Questions tagged [etymology]

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

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4answers
747 views

We say 上个星期, 上个月 and 去年 why not 上个年?

And the same with 下个年? Ok 明年 has some logic in in because of 明天, but 去年 is off for me.
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2answers
210 views

Was the word 男朋友 borrowed from English (or maybe the opposite)?

男朋友 and 女朋友 have the same thought process as their English counterparts, as in both words are compounded of (the gender) + ("friend"), even though they're actually used to refer to a romantic partner ...
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2answers
344 views

What is the difference between 嫐 and 嬲?

According to mdbg.net, both characters have a meaning of "to tease": 嬲 to tease / to disturb 嫐 to tease / to play around with Are both of them primarily used as synonyms for "tease"? Or are they ...
2
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1answer
130 views

Why is 伴 used for buddy?

Is it true that 伴 comes from the word, 半(half) and thus can be interpreted as (significant other person)?
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1answer
668 views

What are the original Chinese characters for the Filipino-Chinese family name Suico?

The book Life in Old Parian says the Cebuano family name Suico has Chinese origin, and I'm looking for the original Chinese characters. I'm trying to narrow it down based on the Hokkien pronunciation ...
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176 views

How does 馬 resemble a horse?

Please see my 3 questions inscribed in the screenshot from Wiktionary:
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2answers
584 views

Why does 写 not have a dot on top?

Many hanzi have a roof on top, including a dot. From the HSK2 list, we have: 客 家 字 完 室 安 它 The commonly used hanzi 写 is unlike these because it does not have a dot on top. Chinese-tools.com ...
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2answers
260 views

Did the name “白俄罗斯” exist in Chinese before 1991?

Did the name "白俄罗斯" for Belarus exist in Chinese language before 1991 or was it created only when Belarus became an independent state in 1991?
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1answer
131 views

The etymology of 便当 in Chinese

The following excerpt is from the top answer on 知乎: 丈夫每天吃自己做的便当(没错,是他自己做的,不是他妻子做的)她吃大餐,去一次美容院就能花4.2万。看表情就知道,这位太太毫无愧疚之心,可能还觉得自己萌萌哒。两人摊牌后,妻子没有道歉,而是要求丈夫以后更努力工作赚钱。最后以这男人跳下站台自杀,妻子改嫁结束。 The 便当 here ...
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1answer
48 views

代表你的猴山; why can it be used in this way?

In the show I am watching the protagonist asked a person with the surname 猴: 你是代表你的猴山還是代表最高反貪總局? Obviously, he means Are you expressing your private opinion, or the order of the supreme anti ...
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3answers
210 views

Glyph origins and meaning of 敢

What is the meaning and etymology of the LEFT component of this character: 敢 ? I have already checked Wiltionary and Chinese Text Project. Thank you for the help.
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3answers
176 views

How did 革 get the meaning “change” 變革?

I wondered how a character originally representing animal skin could appear in words such as 沿革、革命、變革. Ripping off the skin from an animal, thereby "removing the old and getting the new" seems a ...
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1answer
2k views

What's the origin of the Hong Kong colloquialism “I go to school by bus”?

I've seen this phrase being used frequently on social media amongst the youth of Hong Kong. I go to school by bus Would anyone kindly explain how this phrase came to be and what it means? From my ...
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2answers
200 views

What is the origin of the word “香蕉?”

Why is the Chinese word for "banana" "香蕉"? Where did it come from?
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3answers
210 views

What is the 门 in 厦门 and 澳门?

Are there other Chinese cities besides 厦门 and 澳门 which end in 门 and what does 门 mean in this context?
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2answers
121 views

How does 鐘頭 come to mean hour?

I know that 鐘 means clock so am I right in saying that 鐘頭 means head of clock which becomes hour? If it's the head of the clock, is it referring to the minute hand being at the '12' (I.e the top of ...
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1answer
128 views

What is the idea behind creation of a compound word - 处决?

I wonder what the idea (etymology) is behind formation of this word 处决. Is it something like this: to place + to decide = to decide a place for the convict?
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1answer
295 views

Why are mussels called 淡菜

The name 淡菜 would suggest a meaning like "bland vegetable" or something like that. Why are mussels called 淡菜?
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2answers
243 views

What's origin of the Chinese word for “time” (时间)?

I believe the Chinese word for time is 时间. Does anybody know how to find out its origin? If there is a place where it is possible to know the origin of Chinese characters please share. Thank you
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1answer
243 views

Why is the boss called 老板?

The primary meaning of 板 is 'board'. So why does 老板 or 'old board' mean 'boss, chief'?
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295 views

Why is Belarus called “White Russia”?

In Chinese Belarus is 白俄罗斯, which literally means White Russia. But I don't understand why it is called as such. If you get more rigorous with the pronunciation, it is more like be, but since there ...
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2answers
548 views

Etymology of 南/西/东瓜

Why are the Chinese names of certain vegetables based of off directions (North, South, East, West?) Also, why does a specific direction mean a certain vegetable? (I.e do watermelons come from the ...
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1answer
40 views

What is learned by analyzing the component and relationship of 牧野 in regards to The Battle of Muye?

In other words, what am I missing by not analyzing the characters? It seems that 牧 (mù) can be used in a very Chinese sense to connote a benevolent ruler, in that the term is also used for shepherd. (...
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3answers
356 views

How did 马马虎虎 come to mean so-so?

Why does the above phrase (马马虎虎- lit. Horse horse tiger tiger) mean so-so or moderate? Curious as to how animals can represent expressions
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2answers
516 views

Why do the chinese count with 正?

I have seen a couple of shop keepers (in small - mid sized shops) in Hong Kong counting some routine things with this character : "正". The actual tally would start off with the first stoke of that ...
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1answer
144 views

Difference between 傍晚 and 晚上 and their etymology

As in the title. Are there any cases when these two are interchangeable? If yes, when? What are the nuances that distinguish them? It would be great if one can tackle the etymology of the two.
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561 views

Why do Malaysians have Cantonese surnames?

I vaguely know that Cantonese is quite widely spoken in Kuala Lumpur and the peninsular area of Malaysia. Is this the reasons why many Malaysian colleagues have surnames that are common in Hong Kong? ...
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2answers
386 views

Why is Mainland China referred to as “大陸” (大陸)?

Question is pretty straight-forward, but why do Hong Kongers (don't know if others too) refer to Mainland China as daai6 luk6 ? any historical reason for this or etymology?
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2answers
546 views

What's the etymology and significance of yuenyeung (鴛鴦)?

鴛鴦 is a mix of tea and coffee commonly had in Hong Kong (amongst other south-asian countries). I was wondering about how this drink came into being? Where does the title come from (especially the ...
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1answer
92 views

方便: a “skillful means” of translating upāya or not?

In Chinese Buddhism, 方便 is used to translate the word/concept Upāya. Was 方便 an existing Chinese word that already meant "convenient" (or something else) and then given this technical meaning for ...
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1answer
80 views

Why is 面巾纸 different from 纸巾?

If 纸巾 means "paper towel", I can understand how it was combined with "face" 面 to mean "tissue". But I'm curious as to why it's 面巾纸, not 面纸巾. I can't find any definition for 巾纸 on its own, so where did ...
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2answers
133 views

Was 我 pronounced 'è' at some time in the past? [duplicate]

If I look up 饿 in http://zhongwen.com/ I find 饿 = 食 + 我。 Further it says, '我 is phonetic'. Does this mean that at some time in the past, 我 was pronounced 'è'? Taken literally, 饿 should then be ...
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5answers
1k views

Why 天 is chosen for counting days instead of 日 in Mandarin?

In Classical Chinese, the proper word for counting days is 日. In Southern Chinese languages, 日 is more prevalent in counting days. Why 天 is chosen for counting days in Mandarin instead of 日? Edit ...
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3answers
778 views

Why is the penis, a male organ, “阴茎”?

The penis is translated as "阴茎" (literally "yin stem"), but it is a male organ. In the traditional concepts of yin and yang, "阴" is generally associated with the female sex. To support the idea, the ...
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2answers
314 views

What's the glyph origin of 妖?

What's the glyph origin of 妖? Why does it have a woman radical? Why is woman used in a word that means weird or supernatural? Is there a website to look up the evolution of characters?
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2answers
271 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
392 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
158 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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2answers
184 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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413 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
593 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
292 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
985 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
491 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
225 views

What's the reason behind the sudden influx of the English word “word” in Chinese slang?

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 厉害word哥!...
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5answers
7k 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
218 views

What is the origin of 洋罪?

洋 often takes on the meaning of foreign as a noun prefix - think: 洋火、洋车、洋芋、洋碱. I have just come across this: 《成都方言》 词语: 遭洋罪 发音: zao1 yang2 zui4 定义: 自找的难言之苦:出了钱不说,还~,简直划不着! 洋罪 strikes me as a very ...
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2answers
275 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
176 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
378 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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