26 votes
Accepted

Is there any relation between the Cyrillic Ш (sha) and the Chinese 山 (shān)?

No. The Cyrillic script is based on the Greek script, and some other local scripts like Hebrew. The basis for sha is thought to be the Hebrew letter ש (shin). ש It's unlikely that shin is based on ...
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  • 1,847
22 votes

A Complex Chinese Character (Characters Identified: 招財進寶)

This is actually not one character, but a stylistic conglomeration of the characters in the phrase 招財進寶, meaning "ushering in wealth and prosperity". The characters 財 and 寶 end up being represented ...
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  • 3,986
20 votes
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Why is 月 used when speaking about anatomy?

The 月字旁 was originally '肉' & not '月' - 肉 has the meaning of 肉体 meaning 'flesh' or having to do with the 'human body' so it's often seen with body parts. Wikipedia: 肉字旁:臺灣標準中,凡肉字旁的字,都寫作「提肉旁」即,使其不會與「...
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19 votes
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Why does 負 also mean "minus" and "negative"?

I think it's a mistake to rely too heavily on the glyph origin to interpret meanings of a Chinese morpheme. It's easy to confuse the origins of Chinese characters and the origins of Chinese words. ...
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17 votes
Accepted

What's the glyph origin of 妖?

《說文解字》沒有「妖」這一條目。 There is not an entry of 妖 in the 《說文解字》. 《說文解字注》對「𡝩」的解釋有提到「俗省作妖」。 The interpretation of 𡝩 in the 《說文解字注》 mentions 俗省作妖. 𡝩 [ yāo | ㄧㄠ ] 意思是,民間習慣上,將「𡝩」省略為「妖」。 也就是,「妖」的本字是「𡝩」。 ...
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  • 5,846
17 votes
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Is there any connection between the choice of characters for 九 and 丸?

「九」 and 「丸」 are not related. As @user3306356 points out, 「丸」 is probably related to 「夗」. 商朝甲骨文菁2.1合集6057西周金文作冊夨令簋集成4300戰國・晉金文東周左𠂤壺集成9640小篆九部說文解字今楷書  「九」 depicts an arm showing the hand, a bent wrist,...
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  • 21.3k
15 votes

A Complex Chinese Character (Characters Identified: 招財進寶)

For people to understand better...
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  • 1,225
13 votes
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Are 乒 and 乓 used in classical chinese?

The earliest texts with 乒乓 I can find is vernacular novels of Ming dynasty. 《西遊記》 Journey to the West as an example: 如此二三日,又聽得後宰門乒乓乒乓,磚瓦亂響。——Chapter 10 他掄槍舞劍,一擁前來,照行者劈頭亂砍,乒乒乓乓,砍有七八十下。——Chapter 14 ...
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13 votes
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Roots of the difference between 谈,论,说,讲,议, 叙,言,报,告,述

言 (yan2) is the root of all words meaning talk. It says so in the 說文解字 (a dictionary from the Han dynasty): 凡言之屬皆从言 The origin of the character 言 is a picture of a person with a big mouth. In ...
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  • 1,847
12 votes

Does 来 show fruit on a tree or ripening corn?

很有趣。 Very interesting. 我到今天才知道「來」有這個意思,而且是它的本義。 I didn't know that 來 has this meaning until today, and this is even its original meaning. 「來」的本義是「麥」,也就是「麥」的上半部。 The original meaning of 來 is "grain ...
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  • 5,846
12 votes
Accepted

Meaning of the elements of 爵 (baron)

The 4 elements of this kanji are well known (claw/plectrum; net; north-east; short measurement) Unfortunately, this way of interpreting Chinese character components is not correct. As part of other ...
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  • 21.3k
11 votes

Why do some Chinese characters have multiple simplified variants?

Traditional to Simplified is many-to-one, right?? It is almost the case that each Traditional character maps to exactly one Simplified character (possibly itself). This is certainly the mental model ...
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11 votes
Accepted

乘 vs 承 - are they related?

「乘」and「承」do indeed sound similar, but an etymological relation (if any) would be before the time of Old Chinese. They are unrelated, as far as usage or glyph origins is concerned. 乘 「乘」was originally ...
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11 votes
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Is there any sun 日 in 昌?

時期字體 字形 參考資料 商甲 甲185合集19924 戰國・燕古幣 108古幣文編 戰國・晉璽印 959古璽彙編 秦簡 日甲119睡虎地秦簡 篆 日部說文解字 楷 「昌」 (early morning call, e.g. to the day's labour) is comprised of semantic 「日」 (sun) on top of semantic 「...
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  • 21.3k
10 votes

What is the glyph origin of '奇'?

The discussion on zdict basically explains that the Oracle bone script morphed (讹变) into its current form, but this transformation did not follow standard rules. The original Oracle bone script shows ...
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  • 8,477
10 votes
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What is the etymology of "商" in "商数"

This is not an easy question. But I think here is an answer. It originated from the Chinese water clock or clepsydra in the ancient time (刻漏 or 漏壶, http://baike.baidu.com/view/41631.htm). 刻漏 or 漏壶 ...
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  • 1,268
10 votes

Glyph origin of 也

Note: much of this is based on the answer by Altair at Chinese-Forums. It may be worthwhile to answer the 也 / 他 / 地 / 池 question first. Character Mandarin Cantonese Hokkien Middle Ch. ...
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  • 5,658
10 votes
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认识 vs 知道 based on glyph origins

I stated in my comment that I don't think study the etymology help you understand a character as much as cross reference the roles of a character in different compound words. For 認 [1] recognise; ...
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10 votes

Is there a reason why 午 and 年 look so similar?

Yes, this is a coincidence. Generally, if the modern shape is confusing, you need to go back further in time to look at characters' original shapes and purposes to make sense of what's going on. Also, ...
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  • 21.3k
9 votes
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Why do cat (猫) and dog (狗) share the same 犭 radical?

The radical in 猫 actually comes from 豸 zhi4 (beast), which you can still see in the traditional character 貓. Whereas the radical in 狗 is in fact 犭 quan3. The simplified version of 猫 got the 犭 ...
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  • 5,406
9 votes
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Meaning of early written versions of 地 and etymology?

「地」 (Baxter-Sagart OC: /*[l]ˤej-s/, ground) is comprised of semantic 「土」 (picture of a lump of dirt) and phonetic 「也」 (/*lAjʔ/). This structure is found relatively late, derived from a graphical ...
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  • 21.3k
8 votes

家: why is a home a place for pigs?

Speculations as to why pigs rather than cows form part of the character meaning home comes from some misunderstandings about the characters. Specifically, 「家」 contains 「豕」 as a corrupted phonetic ...
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  • 21.3k
8 votes
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A Complex Chinese Character (Characters Identified: 招財進寶)

Welcome more questions Thomas. Very good answer above. It is a Spring Couplet 挥春/揮春. 招財進寶 is an auspicious saying to wish families more wealth and treasure. Chinese paste this on the front door or ...
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8 votes

A unified theory of 就 meaning

reference: 现代汉语词典,第6版 (Contemporary Chinese Dictionary, 6th Edition). This dictionary gives 8 basic meaning items for 就. approach, get close to get to, begin to do passive, -ed by finish, become ...
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  • 545
8 votes
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Any ideas on the origin of the 绍 character?

The real way to describe characters should only utilise a surface level, not recursive, decomposition. 「紹」originally meant to continue. The meaning introduce is a semantic extension from to continue >...
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