Questions tagged [etymology]

Questions about the origin and history of Chinese words.

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64 views

What is the origin of 火黑暗?

What is the origin of 火黑暗? According to wikipedia it comes from the Zangshu, "Book of Burial", but no where in that book (or anywhere else) can I find this supposed phrase: "Qi vapors in the fire, ...
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327 views

How did 綿蠻 come to mean “(the chirping of) a small bird”?

This word exists in Japanese as well as 綿蛮, but as far as I can tell the compound just carries the meaning of "cotton barbarian". I am completely stumped as to how this in any way means "a small bird" ...
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79 views

The origin of 勾 and 股 in The Pythagorean Theorem 勾股定理

The Chinese name for the Pythagorean Theorem is 勾股定理 Take a right angle triangle ABC Let side AB be the shortest side. Let AC be the second shortest side. BC is therefore the longest side and the ...
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159 views

What sickness was 瘦?

“Skinny” (瘦) is clearly written with a sickness radical (病字旁): 疒. Outlier, also, writes the following in its definition: FORM 瘦 shòu is composed of 叟 sǒu and 疒 “to be sick, not well,” pointing ...
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Dictionaries suggest 透 (tou) is pictophonetic where 秀 (xiu) provides the sound. Is this through a classical chinese pronunciation?

I have several resources and dictionaries that suggest the word 透 (tou) is pictophonetic where 辶 (chuo) suggests the meaning and 秀(xiu) provides the sound. This confuses me because 透 and 秀 do not seem ...
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357 views

What is the origin of 没 as an alternative to 不? [duplicate]

Why is the verb 有 negated by 没 instead of 不 ? Is there some historical reason or was it just a strange accident ?
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170 views

What “斗” refers to in “正斗”

The Cantonese term "正斗" means "great" or "of high quality" 正斗 an exclamation that sth is "great!" ~ 正斗 好,美,正牌,正規,地道,純正,漂亮,質量好 I can understand why 正(authentic) is used in "正斗" which ...
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98 views

Etymology behind the phrase 恭喜发财 (Kung Hei Fat Choy) and its usage during Chinese New Year?

Where did the phrase 恭喜发财 (Kung Hei Fat Choy) come from? And why is it so popularly used during Chinese New Year? I knew it was first popularised in Canton areas probably around 18~19th century. ...
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289 views

Why does anger has something to do with spleen in both Chinese and English?

The English word spleen has two meanings in Cambridge Advanced Learner's Dictionary, an organ near the stomach which produces and cleans the body's blood. a feeling of anger and disagreement. ...
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181 views

How do I find the rules used to create the simplified version of the characters?

OK, some of the characters we know come from the regularization of the cursive form, like the radical 言 became 讠, etc. But how do I find how some really weird characters came from, like 舊->旧, 靈->灵, 異->...
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How can I type 小篆characters that are not in the FANG ZHENG XIAO ZHUAN TI FONT?

By intalling the FANG ZHENG XIAO ZHUAN TI FONT I've been able to type 小篆 characters. However there are many chacters which don't change when the font is applied to them. For the more modern characters ...
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136 views

Is 邏輯 a phono-semantic matching of the English word logic?

Wiktionary has the following entry for the etymology of 邏輯: Phono-semantic matching of English logic. However, the Chinese Wikipedia entry states the following: 當代中文一般採取音譯方式,將其譯為邏輯。 Which ...
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Was the character 蹦 (in 蹦极 “bungee jumping”) designed to look like people bungee jumping?

I find myself fascinated by the character 蹦 in the word 蹦极 (meaning "bungee jumping"). It combines: the radical 足 (meaning "foot"), in the character 跳 meaning "jump"; the radical 山 meaning "...
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132 views

What is the glyph origin of 克?

I've looked around and one place says it's from the skin of an animal, another one says it's an axe striking a beast and another one says it's a battle helmet with an animal skin. So what's the story ...
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311 views

What is the Chinese origin of “kai shao”

I’ve seen people explain the custom of relatives and friends to introduce potential future partners, and referring to it in English as “kai shao”. What is the Chinese origin for this? The closest I ...
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156 views

Where did 𨷶 originate from?

I was looking up the Vietnamese word cửa hàng. Hàng Seems fairly straight forward as it used to be written with the Chinese character 行 and pronunciation is quite similar also. Cửa is not as simple; ...
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197 views

Etymology of glyph 袭 = dragon + clothes?

I am new here, recently discovered this site to learn more about glyph origins of certain characters. I often see this character 袭 when related to terrorist attacks in the news. 袭 means raid or ...
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154 views

察尔汗: Mongolian and Tibetan transcription into Chinese

Apologies that this is a bit off the main focus of the forum, but there aren't any Mongolian or Tibetan stacks yet. There are dozens to hundreds of Chinese sites repeating each other that Qarhan (察尔汗)...
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290 views

Meaning of the elements of 爵 (baron)

The 4 elements of this character are well known (claw/plectrum; net; north-east; short measurement), but I cannot see any connection between them that might result in the concept of 'baron'. Can ...
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191 views

兹 as a phonetic component

Wiktionary explains the two glyph origins of 「兹」 as the following: Unorthodox variant simplified from 茲 with 䒑 as the top component instead of 艹 found in the Ming dynasty orthographic dictionary ...
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298 views

Pronounciation of 腺

Quoting Wiktionary, the glyph origin of the character 「腺」 is as follows: A 国字 (kokuji, “Japanese-coined character”) coined in the late 1700s–early 1800s by rangaku scholar Udagawa Genshin as a ...
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231 views

Glyph origins of '進'

Motivation While writing my recent meta question, I've cited Dr. Gavin Chiu (趙善軒)'s article to explain the character '進' and its simplified character '井'. However, a user points out that the linked ...
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Etymology of foreign names translated to Chinese

I am looking for a resource that explains the translation of English names to Chinese. In this case i am trying to understand why Broadway is translated to 百老汇。 Anyone knows? Thanks in advance.
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Etymologies and relationship between the characters 錘, 槌, 鎚, and 椎

Wiktionary lists 錘, 槌, 鎚, and 椎 to all have the meaning of "hammer", but I'm not sure if that was the original meaning for any of those characters, and they all (or at least some) appear to have ...
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167 views

Logic of the word 上午 (shànɡwǔ, morning)

上午 apparently means "morning". But I don't understand the logic of this word for two reasons: 1) Isn't the meaning of 午 "noon"? 2) With the words 早上 (early morning) and 晚上 (evening) then 上 is the ...
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50 views

What is the 統 in 傳統?

The 傳 in 傳統 is easy to understand. Tradition is transmitted. As the dictionary(MOE) says: 世代相傳. But what about the 統?It has many meanings, including verbal ones. One (絲的頭緒) refers to the main ...
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315 views

How did 零 came to mean zero?

I understand that 零 originally meant rain, however for some reason it eventually became fragments then also zero. How did the meaning of this character shifted to become also fragments (rain drops, ...
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How did 鳥 end up a Kangxi radical but not 烏?

烏, wū, crow, 10 strokes, 灬 radical 鳥, niǎo, bird, 11 strokes, 鳥 radical All the way since at least seal script, 鳥 seems like just 烏 with an additional stroke. They both describe birds in one way or ...
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Why is proton called 质子 and charge called 电荷?

For instance, in medical terminology, we can tease out the meaning from the words. But I cannot tell why we use 质 for proton and 荷 for charge.
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When did the meaning of shi 是 shift from »this« (此) to being a copula (»be«)?

I know this question is somewhat unclear since the word shi 是 never only meant this, but carries (and has done so for a long time) several meanings. The Gu Hanyu da cidian (via Pleco) lists some of ...
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142 views

How old is the usage of the word 上帝?

The word 上帝 is associated by many with western religions. My question is, is there any occurrence of this word in ancient chinese writings or inscriptions?
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165 views

Pronounciation and etymology of 啱

I was reading the Wikipedia page on hypercorrection, and I noticed this particle section on Cantonese: In Cantonese, some speakers omit the initial [ŋ]. For instance, the character 牙 (Jyutping: ...
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397 views

Why is a “thing” called “东西” and not “南北”?

Why is a "thing" called "东西" and not "南北"?
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172 views

为什么 “也” 发音为 “ye” 但是 “他”发音为“ta”???

Oh great. I have to ask in English to get it past StackExchange filters. Characters with radicals typically have pronunciations close to the bare character. For example: "韦“ (wei) versus "伟“ (wei) or "...
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Why does 葛藤(갈등) mean 'conflict' or 'troubles'?

I am learning Korean, and my dictionary gives an English meaning for 葛藤(갈등) as 'conflict' or 'troubles'. Why do these characters combine do give this meaning? Both characters seem to mean some kind of ...
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264 views

What are the original Chinese characters for the Chinese family name Suening in the Philippines?

My late grandfather left Macau, China to the Philippine to find work around the year 1918-1920. In my dad's baptismal certificate, my grandfather carries the name Leo Suening. It's also common in the ...
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272 views

How did 子, meaning “child”, become a noun suffix?

It's really impressive how 子 [zi] is super productive as a noun suffix. But I can't see any relation of how the idea of "child" could turn into a suffix. Thanks!
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Is the Filipino word “buwisit” really from Hokkien?

I've read a couple of times the word being attributed to Hokkien. This wiktionary entry claims the same. I'm not convinced though.
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135 views

How did 孬 become pronounced “nāo”?

孬 is an interesting character. MDBG mentions that 孬 is a: (contraction of 不 and 好) From it's structure it is also quite clear that 孬 is a combination of 不 and 好. From an phonetic angle though nāo,...
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乘 vs 承 - are they related?

Just learnt a few verbs which use 乘 and 承 and was thinking that, not only do they look and sound mighty similar, but their ultimate meanings are both related to 'transfering' something. 乘 with ...
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Etymology/meaning of character 绍 and its relation to 介绍 [duplicate]

According to the dictionaries, the character 绍 means "to carry on, to continue". Looking at its etymology, I found nowhere saying nothing else from it being composed of silk (纟) and the sound 召 [zhao]....
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505 views

How did the abbreviations 520 and 521 arise?

This article explains that 520 = 我愛你 521 = 我願意 Many such abbreviations are somewhat intuitive from the mandarin pronunciation: 5918 = wu3jiu4yao1ba1 ~ 吾就要發 But I can see no connection between ...
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“Baby” vs “宝贝” - coincidence?

I am interested if the phonetic similarity between the English "baby" and the Chinese "宝贝" (baobei) is purely coincidental.
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106 views

Etymology of phrases 靜雞雞 and 靜靜雞. Are both correct, and is there any difference in meaning?

靜 means "quiet" and "雞" means "chicken". Put together as 靜雞雞 or 靜靜雞 the meaning is "quietly" or "steathily". What is the etymology of 靜雞雞 and 靜靜雞? I've heard both 靜雞雞 and 靜靜雞. Are both correct? Is ...
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110 views

How come 将 is a “future marker” and a “passive marker”?

Any good logical theories on the subject? What twisted life must have 将 took to merge such functions into one glyph? For my background 将 as 把(to take) and 将 as 且(further) are queit different in ...
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150 views

Why number 2 has two forms?

二 (èr) and 两 (liăng) I understand when to use which But I'm curious to know why, and correct me if I'm wrong, this is the only number that has 2 forms.
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260 views

What is the real etymology of “China”?

What is the current theory and has there been a reliable answer? The most celebrated theory that it derives from 秦 (Qin, as in the first dynasty, or the preceding state) I find a bit suspect. In ...
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196 views

Why doesn't 褱 sound like its phonetic etymon 眔?

What might explain this phonetic change, in Cantonese and Mandarin? Please educate me if there's a more fitting term than 'phonetic etymon'. Wiktionary avouches the same etymology as Yellowbridge:
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242 views

What is the etymology of 居然?

Usually X+然 has some kind of meaning related to X, especially archaic usage. However I do not see any relationship between 居 "to reside" and "unexpectedly". Are there any historical sources that ...
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311 views

Why is there the character 李 in 行李?

Pleco lists three meanings for the character 李: plum tree plum a surname None seem related to luggage!