Questions tagged [etymology]

Questions about the origin and history of Chinese words. Use [glyph-origin] for the origin of characters.

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What is the origin of the word 鬻?

The word 鬻 (yù) appears to originate as a joint pictogram from: 粥 depicting the rice and two whirls of steam on the sides 鬲 (pronounced lì?) a cooking vessel Later 粥 alone came in use to express the ...
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Etymology of 制 zhì = make, manufacture

What is the etymology of 制? how the meaning is evolved to Make, manufacture? Ox + hand kerchief + knife becomes Make or Manufacture?
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Any mnemonic for 摔 shuāi = fall & etymology for 率

The word 摔 means fall: 摔 shuāi to fall, tumble, lose one’s balance Generally the fall action comes with leg, although hand also related. any mnemonic or story to remember this? Gugg had given good ...
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What is a “sound loan”?

I am going through Outlier dictionary for character 求: 求 depicts a centipede or millipede, indicating the original meaning “myriapod (a type of insect with a lot of legs).” It was borrowed for its ...
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Understanding glyph origin of 勤 better

I have the following etymology from Outlier Dictionary of Chinese Characters: 勤 qín is composed of 堇 jǐn “a type of ancient punishment in which fire was used to dry a person out” and 力 “force, power, ...
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Glyph origin for 㐆 and Mnemonic for 殷

Came across through the word 殷勤. could you please help with Glyph origin for : 㐆yǐn to follow, to trust to, to put confidence in, to depend on, to turn around Any any mnemonic to remember this? 殷 yīn ...
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Glyph origin or any mnemonic for 蕴?

I failed to remember the meaning for the word 蕴含 yùnhán. Is any mnemonic or story or etymological hints to remember 蕴?
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Etymology of 奇 and 怪

I am going through the word 奇. Mandarin Temple had mentioned, learning hint as “a person riding a horse”. Is this only learning hint? Or is it also etymologically correct? What is the exact etymology ...
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Retention of 其 as a modal particle in modern Chinese

There is a recent Chinese Stack Exchange question on the significance of 其 in 尤其, given the meaning of the word is largely contributed by 尤. I am quite confident that some of the answers in the thread ...
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不自量力 can this be used to under estimate one’s capabilities also?

I understand the meaning of 量 is measure, estimate. But how the capacity also was the meaning? any background, etymology? 量 liàng measure, estimate, capacity, quantity 不自量力 bùzìliànglì not have a ...
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In “一网打尽” what does 尽 mean?

一网打尽 yīwǎngdǎjìn lit. to catch everything in the one net. In this sentence what does 尽 means? how to easily remember the meaning by seeing the character without wild guess and imagining etymological ...
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Why doesn't 虛 contradict 謙虛?

Definition D for 虛 lists "vainly". Unquestionably, "vainly" is the opposite of "modesty". And "modesty" implies that you possess something valuable, like ...
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Why's 言 the semantic component of 謙?

I don't understand how 言 ("to say"; "speech", "words") relates to modesty. Language, speech, words can be used to boast, exaggerate, and lie! Above is Yellowbridge. ...
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Why's 氵(“water”) 澀's semantic component?

I don't understand how 氵 (“water”) relates to any of 澀's 2021 meanings below. Definition 1 : How's water "rough"? Definition 2 : Potable water doesn't taste "astringent; acerbic; tart&...
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In 淘, how does its semantic component 氵appertain to 'naughty'?

淘's semantic compound is 氵 (“water”). But how does "water" relate to "naughty; mischievous"? Above is Yellowbridge. Below is CUHK.
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How does 翻's 2021 meanings appertain to 羽?

I don't understand how 羽 (wings) relate to the 8 definitions of 翻 below. What's the semantic field of 翻? How does 羽 (wings) relate to 翻's semantic field? Above is Yellowbridge. Below is Oxford ...
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How does 雅's 2021 meanings appertain to 隹?

I don't understand how 隹 relates to definitions A-C below. Definition A.1. Are short-tailed birds standard in China? I'm no ornithologist. Definition A.2. Again, I don't deal with birds. I'm ...
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How does 添's 2021 meanings appertain to its semantic component 水?

This feels like the opposite of 减/減 (Reduce/Subtract/Decrease/Diminish): What's it got to do with water?. I read 演 = 氵+ 寅 but what's it got to do with water!? How did it get its modern ...
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How does 驕's 2021 meanings appertain to its semantic component 馬?

I know little about horses. Did the Chinese think horses were arrogant? Why? Above is Yellowbridge above. Below is Oxford Chinese Dictionary (2010) p 365.
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How does 雜's 2021 meanings appertain to its semantic component 衣?

I screenshot Yellowbridge. If I had to guess, is the etymology related to the fact that clothing can be mixed or piled up?
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Why does 項 signify both 'item' and 'neck'?

I hope it's obvious why, but I don't think of "necks" as items. I can't imagine "neck" as as part of a "list, collection or set." Why? Because I'm not trying to separate ...
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Etymology of 于 and transformation to in, on, at, go to

Two possibilities for the object of representation 于 are: Pictogram (象形). An ancient wind instrument; early form of 竽 (OC *ɢʷa). This view is supported by mainstream palaeography. Exhaled air; early ...
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etymology of 友, 犮

I am confused at these two characters some times. Could you please let me know etymology of these 2 characters? and advise any further analysis. Thanks 友 yǒu friend 犮 bá to pull up
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How do 陷, 阱 appertain to their semantic component 𨸏 (阝 as left radical)?

I can't find 阜 in the Oxford Chinese Dictionary. Wiktionary 1.† mound 2.† abundant How do 陷 and 阱 (trap) relate to "mound" or "abundant"? Yellowbridge for 陷. Yellowbridge for 阱.
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How do 尤's 2021 meanings appertain to 尢?

I can't read Chinese, and don't understand CUHK. How does 尢 († lame; crippled) relate to 尤 (especially, particularly)? Yellowbridge.
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Mnemonic or technique to remember 咅 ,部, 陪

I want to remember 咅 pǒu and all the dependent words on 咅. Could you please let me know what is the correct way/ think process? What technique are you using to remember the meaning forever? This is my ...
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How does 稱's 2021 meanings appertain to its semantic component 禾?

CUHK doesn't expound the semantic shift from 禾. I underlined definition 4 below in green, because I know that rice and grains may need to be weighed. But I don't understand how definition 4 relates ...
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What's the difference between a han character and a chinese character?

I was looking for the definitions of 夬 which appears in several languages (4 languages at least apparently) and there is an entry with definitions for it as "Han character" (where one of its ...
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Why west and wine vessel/10 th terrestrial branch are similar?

西 xī west 酉 yǒu a wine vessel, 10 th terrestrial branch Which word is first invented? Why these 2 are similar with a small line as an addition? Thanks
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what exact image is the basis for the 圭?

The Hanzi meaning for 圭 guī = (old) jade tablet (a ceremonial badge of rank) I checked the images, not sure based on what jade tablet 圭 is drawn, can any one point to the correct image? Thanks
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Etymology of 策, 朿

What is the etymology of 策 and 朿 ? As per dictionary the meanings are as below: 朿 cì stab 策 cè policy, plan, scheme, bamboo slip for writing(old), to whip (a horse), to encourage, upward horizontal ...
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Why is the Proto-Sino-Tibetan word for “eight” reconstructed as “triat”, when in nearly all Sino-Tibetan languages it begins with either 'p' or 'b'?

Here the Proto-Sino-Tibetan for eight is reconstructed as *t-r'iat, but no explanation is given as to why.
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Etymology of 此 cǐ this, these?

What is the etymology of cǐ ? How this character means those, these?
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Criteria of making an acceptable word/character in Chinese

In the English language, the dictionaries are updated yearly to include new words and modifications of current spellings that have been accepted due to common usage. For example, the internet age saw ...
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how “from” and “since” meanings originated for 自

I am going through the word: 自幼 zìyòu since childhood 自 zì self, oneself, from, since, naturally, surely; private, personal Understand 自 originally a nose symbol. how the meanings “from” and “since” ...
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How did 中風 become “suffering a stroke”?

I have learned the Chinese names of some common ailments and they are surprisingly very descriptive and intuitive once you know the meanings of the individual characters. For example: 糖尿病,高血壓,心律失常. ...
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What is the etymology of 斥

Learning the word 斥 chì to blame,to reprimand, to expel, (of territory) to expand. What is the etymology and how it is to blame?
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How do (did) you remember the meaning for 迫(廹)?

迫 = coerce, force, compel; urgent how you learnt ?
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Do 形声 words have an approximate or historical phonetic part?

There are many examples of 形声 compounds that have a phonetic component that does not match the pronunciation of the word. Some examples are the 鬼 in 愧, the 其 in 基, or the 白 in 泊. Are these ...
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Why 怕 is afraid or fear?

Learning this word 怕 which is heart and bright. It means bright and blemishless heart like Brave Heart. Why this is fear heart?
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Four-character idioms that contain an allusive pair

I am interested in finding some examples of four-character idioms that contain exactly a pair of allusions, different in source but similar in nature, that were often compiled by a specific literary ...
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Glyph origin of 录. Is the original form 禄, 録, or 剥?

Did 录 or 彔 look like some wooden object being carved? Was it originally a knife chipping something which became 録 as in recording events on a wooden object? It also seems to resemble a knife stripping ...
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Which came first? Chinese 蘑菇 or Mongolian мөөг?

Wiktionary isn't certain whether the Chinese 蘑菇 (mógū) is a loanword from Mongolian мөөг (möög) or vice-versa. Both mean "mushroom" and are pronounced very similarly so there's clearly some ...
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Differences: 信息 vs 讯息?

What are the differences between: 信息 vs 讯息? Perhaps 信 is more related to the mailing? Perhaps 讯 is more related to the information? Perhaps 息 is related to the breathing?
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Etymology of 太太

I just finished the movie "Raise the Red Lantern" 【大红灯笼高高挂】with my girlfriend, and she asked me about the etymology of "太太” as lady, wife, mistress, etc. Given the rather simple nature ...
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What does 「產」 in 「資產」 actually mean?

This question stems from some thoughts I've been having while reading Robert Kiyosaki's "Rich Dad Poor Dad". In the book, Kiyosaki defines "asset" as something that puts money in ...
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Is there any sun 日 in 昌?

I've been seeing conflicting explanations for this character 昌. Some sources say it comprised of two suns 日, some sources say it comprises of sun and speak 日 meaning flourish, though I don't really ...
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Why does 身体 mean both “body” and “health”?

I've seen a curious Chinese word 身体. At first, I have discovered that it means 'body' and is a word with a broader meaning in comparison to 身材 or 体格. But I never understood why it means 'body' or, yet ...
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What is the etymology of the word nǚ (woman) and is it related to Proto-Uralic *niŋä (woman)?

There are many Chinese etymology dictionaries available in English which focus on the origin of the characters. I haven't been able to locate one on-line which provides information on the etymology ...
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How did 客气 come to mean “polite”? [duplicate]

The literal meaning of 客气 would seem to be something like "air guest." How did that transform into "polite"? And is there a resource I can turn to to find out such things?

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