In this post we are going to look at kanji that contain 弓 “bow” –弓引張強弱溺弾弦弥.
The kanji 弓 “bow”
For the kanji 弓, (a) in oracle bone style, in brown, and (b) in bronze ware style, in green, had a bow with a bowstring. Another bronze ware style writing (c), (d) in seal style, in red, had a bow only, which became the kanji 弓. The kanji 弓 meant “bow.”
The kun-yomi 弓 /yumi’/ means “bow,” and is in 弓なりに (“in a bow shape; in a curved chain shape” /yuminarini/). The on-yomi /kyu’u/ is in 洋弓 (“western-style bow; western-style archery” /yookyuu/).
The kanji 引 “to pull; pull back; subtract; look up”
For the kanji 引, the seal style kanji had a bow and a vertical line, which is interpreted to signify something being pulled to straighten. Pulling something back also meant “to subtract.” The kanji 引 meant “to pull; pull back; subtract; look up.”
The kun-yomi 引く /hiku/ means “to pull; subtract; pullback.” It is in 取引 (“transaction; bargaining” /tori’hiki/), 引き受ける (“to undertake; take charge of” /hikiuke’ru/), 引き継ぐ (“to take over; succeed” /hikitsugu/), 引っ越し (“house moving; move” /hikkoshi/), 引き算 (“subtraction” /hiki’zan/), 引き金 (“trigger; immediate cause” /hikigane/) and 辞書を引く (“to consult a dictionary” /ji’sho-o hiku/). /-Bi/ is in 割引 (“discount” /waribiki/). The on-yomi /i’n/ is in 引火 (“ignition; catching fire” /inka/), 引責する (“to assume the responsibility” /inseki-suru/) and 引力 (“the earth’s gravitation; attractiveness” /i’nryoku/).
The kanji 張 “to tense up; stretch; strain; paste”
For the kanji 張, in bronze ware style the left side was a skein of thread (糸), and the right side was an old man with long hair (長), which was used phonetically for /cho’o/. In seal style the left side was a bow (弓), which signified something stretched. Stretching something makes it longer. The kanji 張 meant “to stretch; to extend.” The kanji 張 was also used to mean “paste; post” when its correct kanji 貼 was a non-Joyo kanji until the 2010 revision. So, you saw the kanji 張 to mean “post; paste.”
The kun-yomi 張る /haru/ means “to tense up; stretch” is in 見張り (“watch; lookout” /mihari/) and 見栄を張る (“to be pretentious; show off” /mie’0 haru/). /-Pa/ is in 突っ張る (“to cramp up; tighten” /tsuppa’ru/), and /-ba/ is in 頑張る (“to keep at it; stick to” /ganba’ru/). The on-yomi /cho’o/ is in 出張 (“business trip” /shucchoo/), 緊張する (to tense up; be keyed up” /kinchoo-suru/), 主張する (“to insist; assert; claim” /shuchoo-suru/) and 膨張 (“swelling; increase” /boochoo/).
The kanji 強 “strong; advantage; to force”
For the kanji 強, Setsumon gave the Chubun style writing, shown in gray, to be its preceding writing – 彊 phonetically used for /kyoo/ at the top and two worms 虫 at the bottom. They meant a hard shell insect such as a beetle. From that it meant “strong.” Shirakawa viewed that 彊 meant something else and that 強 was a semantic composite which was comprised of 弘, a bow with bow string detached, and 虫, a wild silkworm thread that was fortified with resin. Together they meant “strong.” Being strong is advantageous. The kanji強 meant “strong; advantage; to force.”
The kun-yomi 強い /tsuyo’i/ means “strong; advantage.” Another kun-yomi 強いる /shii’ru/ means “to force; coerce”, and is in 無理強いする (“to force someone do” /murijii-suru/) and in the expression 強いて言えば (“if anything; if I must choose” /shi’ite-ieba/). The on-yomi /kyo’o/ is in 強力な (“powerful; forceful” /kyooryokuna/), 強化する (“to strengthen; reinforce” /kyo’ka-suru/), 勉強する (“to study; reduce the price” /benkyoo-suru/), 強制的に (“by compulsion; enforcement” /kyooseeteki-ni/). Another on-yomi /go’o/ is in 強引な (“aggressive; pushy” /gooin-na/).
The kanji 弱 “weak; fragile; mild”
For the kanji 弱 in seal style it had two bows with three diagonal lines. In ancient writing three diagonal lines usually signified something beautiful or a decorative pattern. A decorative bow was for ceremonial purposes and was not strong. The kanji 弱 meant “weak; fragile; mild.”
The kun-yomi 弱い /yowa’i/ means “weak,” and is in ひ弱な (“feeble; delicate” /hiyowa-na/), か弱い (“weak; delicate” /kayowa’i/), 弱々しい (“frail; weakly” /yowayowashi’i/). The on-yomi /ja’ku/ is in 強弱 (“strength and weakness” /kyo’ojaku/), 弱小国 (“lesser country” /jakusho’okoku/), 弱点 (“weak pint” /jakute’n/), 百人弱 (“a little under a hundred people” /hyakuninja’ku/) and in the phrase 弱肉強食 (“law of the jungle; The stronger prey on the weaker” /jaku’niku kyooshoku/).
The kanji 溺 “to drown”
For the kanji 溺, the seal style writing had a bushu sanzui “water” and the phonetically used component 弱 for /jaku; deki/. The kanji 溺 meant “to drown.”
The kun-yomi 溺れる /oboreru/ means “to drown.” The on-yomi /de’ki/ is in 溺愛 (“doting” /dekiai/) and 溺死 (“death from drowning” /dekishi/).
The kanji 弾 “to flick; bullet; spring”
For the kanji 弾, in oracle bone style, (a) had a bow with a circle that might have emphasized the action of shooting, or a rock to shoot with. (b) was a bow. For seal style Setsubun gave two writings (c) and (d), both of which had a bow on the left – (c) had 単 used phonetically for /tan/, and (d) had 爪 “fingernails,” which suggested an action of fingers flicking something. The kyujitai (e) took (c), which became simplified to 弾 in shinjitai. The kanji 弾 meant “to flick; bullet; spring”
The kun-yomi /hiku/ is in ピアノを弾く “to play piano” /piano-o hiku/). The on-yomi /da’n/ is in 弾丸 (“bullet” /dangan/), 弾力性 (“elasticity; flexibility” /danryokusee/), 弾圧 (“oppression; repression” /dan-atsu/) and 弾劾 (“impeachment; censure” /dangai/).
The kanji 弦 “bow string; string musical instrument”
For the kanji 弦, the seal style writing was comprised of 弓 and 玄, used phonetically for /gen/. 玄 was twined threads that were dyed black. Together they meant strings on a bow. Plucking a tightened string makes sounds, and 弦 meant “stringed musical instrument.” The kanji 弦 meant “bow string; string musical instrument.”
There is no kun-yomi in Joyo kanji. The on-yomi /ge’n/ is in 弦楽器 (“string musical instrument” /genga’kki/), 管弦楽 (“orchestral music” /kange’ngaku/) and上弦の月 (“early crescent moon” /joogen-no-tsuki/.)
The kanji 弥 “long time; increasingly”
For the kanji 弥, Setsumon gave two (a) and (b) as its seal style writings. (a) had 長 “long hair” on the left instead of 弓. The right side was 爾 or 璽 “imperial seal.” Shirakawa explained (a) in bronze ware style as having a beautifully done body painting on a woman’s upper body for a ritual, and a bow probably used in a rite to fend off evil. The kanji 彌 meant “long.” The seal style (c) had 王 “jewel” to signify an imperial seal made of a precious stone. In kyujitai (d) 王 was dropped. In shinjitai 爾 was replaced by 尓, and became 弥. The Kadokawa dictionary and Kanjigen viewed the right side of 彌 to be a seal. The kanji 弥 meant “long time; increasingly.”
The kun-yomi /ya/ is in 弥生時代 (“the Yayoi period” /yayoiji’dai/) and 弥次馬 (“curious spectator; meddler” /yajiuma/), sometimes written as 野次馬. There is no on-yomi.
Other kanji that appear to contain 弓, such as 弟第弔 are not directly related to this group. In the next a couple of posts we will look at kanji that contain an arrow, 矢. Thank you very much for your reading. [February 12, 2017]