Since 醜 is the traditional version of 丑, why is the lower part of a traditional 羞 丑 but not 醜?

I found this ,


But it doesn't explain why it is 丑.

  • Adding to what the others have answered, during simplification, hundreds of characters were merged with others, often characters with ancient or obscure meanings the traditional 丑. Both 醜 and 丑 are proper traditional characters with separate meanings, although over time they often started being used as popular variants, which is where many simplified characters come from. Some of them are listed at the bottom of this page.
    – gnucchi
    Commented Apr 15, 2021 at 14:48
  • Need to be careful when citing old literature. You need to make sure what you cite is not a transformation from simplified Chinese to traditional Chinese. In what you cited above, 醜 should be 丑。
    – joehua
    Commented Apr 16, 2021 at 3:23
  • 1
    I don't think there is a direct link between 醜 and 丑. 丑 is the same as "clown" - 丑角. While the clown does not look good with facial makeup, it is far from ugly (醜), which is a person's natural facial appearance. Another usage of 丑 is time - 子, 丑, 寅....
    – r13
    Commented Apr 16, 2021 at 5:29

3 Answers 3


羞 didn't originally mean shame/shy and 丑 didn't originally mean ugly.

丑 is originally a hand with curled fingers, later borrowed to become an earthly branch. Ugly, and all its associated meanings like disgrace, shame, and even clown were originally 醜, which became replaced with 丑 in 'simplified' Chinese. I believe 丑 was borrowed as part of 羞.

羞 is a hand 手 holding a lamb 羊, to offer it as a sacrifice or for food, originally meaning "offering". The hand got changed into 丑, which doubles up as phonetic component. Offering is now written as 馐.

羞 earlier on had its meaning shifted to become shame or shy, possibly because lambs and sheep are shy and timid creatures, while ugly was still written as 醜.




The character 「丑」 is not related to the character 「醜」. Correspondingly, there is no relation between 「羞」 and 「醜」. 「丑」 is exclusively used nowadays for the meaning second earthly branch; PRC's usage of 「丑」 to mean ugly is a phonetic loan, and is not shared among other character-using languages.

The character system and the Chinese language don't really work around "Simplified Chinese", which is really just a drastically changed writing standard made up in the 20th century and (for all intents and purposes) only used in the PRC. I would suggest not to think like this,

Since 醜 is the traditional version of 丑

which is backwards logic, but rather

PRC changed 「醜」 into 「丑」

because knowing that it is almost always PRC and “Simplified Chinese” which did something bizarre, one can more easily pick out nonsense like this:


The above sentence is an incredibly sloppy machine conversion of the following "Simplified Chinese" sentence:


The correct interpretation of this sentence is


「羞」, classified as simultaneously compound-semantic and phono-semantic. Based on oracle bone script, 「羞」 depicts a hand 「手」 grasping a sheep 「羊」, representing the meaning to respectfully offer [something]. In small seal script, it is comprised of semantic 「羊」 and simultaneously semantic and phonetic 「丑」, where 「丑」 is a graphical corruption of 「手」. Original meaning: to respectfully offer [something].

This description is not quite right, because it muddles the description of character components; specifically, whoever wrote this mixed up the character 「手」 with the character 「又」, which are distinct. Although both 「手」 and 「又」 represent hands, characters point to distinct words which involve different sounds, and 「手」 (Baxter-Sagart OC: /*n̥uʔ/) is not etymologically related to 「又」 (/*[ɢ]ʷəʔ/, right hand, now written as 「右」).

Glyph origin of 「羞」

字形 參考資料

⿸羊又 2006
⿸羊又 洹子孟姜壺

⿸羊又 語書11
羞 有司53





「羞」 (/*s-nu/) was originally 「⿸羊又」, comprised of semantic 「羊」 (sheep) and semantic 「又」 (right hand > actions), indicating the meaining to respectfully offer [something].



「又」 was later slightly shape-changed into 「丑」 (/*[n̥]ruʔ/) to additionally give a sound hint.

Sheep were one of the most important livestock animals during the Shāng period, commonly kept in pens for sacrificial purposes and used as tributes and offerings. From 《甲骨文合集》32420:


戼(劉)...... 牢?/

Divination on the day of dīngmǎo, it is asked: "Shall the king offer up a ceremonial jade weapon, conduct a burning ritual with three penned sheep, and perform a slaughtering ritual......penned cattle?"

Glyph origin of 「丑」

字形 參考資料

丑 3.1
丑 作冊夨令簋
丑 同簋蓋

丑 日書乙種31
丑 僖卅二年


「丑」 depicts a hand 「又」 with long fingernails, indicating the original meaning clawed hand. This word is now more commonly written with the variant character 「爪」 (/*[ts]ˤuʔ/); the meaning second earthly branch (/*[n̥]ruʔ/) is a phonetic loan.

Glyph origin of 「醜」

字形 參考資料

醜 4.9.2
醜 侯馬盟書

醜 語書12
醜 譙敏碑

「醜」 (/*t.qʰuʔ/, ugly) is made up of semantic 「鬼」 (monster) and phonetic 「酉」 (/*N-ruʔ/).



害羞 (shy) is Mandarin

怕醜 (shy) is Cantonese

羞 is not simplified to 丑, the simplified character of 羞 is still 羞

I suspect 醜(ugly) was mistaken as 羞(shame/shy) by a Cantonese editor and simplified to 丑 (ugly/shame/shy) using the lower part of 羞. I meant whoever simplified 醜 to 丑 must have known/thought 羞 and 醜 contain the same meaning of 'shame' therefore, 丑 is a valid simplified character for 醜. and left the character 羞 not simplified

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