This is an interesting topic; it touches one of the core idea of the Chinese language.
The Chinese language and all its dialects have not been designed by one inventor at one specific day. Instead, they were created and evolved at different regions through thousands of years at least.
Evidences (see below) showed that some of the Chinese characters from ...
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).
It's unlikely that shin is based on the Chinese character, either. It seems taken from the Phoenician alphabet, where the corresponding letter looks like a Latin W.
It's worth keeping in mind that ...
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 with the same 貝 component in this "character". While the left side of 招 (扌) and the right side of 財 (才) are technically not the same component, they look similar ...
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.
Etymology of 一, 二, and 三
Explanation of 一/二/三 in 象形字典 (Dictionary of Pictographs)
一 is a special self-explanatory character. The ...
There is not an entry of 妖 in the 《說文解字》.
The interpretation of 𡝩 in the 《說文解字注》 mentions 俗省作妖.
𡝩 [ yāo | ㄧㄠ ]
It means that 𡝩 is used to be simplified to 妖.
That is, the original form of 妖 is 𡝩.
《說文解字》 explains 𡝩 as follows.
皃 [ ...
「九」 and 「丸」 are not related. As @user3306356 points out, 「丸」 is probably related to 「夗」.
「九」 depicts an arm showing the hand, a bent wrist, and elbow, indicating the original meaning elbow. This word is now written as 「肘」 (Baxter-Sagart OC: /*t-[k]<r>uʔ/).
The meaning nine (/*[k]uʔ/) for 「九」 ...
Nope. The radical was simplified from 玉 (jade), originally referring to a polished sphere of jade. 求 is the phonetic component.
For reference, Baxter's Old Chinese reconstruction has 求 *grju, and 球 *grju. In this particular case, 求 has remained a good phonetic for three millennia!
The sense of 'sounding stone made of jade' can be seen in the Kangxi ...
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:
“乒” and “乓” are used together as onomatopoetic in history. :)
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):
The origin of the character 言 is a picture of a person with a big mouth. In ancient Chinese, it’s the general word for any form of speech or talking. In modern Chinese, it has become literary and is normally only used in compound words like ...
I didn't know that 來 has this meaning until today, and this is even its original meaning.
The original meaning of 來 is "grain or corn", which is the upper part of 麥.
《說文解字》 explains that 來 means 周所受瑞麥, 來麰也.
《說文解字注》 interprets it as follows.
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 characters, for the vast majority of the time, character components represent either meaning or sound of the word they originally were created for.
This radical is called the 双耳旁 or 双二刀, due to it looking somewhat like an ear or the 刀 character. There are actually two radicals depending on whether it's placed to the left or right: 左耳刀 if on the left, 右耳刀 if on the right. The two radicals have different origins and different meanings.
The left version is derived ...
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 that most people have about simplification, and it's not far from the truth.
Alas, there are exceptions.
One of my favorite references on this topic lists out ...
「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」was originally a picture of a person「大」climbing on top of a tree「木」; feet「舛」were added on to the person later (Shape #2 onwards).
「昌」 (early morning call, e.g. to the day's labour) is comprised of semantic 「日」 (sun) on top of semantic 「口」 (mouth). Such calls would likely be rhythmic or melodious, similar to bugle calls, making the interpretation of 「昌」 as the original form of 「唱」 (to sing).
Summary: Etymology of Number Characters
一(one), 二(two), 三(three)
Simple ideographs / Self-explanatory characters. Originate from the ancient counting rods. (Explanation from Dictionary of Oracle Scripts.)
亖 and 四 (four)
亖: Simple ideograph. Originate from the ancient counting rods.
四: Phonetic loan character. Come from 呬 or 泗. (Explanation from ...
Etymology of 五
Explanation of 五 in 象形字典 (Dictionary of Pictographs)
五 is also a special self-explanatory character. Its oracle glyph uses a cross to imply "meeting of everything between the ...
Etymology of 四
Explanation of 四 in 象形字典 (Dictionary of Pictograph)
四 is a special self-explanatory character. Its oracle glyph represents it is the twice of 二. The original idea of character construction: twice of 二. Its ...
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 was a leaky water container, where the water level represents time. 商 was originally the scale plate on this type of water clock. The scale first had 100 grades (...
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. Old Ch.
也 yě jaa5 / yáh iā yæX *lAjʔ
他 tā taa1 / tā tha/thaⁿ tha *l̥ ˤaj
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.
 recognise; identify; make out
 admit; acknowledge; agree; accept
 enter into a certain relationship with
 offer/undertake to do sth
 [v] know; recognize;...
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 a man riding a horse, which means "to ride" (i.e. what 骑 means today), but when small seal script was developed, the horse morphed into 可, which ...
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 quan3 radical because of trait reduction and semantic affinity (dog -> beast).
If it sounds easier to you, you can think of 犭 quan3 in simplified Chinese as ...
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, the meaning noon for 「午」 is a phonetic loan; that is, the shape 「午」 represented a word that sounded similar to an unrelated existing word meaning noon, and the ...
Wikitionary has an etymology for this character 四 which says:
The original shell and bone character was 一 written four times, 亖
(compare 二 and 三). The bronzeware style of the character featured a
repositioning of those four lines inside 口; this later evolved into
the combination used today of 口 mouth and 八 divide which meant a
dispersal of breath. ...