I hope it's obvious why, but I don't think of "necks" as items. I can't imagine "neck" as as part of a "list, collection or set." Why? Because I'm not trying to separate people's or animals' necks, and most humans don't deal with necks as "an individual article or unit." Items are

  1. An individual article or unit, especially one that is part of a list, collection, or set.

1.1. A piece of news or information

1.2. An entry in an account.

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Oxford Chinese Dictionary (2010) p 819.

  • 1
    just for curious,why does “spring” signify both 弹簧 and 泉水,and why does “overlook” signify both 监督 and 忽略,I hope it's obvious why,but i dont think of 弹簧s as 泉水s。(there are merely no reason for a word to mean multiple irrelevant meanings in all language)
    – imkzh
    May 18, 2021 at 17:45
  • It's funny if you picture it in your head: counting things by their "necks", or water jumps from the ground and got the name "spring".
    – Betty
    Sep 9, 2021 at 4:47

1 Answer 1


项 is originally means nape (back part of the neck), to distinguish from 颈 (front part of the neck). Later, 颈 became to mean neck in general.

Because 颈 is primarily for neck only, 项 later got borrowed into its other meanings. Your neck holds up your head and supports it, thus the definition is then focused upon the head that is being held up by the neck.

Multiple heads became multiple individuals, and from there, the meaning evolved to become a classifier of items.

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