I was looking up the character 去。

The old forms, 厺 㚎 show a person standing and underneath either 厶, an old form of 私, private, personal or 凵, a receptacle.

I know nothing of the toilet habits of the ancient Chinese. I presume they did not have elaborately built toilets in their houses and mostly just went outside behind a bush.

Is it remotely possible that 去 originally meant "go to the toilet'?

  • This is an interesting guess which may have merit to explore, but a guess is a guess, can you relate "人" (person) and "入" (enter) to their meaning in the same manner? If you can, I would like to know about it.
    – r13
    Jul 3, 2021 at 20:18
  • If you ask a similar question about English words etymology like this, you wil be banned permanently.
    – Spin Lee
    Jul 4, 2021 at 15:59

2 Answers 2


I believe its original meaning is not "go to the toilet".

Oracle bone script (甲骨文) is the earliest known form of Chinese writing, and many characters we use now are originated from it. Therefore 甲骨文 can be used to determine a character's original meaning.

The picture below is the 甲骨文 for :

enter image description here

As you can see, the upper part of 去 is , and the bottom part is : enter image description here enter image description here

is the pictogram of a person spreading arms. can be understand as "something's mouth" (example: 瓶口). The original meaning of 去 is most likely just "go away" since the 甲骨文 shows a person leaving the cave entrance (洞口).

A picture showing the evolution of the character: enter image description here


甲骨文 for 屎 (feces): enter image description here 甲骨文 for 尿 (urine): enter image description here

These two pictures may also explain why 去 is not "go to the toilet", because there are already characters to express the same meaning.

  • You don't think they left the cave to defaecate? The cave would get very smelly, the brutish men might accept it, but I'm sure the women would complain bitterly!
    – Pedroski
    Jul 2, 2021 at 7:46
  • @Pedroski I don't think ancient people would make characters tactfully like that; their characters simply express the "literal meaning" (what happened on their "drawings").
    – Alan Zzz
    Jul 2, 2021 at 23:58
  • OK, it was just a thought! I never meant 去 was defaecate. If you "go to the toilet" you still "go" somewhere, that's how I meant it. Thanks for your reply!
    – Pedroski
    Jul 3, 2021 at 0:32
  • I have corrected that. Your idea is also reasonable because that's how ancients create characters!
    – Alan Zzz
    Jul 3, 2021 at 0:42

去 means "leave", not “go to” in ancient Chinese language, and absolutely has no relationship with the toilet.

I get hurt by your understanding. Ancient Chinese were highly civilized.

  • I guess you meant (離)去 = leave; (前)往 = go to
    – Tang Ho
    Jul 3, 2021 at 14:36
  • 1
    No need to abuse the OP because you disagree with them. Jul 3, 2021 at 15:21

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