Questions tagged [etymology]

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

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359 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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204 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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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"; ...
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2answers
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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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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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176 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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233 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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187 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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397 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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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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Pronunciation 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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327 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 ...
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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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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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How did 零 come to mean zero?

I understand that 零 originally meant rain, however for some reason it eventually became fragments and then also zero. How did the meaning of this character shift to become fragments (rain drops, maybe?...
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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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Why is “weight” = 体重 and why is “height” = 身高?

Recently, I registered to a running tracker app. The app required me to fill some personal information and two of them were my 体重 (weight) and 身高 (height). I wonder why one uses 体 while the other one ...
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152 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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Pronunciation 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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476 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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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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337 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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395 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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183 views

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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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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583 views

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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What is the meaning of the character 打 in 打坐?

How did the two-part compound 打坐 come to mean "seated meditation"? What is the function of the character 打 in that compound?
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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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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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114 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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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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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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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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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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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!
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339 views

戴绿帽子 as based on a pun?

Having come across the association of green hats with unfaithful spouses a few times, I tried to learn the original of this practice. A few sources (e.g. here) mention that the origin of this phrase ...
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What common words in MSM actually come from taboo?

A lot of dialectical words are actually just taboo renditions of common words. For instance: 旺子 [wang zi] in Sichuanese comes from taboo on saying the ominous, inauspicious word blood 血 and probably ...
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280 views

Where did the words for various colours originate from?

I wonder if, like in English, the words for colours (red, yellow, green) just formed arbitrarily in Chinese? Or is there a story behind choosing 红色 for red, 蓝色 for blue, etc.? It’s also interesting ...
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How did “kitsch” (刻奇) come to stand for emotional contagion in a group?

刻奇 is said to be a loanword from English meaning: kitsch Kitsch in short is said to be: Kitsch is garish and sentimental art or other objects. In long it is defined as: Kitsch (/kɪtʃ/; ...
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443 views

Etymology of 若 vis-a-vis 如果

I came across 若 from my lessons today, as in 若天下雨,我就出发。 Being familiar with 如果, I immediately assumed 若 is just a short/abbreviated/spoken form of 如果. However, I broached the idea to my Chinese ...
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What is the relation between 寨 (zhài, “stockade, stronghold, fort”) and 塞 (sài, “place of strategic importance; pass; fortress”)?

Most dictionaries say 寨 = 塞 + 木, but on its face, we could just as easily have 塞 = 寨 + 土.
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345 views

What's the relationship between 暖, 爱 and 愛?

I was curious when I noticed that 暖 contains the character 爱, so I thought that in the traditional form, it would have 愛, the traditional form of 爱. But it appears that 暖 has the same form in both ...

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