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Questions tagged [etymology]

Questions about the origin and history of Chinese words.

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171 views

二 Mandarin pronunciation vs. other dialects and Japanese

Since I started learning Japanese a while ago, I always found the onyomi pronunciation of 二, being 'ni', unusual compared to the Mandarin pronunciation of 'èr'. The Old and Middle Chinese ...
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1answer
296 views

How come 星 (star) is used in 星期 (week)?

How come that the character 星 (star) is used in the word for week 星期? 期 means a period of time, but why is week "star"?
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1answer
95 views

Which is the correct glyph origin of 入

I find 2 very different glyph origins for 入 It shows the roots of a plant entering the ground. It is a picture of an open tent or tent door. Which is correct?
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3answers
122 views

Does 来 show fruit on a tree or ripening corn?

I find two different explanations for 来, 1. it is a picture of fruit on a tree. 2. It represents ripening corn. Either way It is a neat symbol for what is coming. Which do you think is correct?
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5answers
312 views

Why is New York called 紐約?

New York (state and city) is called 紐約 (Niǔ​yuē). Of course that sounds very much like the English "New York", but how come it's written with 紐 and 約? When I look up the characters I get: 紐 knot; ...
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4answers
451 views

认识 vs 知道 based on glyph origins

I'm trying to understand what 识 means and why 认识 is different from 知道. As far as I was able to gather the information on 戠 is a depiction of an armed group of people which, while in battle, should be ...
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1answer
257 views

Why is there a special pronunciation of 论 just for 论语?

The character 论 has pinyin lùn for all uses except in 论语 where it is lún. Is there some known historical reason for this change in pronunciation?
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3answers
675 views

Examples of “bad” simplified characters/简体字?

In particular, there should be many examples of 形声字 ("phono-semantic compound characters") which were "damaged" by simplification. I am interested especially in characters where a 声旁 ("phonetic") or ...
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3answers
374 views

In ancient China, was there an equivalent of pinyin?

The question is the title. Considering pinyin is in romanised form, did the ancient Chinese have pinyin to help them learn characters, or did they just have to repeat them hundreds of times to help ...
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2answers
160 views

What's the meaning/reason for sudden influx in usage of English word “word” in Chinese?

I just got a push notification: word天! ..... and it's not the first I've gotten with the English word "word" in it. Here's a quick baidu: 焦点资讯 新闻| Word天,这款润滑油要逆天! 1小时前 搜狐汽车 ...
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7answers
2k views

Where to look for history and etymology of Chinese characters? For example 工

Is there a website where I can look for history and etymology of Chinese characters? For example 工. It can be a Chinese website (I am VERY new to Chinese). But better in English. Please also drop ...
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2answers
179 views

What is the origin of the character “糬” seeminly only used in “麻糬” to translate a Japanese word which doesn't use either character?

I was just given some mochi by a Taiwanese host in Kaohsiung. So I decided to look up the local word and found "麻糬" máshǔ. It's a transliteration of Japanese "mochi", which is written 餅 in that ...
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3answers
148 views

Where does the word 完美 come from?

I suspect it comes from "又做完了,又做得美丽," since that would make some sense. Is it something along these lines?
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2answers
312 views

What is the purpose of the 賣 (卖) component in the character 讀 (读)?

Most sources I can find say that 讀 (读) is a phonosemantic compound (形聲), where 言 is the semantic component and 賣 is the phonetic component. However, the pronunciation of 賣 (mài) does not resemble 讀 (...
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2answers
374 views

Meaning of the name Didi Chuxing/滴滴出行?

Apparently the successful taxi app 滴滴出行 was originally called 嘀嘀打车. What is the meaning of 嘀嘀 here and why was it considered acceptable to change 嘀嘀 to 滴滴?
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3answers
324 views

Should 屋 and 居 use radical 户 instead of 尸?

户 means home. So these examples are not suprising: 房 fáng (house), 扁 biǎn (flat), 扇 shàn (fan [mostly used indoor]), 扉 fēi (door) 尸 means corpse, and it looks like it refers to tail or something ...
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4answers
1k views

Why do some Chinese characters for animals not use the radical 犭?

why some Chinese words don't use the rule of prefix?
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3answers
151 views

What is the difference between 交易就告成立. and 交易即告成立.?

What is the difference between 交易就告成立. and 交易即告成立.? The catch: Since every book says that 就=即 I considered to create a new sentence out 交易即告成立 by switchin characters.There is no instance of 交易就告成立 ...
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5answers
3k views

Why is Russia translated to 俄罗斯(E Luo Si)?

The Chinese Wikipedia article describes the name of Russia, and many of its historical Chinese exonyms. 按照俄语发音“Россия”,其名称应翻译为“羅西亚”。元朝时根据蒙古语译为「斡羅思」[b],到清朝初年许多文献中曾称为「羅剎」[c],但在以国家相称时则多译为「鄂羅斯」[d]或「...
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4answers
380 views

Do native speakers think about compound words as “东西”?

Something that interests me from a linguistic/neurological point of view: Do Chinese native speakers actually thinkg about the parts of compound words that have a completely different meaning from ...
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6answers
503 views

A unified theory of 就 meaning

就 always bothered me. I couldn't (and maybe still can't) get a hold of its meaning. By looking at many examples of the usage I came to realization that 就 marks a process of becoming a subject to or ...
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2answers
82 views

Is there any compilation/resources/dictionaries on the transformations of how simplified characters came to be?

I had the same question as the OP of What is the story or reason of how 龙 came from 龍? and I like visuals given by Stan. The hardest part for me in Chinese is remembering the strokes of these ...
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3answers
493 views

Where did the phrase, 太牛了 come from?

Where did the phrase, 太牛了 come from? I'm guessing it doesn't have anything to do with cows...
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2answers
322 views

What is the origin of the character 对/對?

I've been studying the etymology of characters lately, and I'm stuck trying to figure out how 对/對 is formed. It is apparently a compound of 丵 (zhuó; grass, bush) and 寸 (cùn; inch, thumb), plus an ...
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3answers
110 views

Connotations of different “to give”

Can natives and other knowledgeable people share their ideas on how to differentiate between many "to give" verbs? The list is not complete. Anyone is welcome to add their "gives" in it. 施 - Glyph ...
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3answers
173 views

Can anyone suggest glyph origin of 施?

Does anyone has a good model of the origin of 施? As far as I know the common ground in deciphering this character is: On the left - flag pole. On top - flag cloth. On the right-bottom - snake or, ...
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2answers
83 views

Glyph origin or any mnemonic for 況 and 状?

Does any one have good glyph origin theory about those HanZi? My take: 状 - fence + dog inside ~ then this mutated to a "situation or disposition" meaning. 状 - remnant of 壮 + dog = huge dog. how ...
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2answers
191 views

What's the meaning of “神” in “神经”?

I am a high school student who are curious with psychology. When I read the section on neuron, I find that the Chinese translation below is "神经". I am very enthusiastic about it because it seems ...
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1answer
2k views

Is there any relation between the Cyrillic Ш (sha) and the Chinese 山 (shān)?

Maybe I'm reading too much into this, but the Cyrillic Ш/ш (sha) looks like the Chinese 山 (shān) and have similarity in pronunciation. Is there any actual relation between the two?
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4answers
798 views

Meaning and etymology of the expression “棒棒的!”

Someone wrote to me "两个月就写这么好,棒棒的!" I get the first part (though I don't think it's true - 哪里哪里 ;-)), but what exactly does that "appendix" stand for? I interpreted it as a kind of "clapping one's ...
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3answers
167 views

How does '一勿' Compound to mean sundial?

Etymology [of 腸] Ideogrammic compound (會意): 日 ‎(“sun”) + 一 + 勿   The rays of the sun. [ From chineseetymology.org: ] Primitive pictograph 昜. From sun日 (rays) on a sun dial (一勿). Meaning ...
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1answer
133 views

What are the etymologies of 局 and 局面?

As far as I know 局 applies to everything which demands crooking ones body. A job behind a desk almost always means you are sitting with your back bent: A small office is 局, a chess game is 局, a game ...
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2answers
164 views

Enigma of 討厭. Why does it mean “to hate”?

As far as I know 寸 is a depiction of a finger pointing at a wrist where one’s pulse was taken. The distance between a hand and that point is small, so this portion signified a little… So IMHO ...
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1answer
131 views

Why 批 means “criticize” and “a batch” at the same time?

Is there a story to this mutation of meaning? Or is this shift of semantics connected to phonetic considerations only?
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1answer
103 views

Why 就范 means “to give in”?

What is etymology of this word? As far as I know 就 means: to start or to enter which sometimes is being interpreted as to take some thing (to enter a position of ...) So I just can't see why "...
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2answers
187 views

What semantic field underlies 經?

[ Wiktionary : ] 經 [...] classic works, scripture, canon pass through warp (as in "warp and weft") (Chinese medicine) energy channels of the body (geography) longitude manage, deal/...
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1answer
110 views

Origin of 天气 (weather)?

What's the origin of 天气? 天, I'm willing to bet is 老天爷; with phrase like 天公不作美 (天公 = 老天爷) and even the government claiming that: 老天爷为何这么给“面子” 专家细解阅兵前后降雨成因 It seems that the idea that 老天爷 is in ...
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2answers
164 views

How does 海报 became “a poster”?

I was reading an article in some chinsese newspapare and saw a line 因为偷了一张题写着政治标语的海报 Why the Hell Ocean + Official Report means "a poster"? p.s. has it something to do with a postage stamp? You ...
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3answers
160 views

How does 行 evolved to mean industry?

I was interested in differentiatig between different usages of obj+业,for example: 企业,商业... and there it was - 行业. So the question is "why 行 means industry and does it have something to do with it's "...
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1answer
190 views

乒 and 乓 characters are together a pictographic group? [duplicate]

倪阔乐 pointed in his answer, 乒 and 乓 have onomatopoeic use and these characters were "chosen for the sound playing the game makes" and it's a Great explanation but.... When I see 乒乓 together I see the ...
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3answers
547 views

Why is 儿 in different positions in “儿子” and “女儿”?

儿 [Er] child 儿子 [Érzi] son 女儿 [Nǚ'ér] daughter So, why is 儿 in different positions in each word but they are both valid?
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1answer
124 views

Does 告 posess negative connotation?

There was a discussion about different "talk" words in chinese. Here is the link: Roots of the difference between 谈,论,说,讲,议, 叙,言,报,告,述 And there was an explanation of 告. 告 (gao4) consists of ...
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2answers
531 views

Roots of the difference between 谈,论,说,讲,议, 叙,言,报,告,述

All those talk, discuss, chat and ect. In any language there are a lot of words expressing different connotation of people speaking. In my own language (russian) there are lot's of them BUT I can ...
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2answers
184 views

Has 管理 something to do with plumbing? If so then

Has "管理 = manage" something to do with plumbing, making pipes or taking care of them? As far as I know 管 is a measure word for tube-shaped objects. So my logic suggest that 管理 is an meaning-extension ...
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2answers
136 views

Does 声 exist as a traditional character?

I see that 声 has an entry in the Kangxi dictionary, but every site seems to define 声 as a simplification of 聲. Does 声 also exist as a traditional character? If not, then what's the glyph origin behind ...
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606 views

Why is the character 漢 built in such a weird way?

漢 is the character meaning "China" or "Sino-". It supposedly ultimately derives from the name of the river Han. I understand why the water radical is present there, but I have no idea why the ...
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1answer
201 views

Why does 節 mean both “festival” and “to save, to control”?

why does a "bamboo joint" (as etymology suggests) mean: "control / to restrict / to curtail / to economize" and at the same time "festival / holiday"? I'll post partial a answer from the link ...
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1answer
447 views

Why does 息 mean news?

Why does 息 mean news? The chraracter's etymology suggest it means "rest" - "From nose indicating breath and also phonetic 自 and heart or chest 心. Meaning to rest." Source: http://chineseetymology....
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1answer
103 views

Does anyone know origins of 万一?

Does anyone knows how 万一 became a phrase with "just in case" meaning? Is it a shorthand of a longer phrase or chengyu?
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2answers
123 views

What can we make of the name 九儿?

Two questions about the childhood name of the pivotal character in Mo Yan's Red Sorghum Clan: Her childhood name was 九儿. Does this suggest she was one of (at least) nine children? I do not recall ...