Currently at the moment, I'm doing some research for the Dong Chinese's Chinese Character Wiki to fill in the entry for the character 咒 (zhòu; incantation, to curse (on somebody)), which is unverified and empty at the moment.

However though, the problem is I'm having with this character is I cannot find its origin from the many sources I've scrolled through since strangely enough, 咒 never had an entry on the classic 說文解字. Even when looking it up in 說文新證, 字源, 古文字譜系疏證 and 說文解字考正, it seemed the authors from their respective books never covered this character at all. (Unless if I skipped any pages!)

From what I've found out on my own research, 咒 seemed to be created from 呪, which has a few explanations on it's origins as shown below:

  • zi.tools: "Elder brother (兄) says (口) -> Imprecation"
  • Wiktionary: Seems to be phonosemantic compound composed of semantic and abbreviated sound component . (For comparison in Zhengzhang OC: 呪 = /*tjus/; 祝 = /*tjuɡ/)

And apparently according to the Outlier Linguistics Dictionary of Chinese Characters while explaining on 咒, it's composed of meaning component (two mouths) and a depiction of a person, which is now written as 几. Also what I've found when I looked this character up on 漢語多功能字庫, it states that it is derived from 祝, which I don't really get how 咒 was created from 祝, despite 呪 and 祝 both sharing the same component 兄.

I'm really stumped this time looking for the glyph origin for this character since there's not a lot to work with from the sources I'm finding. If anyone could, assisting me in finding the origin for this character, how are 咒 and 呪 related? How did the character got to what it looks like today? Is 祝 also related to 咒 since it was listed under 咒 as an alternative form on Wiktionary?

Some clarification for my research would be highly appreciated! :)

P.S. The ancient forms for 呪 did not help much with finding the origin for this character since only one appeared up on 小學堂 - 演變. For reference, this is the single oracle bone inscription that's available for this character: enter image description here

  • 1
    obvious to me, there is a person on his knees chanting
    – Tang Ho
    Jan 17 at 8:02
  • I know there is, thing is at first I was confused for a second whether or not 呪 was using the other 兄 character (the one that depicts a standing person with their mouth emphasized)
    – prismcool
    Jan 17 at 15:04

1 Answer 1


「咒」 comes from 「呪」, and these two characters are minor stroke variations of each other. 「呪」 is derived from 「祝」.






「祝」 (Baxter-Sagart OC: /*[t]uk/, to pray) is comprised of semantic 「」 (ancestral tablet > gods, religion) and a kneeling person 「」 with their mouth 「」 emphasised. 「卩」 was later corrupted into 「」, so the person no longer appears to be kneeling.

While 「祝」 is normally associated with pray for good fortune > blessings, note that to pray or to bless may be in the context of praying for or "blessing" misfortune/disaster to fall on someone, i.e. to curse. From the Book of Documents - Book of Zhōu:



God will no longer indulge him, but with a curse is sending down on him this ruin.

The curse meaning later became a separate word on its own (*[t]uk-s, see page 158 of Baxter-Sagart Old Chinese reconstruction, version 1.1), so 「祝」 and 「呪」 now represent words which are doublets. 「呪」 was created from 「祝」 (by replacing 「示」 with 「口」), and differentiated from 「祝」 in usage; the former is used more for curse, and the latter is used more for blessing.


This character is unlikely to be related to 「祝」 and 「呪」, because 「口」 simply doesn't look like that in oracle bone script. The only way to come up with this as 「呪」 is if you decide to do regular-script-transcription of this character using lìdìng by strokes, but lìdìng by strokes is not an exercise in decomposition by components that are relevant to the language—it is an exercise in shape preservation.

If you can't find 「呪」 in excavated texts or covered in palaeography books, that's likely because it's a much later invention. For instance, the Shuōwén doesn't have an entry for 「呪」 or 「咒」, and most palaeography books relevant to glyph origin cover pre-Hàn periods.


  • Ah, well that makes a lot of sense now why 祝 was listed as an alternative form on Wiktionary under 咒. I've just thought that 祝 was an abbreviated sound component in 咒.
    – prismcool
    Jan 17 at 15:09
  • 2
    @prismcool I made a few subtle mistakes previously - clarified some things and added more info. Hope I didn't mislead anyone.
    – dROOOze
    Jan 17 at 16:25
  • It's fine, I think you got everything down pretty well including why 咒/呪 wasn't present in the Shuowen Jiezi. Already added the entry for the character btw on the Chinese Character Wiki. :)
    – prismcool
    Jan 17 at 16:44

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