Questions tagged [etymology]

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

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342 views

How did lotus come to mean hold or carry?

Reading a little about 'dark matter': 暗物质是宇宙的重要组成部分,它是一种比电子和光子还要小的物质,不带电荷, .... I read: 不带电荷:doesn't carry an electric lotus! (Maybe that's why it's dark!!) 电荷: electrical charge, literally probably: ...
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336 views

Origin of double phonetic component 静

静 is another character that has confused me. 青 (green/blue) doesn't seem to be related to quietness or stillness, unless the colors are supposed to represent quietness? 争 (fight) certainly is not ...
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257 views

校 - How did “leg-brace” come to mean “school”?

When learning Chinese characters using radicals, this character 校 always seem to puzzle me. I've always known 校 to be school, but the "wood" radical never made any sense to me. What does ...
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1answer
68 views

What semantic field underlies 傾?

ABC Chinese–English Comprehensive Dictionary (2003). I can't access the "slightly revised through July 2005" ed. p 726. Definitions 1, 3 don't fit the others. CUHK doesn't expound what ...
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1answer
101 views

How does 即 + 使 compound to mean “even”?

Cambridge translates 'even' as 即使, as can be substantiated on ZDIC.net. But what semantic notions underlie 即, 使 with "even"? ABC Chinese–English Comprehensive Dictionary (2003). I can't ...
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1answer
63 views

How did 甚 + 至 compound to mean “even”?

Collins translates 'even' as 甚至, as can be substantiated on ZDIC.net. But what semantic notions underlie 甚, 至 with "even"? ABC Chinese–English Comprehensive Dictionary (2003). I can't ...
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3answers
83 views

How did 所以 semantically shift from “what one uses” to mean “consequently”?

Can someone please expound the semantic shift below, step-by-step? Wiktionary is too brusque. Prefix attached to verbs to form noun phrases, indicating the patient of the verb, similar to a passive ...
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56 views

How can 敷衍 signify both 'perfunctory' and 'expound'?

ABC Chinese–English Comprehensive Dictionary (2003). I can't access the "slightly revised through July 2005" ed. p 278. Zdic.net annunciates the same meanings. Doubtless, "perfunctory&...
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52 views

What semantic notions underlie 草 (grass) with 拈花惹草 (philandering)?

How does grass semantically shift to involve womanizing? I know that women have been metaphorized as flowers, but not grass? Wiktionary. 拈花惹草的解释 lit. to pick the flowers and trample the grass (idiom)​...
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70 views

Why was 異 (uncommon; to distinguish) adopted to mean the chemistry prefix of iso- (equal)?

Doubtless the non-chemical meanings of 異 are the polar opposite of iso- in chemistry, as in isomers. Taiwan's National Academy of Education Research and Wiktionary blazon this meaning. CUHK and ZDIC ...
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83 views

What semantic notions underlie 氵(left radcial for water) with 沮 (to prevent; to ruin; disheartened)?

Is weeping the underlying semantic notion? Doubtless weeping involves water (tears), and usually follows gloom. Unusually CUHK blazons no etymology. Yellowbridge.
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33 views

How did 搭 + 訕 compound to mean 'strike up a conversation' or 'reply evasively'?

ABC Chinese–English Comprehensive Dictionary (2003). I can't access the "slightly revised through July 2005" ed. The 搭 in 搭訕 doesn't make sense to me. 搭 doesn't mean 'strike up' or 'reply'. ...
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27 views

What semantic notions underlie 扌(left radical for hand) with 擾 (to disturb)?

CUHK doesn't expound the semantic shift. Synopsis  : 金文從「卤」從「頁」。「卤」是「卣」字的形訛,「卣」是古代裝水、酒的青銅器,象人雙手捧「卣」之形。「卣」亦是聲符。「卣」、「擾」、「柔」古音相近,同屬幽部。從「卤」從「頁」之字形,孫詒讓認為是「擾」的異文。 Elaboration: 金文通讀作「柔」,表示安撫,番生簋:「擾遠能𤞷(邇)」。《...
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35 views

How does 飄 + 然 compound to mean 'floating in the air'?

ABC Chinese–English Comprehensive Dictionary (2003). I can't access the "slightly revised through July 2005" ed. Neither 飄 nor 然 mean 'air'. One can drift or float in water, or mentally in ...
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87 views

What semantic notions underlie 女 (woman) with 妖 (goblin, fradulent, gorgeous)?

p 1122, ABC Chinese–English Comprehensive Dictionary (2003). I can't access the "slightly revised through July 2005" ed. CUHK doesn't expound. I quote Yellowbridge. Did misogyny or foot ...
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41 views

How does 儘 + 管 compound to mean "despite”?

despite's "prepositional sense "notwithstanding" (early 15c.) is short for in despite of "in defiance or contempt of" (c. 1300), a loan-translation of Anglo-French en despit ...
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53 views

How does 除 + 非 compound to mean “except if”?

Collins translates "unless" as 除非, and Cambridge English-Chinese Dictionary synonymizes "unless" to "except if" before translating it. I'll focus on the Cambridge's ...
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53 views

How does 唔 + 通 compound to mean the rhetorical question of “is it possible that”?

I can't find 唔通 in ABC Chinese–English Comprehensive Dictionary (2003), probably for it's Cantonese. 唔通 (m4 tung1 | ) : could it be that ...? - CantoDict 唔  m4  -  not; no 通  tung1  -  through; ...
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What semantic field underlies 尚?

ABC Chinese–English Comprehensive Dictionary (2003), p 799. I can't access the "slightly revised through July 2005" ed. CUHK doesn't expound what semantic notions underlie all 4 definitions,...
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1answer
120 views

What semantic notions underlie 人 (person) and 僅 (solely)?

CUHK and Yellowbridge don't expound the semantic shift. I'm especially addled by the shift in lexical categories too, from a noun to an adverb. Synopsis  : 從「人」,「堇」聲,用作副詞,表示才、只。 Elaboration: 從「人」,「堇」...
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139 views

How did 爽 (an elephant holding 2 weapons under each armpit), semantically shift to mean aglow, gleaming; “frank”?

p 865, ABC Chinese–English Comprehensive Dictionary (2003). I can't access the "slightly revised through July 2005" ed. I Google-translated CUHK's etymology, but what semantic notions ...
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37 views

What semantic notions underlie wickedness (歹) with disparate, distinctive (殊)? [duplicate]

p 158, ABC Chinese–English Comprehensive Dictionary (2003). I can't access the "slightly revised through July 2005" ed. CUHK's etymology is too brusque. p 863, op. cit. I screenshot ...
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23 views

What semantic field underlies 治?

p 1263, ABC Chinese–English Comprehensive Dictionary (2003). I can't access the "slightly revised through July 2005" ed. CUHK doesn't expound what semantic notions underlie all 7 ...
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1answer
68 views

What semantic notions underlie 遮 (obstruction) with 辶 (walking)?

CUHK doesn't proffer an etymology. I quote Yellowbridge. How are my two guesses? Was Ancient China so lawless and unruly that you needed to shield yourself, even when just sauntering? Did Ancient ...
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22 views

How did 靦腆 compound to mean shy, bashful?

Neither of 靦腆's components semantically appertains to bashfulness. p 924, ABC Chinese–English Comprehensive Dictionary (2003). I can't access the "slightly revised through July 2005" ed. ...
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60 views

For 實, what semantic notions underlie wealth and fullness of heart, with trueness?

I can't read Chinese, but if Google Translate is correct, CUHK blazons 2 etymologies for 實: Synopsis : 金文「實」字會屋內充滿貝、玉等寶物之意,本義是富實、富足。 [1.] Elaboration: 西周散氏盤銘文「實」字從「宀」從「周」從「貝」,「周」為「琱」的象形,指琱琢之玉,...
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47 views

What semantic notions underlie “righteousness, uprightness” (義) with “appearance; apparatus” (儀)?

"Appearances can be deceiving", and instruments have been used for torture. So how did 義 semantically shift to mean definitions 1-4 below? p 1134, ABC Chinese–English Comprehensive ...
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118 views

Why's flesh (⺼ ) the semantic component for 肩, 脖?

I know that 脖 (neck) and 肩 (shoulder) contains flesh, but they aren't the fleshiest, most sarcous or adipose, unlike the butt. If CUHK is proclaiming that 肩 resembles a shoulder, I can't see the ...
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36 views

For 敨, what semantic notions underlie 'rap, tap' with 'to open; to unravel; to breathe; to rest'?

Doubtless, humans must open or unravel their mouths to breathe. But how does unrolling or untying semantically relate to resting? How did 攴 ('rap, tap') semantically shift to mean these definitions? ...
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54 views

How did 索性 get translated as “you might as well (do it)”

I'm curious as to how 索性 came to be translated as "you might as well (do it)" 索性: 直截了当,干脆 索性:任性 索 apparently has English meanings of: large rope, cable; rules, laws; to demand, to exact; ...
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250 views

Are pleonasms like 尷尬 common, where at least two compounds share the same semantic component?

尷尬 feels like a pleonasm, for it shares 尢 as the semantic component. Why wasn't just one character, either 尷 or 尬, used to signify the meaning of 尷尬? How common are such pleonasms? What are the ...
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100 views

For 或, what semantic notions underlie “tool or weapon on a pole” (戈) + “mouth” (口) + “territory” (1)?

I consulted p 399, ABC Chinese–English Comprehensive Dictionary (2003) that It substantiates Wiktionary's definitions. I can't access the "slightly revised through July 2005" ed. How did 戈 ...
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41 views

For 佩, what semantic notions underlie “to wear” and “to admire”?

I Googled-translated CUHK, but I don't think they or Yellowbridge expounds the semantic shift to "admire" or "respect"? I read Any direct English equivalent for "佩服"?. I ...
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39 views

What semantic notions underlie “mouth” and “so, to such an extent”, for 咁?

This is a common word, so I don't know why Taiwan's Ministry of Education omits this character, and why CUHK doesn't exhibit any etymology. Wiktionary has the same Glyph Origin, but I quote ...
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122 views

What semantic notions underlie “durable; to endure” (耐) with “about 3 cm”, “tiny” (寸)?

CUHK doesn't expound the semantic shift. Doesn't 寸 contradict 耐? Humans usually "endure" or "resist" what's hefty and strong, not objects that are "tiny" and merely "...
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89 views

How did 毋 + 乃 compound to mean “it's none other than”?

When I first happened upon 毋乃, I first guessed its meaning as "not this". Then I consulted p 1007, ABC Chinese–English Comprehensive Dictionary (2003). I can't access the "slightly ...
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69 views

For phonosemantic 和, what semantic notions underlie “mouth” and “harmony”?

How did 口 (mouth, opening) semantically shift to mean harmony for 和? CUHK doesn't expound. Synopsis  : 「和」字從「口」,「禾」聲,表示和諧。 Elaboration: 金文從「口」,「禾」聲,表示和睦、和洽,中山王圓壺:「馭右和同」,《禮記.孔子閒居》:「無體之禮,上下和同。」《左傳....
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75 views

How does “the copula 惟” distinguish the meanings of negation for 非 v. 不?

ABC Chinese–English Comprehensive Dictionary (2003). I can't access the "slightly revised through July 2005" ed. p 253. I understand copulas for English, but not for Chinese here. Anyways, ...
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48 views

What semantic notions underlie “to think; to contemplate”, with “but; however; nevertheless” with “only”?

I know that meaning 3 originates from 忄 used here as the semantic component (Yellowbridge exhibits this more clearly below). But how did 3 semantically shift to 1, 2? Their lexical categories all ...
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104 views

How did 無 originate from “a dancer holding something in each hand”?

If someone, dancer or not, is holding something in each hand, how can 無 possibly describe him? His hands are not 無! I also screenshot Yellowbridge.
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62 views

How did the compound 莫 + 非 semantically shift to mean “can it be/is it possible + that”?

ABC Chinese–English Comprehensive Dictionary (2003), p 628. I can't access the "slightly revised through July 2005" ed. 莫非 - Wiktionary appears correct. Am I correct that 莫 here means 3 ...
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107 views

What semantic notions underlie 'hem, margin; reason, cause; karma, fate' for 緣?

p 1194, ABC Chinese–English Comprehensive Dictionary (2003). I can't access the "slightly revised through July 2005" ed. Sset 3 originates from the semantic radical 糸. How did Set 3 (the ...
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134 views

How could've 叻 originated from 頔, 犖, 𥌮, when they share no etymons?

2, 3, 4 and their etymons don't appear related to 口 + 力 morphologically. I spot the "uncertain" below, so I'm not seeking anything certain or definite. Glyph origin Phono-semantic ...
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57 views

Can anybody identify these chop markings or calligraphy please (Characters identified: 季康長壽 寧復畫記)

I have been given a scroll not sure if it is chinese or Japanese but I know it is over fifty years old. I am trying to find out more about it such as the artist and what the writing says.
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92 views

How comes the word 偶像 is related to worship?

As I read the Bible, 偶像 means the idols made by man and being worshiped. As I know there are 3 meaning of the word 偶像: 木偶 & 雕像, used in different proposes such as decoration art performance the ...
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54 views

Etymology of 碼頭

I was just wondering about the Chinese words for 'Ferry Pier' 碼頭. If we take the word, 馬頭, it means horse's head. 碼頭 has the 石 or rock character in it. I wanted to confirm, is it possible then that ...
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298 views

Why does Mandarin Chinese have a smaller inventory of unique syllables?

From How languages compare with the number of different syllables from all words?, considering the 20,000 most frequent words in each language, Mandarin Chinese has 1274 different syllables (see also ...
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89 views

What's the meaning of 戒 in 戒指?

On a lighter note: Does 戒 in 戒指 mean: you can stop using your finger now you are married? With this ring I thee wed.
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95 views

Did 謠's phonetic component (䍃) semantically shift it away from 言?

You can spot that (the left-hand side of) 謠 originates from 言. I screenshot Yellowbridge. Did the phonetic component 䍃 spawn, or have anything to do with, the semantic narrowing from 言 to 謠? If not,...
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69 views

How did the hedgehog come to mean gather?

词汇 means vocabulary or words and phrases. In traditional characters (I noticed today) that would be: 詞彙 and 彙 is a word for hedgehog (刺猬)。(詞彙: word hedgehog) Did the ancient Chinese gather hedgehogs? ...

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