Askers, including me, often seem to confuse the two terms, and understanding the distinction between the two is so critical to advanced study of Chinese characters and words.
The question can probably be answered to a satisfactory extent by just checking the relevant Wikipedia articles, and some other on-site resources. In particular I have read:
- Chinese Characters
- The tag wiki of glyph-origin, which was synthesized from some great answers throughout the site
- On-site answers that point to relevant resources, as — What's a good place to look up the etymology of certain Chinese words that aren't immediately obvious?, — Where to look for history and etymology of Chinese characters? For example 工, — What etymology dictionaries are available?
From the above, one could conclude that, roughly:
- etymology is about words
- glyph origin is about, well... glyphs, i.e. the graphical element(s) used to represent a particular word
However, there are a few aspects that complicate the matter for Chinese:
- words and glyphs often overlap
- knowing which one to ask for depends on already having knowledge about it.
For example, my understanding is that asking about etymology of loan characters is moot, since they are loans. In general, the distinction, and how to talk about one or the other, isn't completely clear to me, maybe because I lack formal education in this area.
So I would like to ask:
what's the difference between etymology and glyph origin?