betty
    Mar 29, 2021 at 8:50

Here are the etymologies for both characters:


策 cè is composed of 朿 cì and 𥫗 “bamboo,” which points to the original meaning “a bamboo horsewhip.” 朿 gives the sound.

In 策, 𥫗 “bamboo” is a meaning component, pointing to the original meaning “a bamboo horse-whip.”

In 策 cè, 朿 cì is a sound component.


1 (orig.) bamboo horsewhip
2 → to whip
3 ⇒ to encourage
4 → walking stick
5 ⇒ to support
6 → bamboo book
7 ⇒ plan


Ancient form:
enter image description here
朿 depicts a three-pointed spear, indicating its original meaning “three-pointed spear.”


1 (orig.) a three-pointed spear
2 → sharp; pointy

  • 朿 is just a sound component in 策 and shares no semantic meanings
  • With 朿, the 3 pointed spear what can be stabbed mainly? Why 3 point spear only for stabbing?
    – user27485
    Mar 22, 2021 at 23:40

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.