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So here we have 冫+咸 (or 氵+咸) = 减(減).

减(減) means something along the lines of reduce/subtract/decrease/diminish or what have you.

What has water got to do with this though?

Logically one would imagine 冫 (water) + 咸 (salty) = a reducing of flavor, thus giving reduce/subtract/etc.

ShuoWen: (說文解字):

損也從水咸聲

Chinese Etymology

Phonetic Signific, of water 氵水 - can pour out of - decrease

So what's the deal?

What's going on here?

  • My mnemonic is "Ice is decreased by salt". Can't say anything about the etymology though. – Roman Reiner Jul 17 '14 at 6:09
  • The origin of the word is the name of a river. Quote from 山海经: 減水出焉北流注于海其中多鱤魚. The meaning of 'reduction' is somehow derived from that but I have no idea why... It may be related to some natural attribute of the river. – user58955 Jul 17 '14 at 7:41
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    咸 is phonetic in both 減 and 鹹 ‘salty’ (where 鹵 is semantic). It's not water + salt, but water + [phonetic component]. Think of water running through sand or your hands, or from a basin with a hole in it, gradually diminishing and disappearing. Makes good enough sense to me, at least. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Jul 17 '14 at 21:17
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I think both "減" and "咸" exists in the ancient times, but for certain reasons scholars like to use "咸" in place of "減".

損也,從水,咸聲 == It has the same meaning as '損', water as glyph component, and the same pronunciation as '咸'.

In 管子·宙合, which was written before the early Han Dynasty, it says "左操五音,右執五味,懷繩與准鉤,多備規軸, 溜大成,是唯時德之節。 .... ,盡也。溜,發也。 ...."

  • Good, but what you talk about is in the ancient Chinese in BC, and the examples are almost unable to be understood by persons whose mothertongue is not Chinese. – XL _At_Here_There Jan 23 '18 at 10:53
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咸 doesn’t mean salty here.

The word “salty” in traditional Chinese is 鹹. The left component 鹵(lǔ) is pictographic for the halides (actually the halides carried by a pouch). And the right component 咸(xián) is phonetic in this case. So 鹹 pronounced xián.

From traditional to simplified, 鹹 omitted the left component to 咸 retaining the pronunciation. But this character means “all” originally.

减 is irrelevant with any flavor. It is “water” + “all”.

So, you can think about that the water flux takes off a part of all, such as a tiny piece of a big rock in the river. This is reduce/substrate/decrease/diminish.

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