Questions tagged [etymology]

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

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79 views

How do 台, 鑒 compound to mean Salutation of a formal business letter, but after someone's name?

Why's 台 a term of address? How do 台,鑒 semantically appertain salutations in a formal letter? Alone 台 and 鑒 don't mean salutations or greetings in a formal letter. 張三台 and 張三鑒 don't make sense! ...
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141 views

Why's 人 (human) the radical and semantic component of 儲 "to store, collect"?

How do human beings semantically appertain to the verbs for "to store, collect"? I cite Axel Schuessler, ABC Etymological Dictionary of Old Chinese (2007). First I pinpointed 儲 at the ...
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1answer
153 views

Why does 義, as a noun, mean both "righteousness, justice" and "meaning, purport, interpretation"?

Please see the red side lines below. How did "Be right, righteous, proper" shift to mean "true sense; meaning"? How do they semantically appertain each other? I cite Axel ...
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5answers
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“What is Standard Mandarin?”, and How was it "Standardized"?

I hope my question is answered / commented upon in the spirit of a dispassionate academic discourse.
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Did the Chinese 獅子 = "lion" originate from the Persian شیر (šīr)?

There's Wikipedia page List of loanwords in Chinese (listed as "incomplete" at the time of writing) which contains the entry: 獅子 (shīzi) "lion" شیر (šīr) "lion" So the ...
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64 views

How did 潛 shift from signifying 'wading in the water' to 'under water'?

CUHK doesn't appear to expound the semantic shift from wading in water to under water. 從「水」,「朁」聲,本義為涉水。《說文》:「涉水也。一曰:藏也。一曰:漢水爲潛。从水,朁聲。」《詩‧小雅‧正月》:「魚在于沼,亦匪克樂;潛雖伏矣,亦孔之炤。」 Axel Schuessler, ABC ...
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How does 味 (taste, flavor) semantically appertain to 意味 (meaning)?

意味 baffles me. What the heck is 味 doing in 意味? What does 味 contribute or relate to 意味? Oxford Chinese Dictionary (2010) p 892.
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Why's 耳 (ear) the semantic component of 耽 (to delay, indulge; negligent)?

CUHK doesn't appear to answer my question, or expatiate how 耳 semantically appertains 耽. What notions semantically link "本義為耳大下垂" with 耽? 從「耳」,「冘」聲,本義為耳大下垂。《說文》:「耳大垂也。从耳,冘聲。《詩》曰:士之耽兮。」《淮南子‧...
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How does 亡 's original meaning (cutting edge of knife) semantically appertain its senses of 1. escaped and 2. go away?

CUHK substantiates Wiktionary's asseveration Ideogram (指事): a line on 刀 – cutting edge of a knife; the original form of 芒 (OC *maːŋ, *maŋ, “edge of a knife”). But I don't understand CUHK's 詳解 that I ...
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243 views

How does 省's original meaning (ocular disease) semantically appertain its nounal (1. province) and verbal senses (2. examine; 3 economize; 4. omit)?

Correct my translation, but 省's 略說 touts that The Jia Jin inscriptions from "屮" from "目" means that the eyes give birth to something that blocks vision. Thus you can't see ...
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195 views

How did 端 semantically shift to signify "destroy", when its semantic component 立 signifies 'stand'', 'establish'?

CUHK doesn't even moot the meaning of "destroy" that undeniably is the polar opposite meaning of 立! Oxford Chinese Dictionary (2010) p 182. Axel Schuessler, ABC Etymological Dictionary of ...
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For 陣, how do 'file of troops' semantically appertain to 'short moment of time'?

My Chinese is rudimentary, but CUHK doesn't appear to expatiate this semantic shift.   「陣」也用作量詞,表示事物經過的時間段。前蜀毛文錫詞〈醉花間〉:「昨夜雨霏霏,臨明寒一陣。偏憶戍樓人,久絕邊庭信。」宋張輯詞《點絳唇‧南浦月》:「來剪蓴絲,江頭一陣鳴蓑雨。孤篷歸路,吹得蘋風暮。」 Oxford ...
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103 views

Why's 阝the semantic component of 陳?

Correct me if I'm wrong, but 阝 is the left radical form of 阜. Correct? If I understood CUHK, the underlying semantic notion is showiness and bragging, correct? Note that even in English, "show&...
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120 views

How did 歸 (revert, send) + 納 (give, receive, insert) compound to signify 歸納 (to deduce, summarize)?

Does 歸納 wrongly conflate deduction and induction, which are different reasonings. Watch this Youtube video. Anyhow, how do 歸 and 納 semantically appertain 歸納? What semantic notions underlie 歸納? ...
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For 服, how do clothes semantically appertain its verbal meanings 'serve', 'obey', 'convince'?

What semantic notions underlie definitions B3-B5 below? CUHK doesn't expatiate the semantic shifts. Oxford Chinese Dictionary (2010) pp 222-3.
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For 核, how do 'kernels, pits' semantically appertain to 'investigate'?

I think these senses are polysemes, not homonyms, because Wiktionary alleges a relationship between definitions 1 and 2 below. Please expatiate it? What semantic notions underlie kernels and ...
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Why are the characters 打 and 采 in the chengyu 无精打采 (and its variant 没精打采)?

CC-CEDICT: 无精打采 (wú​jīng​dǎ​cǎi​) dispirited and downcast (idiom); listless / in low spirits / washed out I can understand why 无精 is this chengyu; it's basically 没有精神、精力. However, I don't see the ...
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How are 可爱 and Japanese 'kawaii' related?

Did the Japanese word originate in Chinese, or was it the other way around? Or are the two words related at all?
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Isn't 埋 the Private Polar Antonym of 埋怨?

If you're complaining or grumbling (埋怨), then undeniably you're NOT burying or concealing (埋) your grievance or complaint! So why does 埋 belong in 埋怨? Doesn't 埋 gainsay 埋怨? Oxford Chinese Dictionary (...
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How does 濃's semantic component, 氵, appertain to 'thick, strong, concentrated'?

略說: 從「水」,「農」聲。本指露水多,引伸為厚、密的意思。 I read CUHK, but I can't see how (pure) water itself can be construed "thick, strong, concentrated"! I've never heard of water being described as "thick,...
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Etymology of 復員

As I was reading about a former serviceman, I found out that 復員 actually means DE-mobilisation. My intuition would have been strikingly wrong! It is intuitive that 復 means “re-“ or “again”. But for 員 ...
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71 views

How can 無奈 signify both "helpless" and the conjunction "but"?

What's the semantic field of 無奈? How does "helpless" semantically appertain to "but; however"? Oxford Chinese Dictionary (2010) p 786. ABC Chinese–English Comprehensive ...
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Why does "不一一" mean "I won't go into details (in letters)?

CUHK appears to lack a listing for 不一一. ABC Chinese–English Comprehensive Dictionary (2003), p 74.
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How does 奈's semantic component, 示, appertain to 'how, why' (in rhetorical questions)?

CUHK doesn't appear to expound the semantic field of 奈. ABC Chinese–English Comprehensive Dictionary (2003), p 638.
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What's the semantic field of 由?

ABC Chinese–English Comprehensive Dictionary (2003), p 1180. What notions underlie or connect all these ostensibly unrelated different senses? Please be sure to cover all senses in all your answer. ...
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Is there a story behind the word 寒暄 (lit. "cold warm") = "to exchange pleasantries"?

CC-CEDICT: 寒暄 (hán​xuān​) to exchange conventional greetings / to exchange pleasantries CC-CEDICT: 寒 (hán​​) cold / poor / to tremble CC-CEDICT: 暄 (xuān​) genial and warm I have trouble remembering ...
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Meaning of early written versions of 地 and etymology?

The glyph origin section of https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/%E5%9C%B0 shows characters that look nothing like the modern "地" (with the exception of the "Small Seal Script" in "...
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Why does 差餉 signify "rates", a type of property tax?

Cambridge and Collins translates "tax" as 稅款. Wikipedia and HKSAR Government's Rating and Valuation Department define 差餉. Why 差? What differs? What's lacking? Why 餉? How's "tax" ...
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Why do Taiwanese refer to canistels as peaches of the immortals (仙桃)?

I read on https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pouteria_campechiana: The Taiwanese also call this fruit xiantao (仙桃), "peach of the immortals". Why do Taiwanese refer to canistels as peaches of ...
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Is it possible that 去 originally meant "go to the toilet"?

I was looking up the character 去。 The old forms, 厺 㚎 show a person standing and underneath either 厶, an old form of 私, private, personal or 凵, a receptacle. I know nothing of the toilet habits of the ...
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Why does "yin" (陰) comes first in "yin-yang" (陰陽)?

In the yin-yang dynamic, yang is pretty much always the dominant force: it represents the sun (the "great yang", 太陽), brightness, positivity (陽性), masculinity (the penis, 陽物), the living (陽間,...
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Why's 馬 (horses) the semantic component of 騙 (to fool, to defraud)?

I don't understand how horses (馬) appertain to deceiving and swindling (騙). I'm uneducated on horses. Is there evidence that horses swindle humans or other horses? And I don't understand how the ...
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Why is there a 就 in 迁就?

迁就 (qiān​jiù​) CC-CEDICT: to yield / to adapt to / to accommodate to (sth) Breaking this apart, we have: 迁 (qiān​) CC-CEDICT: to move / to shift / to change (a position or location etc) / to promote ...
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What's the difference between etymology and glyph origin?

Askers, including me, often seem to confuse the two terms, and understanding the distinction between the two is so critical to advanced study of Chinese characters and words. The question can probably ...
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What is the origin of the word 鬻?

The word 鬻 (yù) appears to originate as a joint pictogram from: 粥 depicting the rice and two whirls of steam on the sides 鬲 (pronounced lì?) a cooking vessel Later 粥 alone came in use to express the ...
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Etymology of 制 zhì = make, manufacture

What is the etymology of 制? how the meaning is evolved to Make, manufacture? Ox + hand kerchief + knife becomes Make or Manufacture?
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Any mnemonic for 摔 shuāi = fall & etymology for 率

The word 摔 means fall: 摔 shuāi to fall, tumble, lose one’s balance Generally the fall action comes with leg, although hand also related. any mnemonic or story to remember this? Gugg had given good ...
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746 views

What is a "sound loan"?

I am going through Outlier dictionary for character 求: 求 depicts a centipede or millipede, indicating the original meaning “myriapod (a type of insect with a lot of legs).” It was borrowed for its ...
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58 views

Understanding glyph origin of 勤 better

I have the following etymology from Outlier Dictionary of Chinese Characters: 勤 qín is composed of 堇 jǐn “a type of ancient punishment in which fire was used to dry a person out” and 力 “force, power, ...
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Glyph origin for 㐆 and Mnemonic for 殷

Came across through the word 殷勤. could you please help with Glyph origin for : 㐆yǐn to follow, to trust to, to put confidence in, to depend on, to turn around Any any mnemonic to remember this? 殷 yīn ...
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Glyph origin or any mnemonic for 蕴?

I failed to remember the meaning for the word 蕴含 yùnhán. Is any mnemonic or story or etymological hints to remember 蕴?
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Etymology of 奇 and 怪

I am going through the word 奇. Mandarin Temple had mentioned, learning hint as “a person riding a horse”. Is this only learning hint? Or is it also etymologically correct? What is the exact etymology ...
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Retention of 其 as a modal particle in modern Chinese

There is a recent Chinese Stack Exchange question on the significance of 其 in 尤其, given the meaning of the word is largely contributed by 尤. I am quite confident that some of the answers in the thread ...
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不自量力 can this be used to under estimate one’s capabilities also?

I understand the meaning of 量 is measure, estimate. But how the capacity also was the meaning? any background, etymology? 量 liàng measure, estimate, capacity, quantity 不自量力 bùzìliànglì not have a ...
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In “一网打尽” what does 尽 mean?

一网打尽 yīwǎngdǎjìn lit. to catch everything in the one net. In this sentence what does 尽 means? how to easily remember the meaning by seeing the character without wild guess and imagining etymological ...
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153 views

Why doesn't 虛 contradict 謙虛?

Definition D for 虛 lists "vainly". Unquestionably, "vainly" is the opposite of "modesty". And "modesty" implies that you possess something valuable, like ...
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212 views

Why's 言 the semantic component of 謙?

I don't understand how 言 ("to say"; "speech", "words") relates to modesty. Language, speech, words can be used to boast, exaggerate, and lie! Above is Yellowbridge. ...
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1answer
78 views

Why's 氵(“water”) 澀's semantic component?

I don't understand how 氵 (“water”) relates to any of 澀's 2021 meanings below. Definition 1 : How's water "rough"? Definition 2 : Potable water doesn't taste "astringent; acerbic; tart&...
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102 views

In 淘, how does its semantic component 氵appertain to 'naughty'?

淘's semantic compound is 氵 (“water”). But how does "water" relate to "naughty; mischievous"? Above is Yellowbridge. Below is CUHK.
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96 views

How does 翻's 2021 meanings appertain to 羽?

I don't understand how 羽 (wings) relate to the 8 definitions of 翻 below. What's the semantic field of 翻? How does 羽 (wings) relate to 翻's semantic field? Above is Yellowbridge. Below is Oxford ...

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