Questions tagged [etymology]

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

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529 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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Why there is 份 in 身份?

What is the meaning of 份 in 身份? Is 份 used as a word pointing to a papers i.e. documents (passport and so on)? Or is it used as a 'division' so as to differentiate a man from man (身 body in our case)?
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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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, in ...
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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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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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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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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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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 bright. My ...
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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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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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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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Why does 就范 mean “to give in”?

What is the 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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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 ...
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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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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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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 ...
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Glyph origin of 也

I've already done some research on the character 也, but I haven't find something that pleased me. I've seen explanations going from "horn" and "snake" to "vulva" and "around". Where did it come from? ...
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Why is 生地黃 called 地黃 [yellow earth]?

Does anyone know the reason why 生地黃 is called 地黃 [yellow earth]? I don't know if 六味地黄丸 took the name from 生地黃 or viceversa, but either way I couldn't find neither the etymology of 六味地黄丸 in English (I ...
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Glyph origin of 我 - How did 我's radicals 手 and 戈 create the meaning of 我?

Tell me, please, how do 我's radicals 手 and 戈 create the meaning of 我 (ie: I)? I know that 戈's pictogram (象形) means a rake-like tool or weapon, borrowed for sound to mean "me" (note 'Oracle bone ...
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What is the etymology and glyph origin of 餵?

I was surprised to find out about the character 餵 (wei4, 喂) because it doesn't seem to have a meaning other than an expression to answer the telephone. Since the telephone was only invented in the ...
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1answer
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What is the origin of 抠门儿?

I understand that 抠门儿 is an informal phrase meaning dingy. But can't figure out how these three Chinese words combined together could be used to describe a person being dingy (extremely reluctant to ...
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What is the origin of the word 猫 (cat)?

I keep on thinking that the way it is pronounced (māo) seemed to mimic the noises a cat makes (meow!). The character seems identical to the one for the same word in Japanese. Was this the original ...
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What is the meaning behind 华胄 ?

I found the sentence 他是华胄,所以气质不凡. It is been translated as "He is the offspring of a noble family, thus his character is not a common one". I also found for 华胄 the translation "offspring of the ...
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Why does 点 mean “to light\to ignite” in certain compounds (such as in 点燃\点火\点灯)?

These are the only character's acceptations I really can't relate to, does anyone know why it's used with such meanings?
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Origin of the term “Sitting the Month”

I've recently learned about the practice of 坐月子 or sitting the month where a woman secludes herself for around a month following a pregnancy. The articles I've read indicate that this practice has ...
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Why did China opt for 星期 over 曜日?

Korea and Japan seem to have a week system that looks like this: Monday 月曜日 Tuesday 火曜日 Wednesday 水曜日 Thursday 木曜日 Friday 金曜日 Saturday 土曜日 Sunday 日曜日 China apparently used to be the same as well. 星期 ...
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Why is 遞 = (辶 + (厂 + 虎))?

遞 is most commonly used, nowadays, to mean "to pass" -or- "to give". Here's the definition of its simplified counterpart 递 given on zisea: ①传送,传达:传~。投~。~送。~交。~眼色(以目示意)。呈~国书。 ②顺着次序:...
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Chinese vs English [closed]

There is a lot a gramma points/words in chinese similar to english 生日/ birthday 爸爸的笔 / dad's pen I would like know if it's a radom linguisitic fact or if it could have a chinese influence on ...
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Does 宝 have its own history separate from 寶?

I was trying to figure out the characters for Sapporo, the Japanese beer, the other day and found: 七宝 was one of the translations for it. My initial reaction was to search 「七寶」 in my Japanese ...

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