Kanji 医短至屋握室窒到倒致緻-“arrow” (2)


In the last post we looked at a few kanji that originated from 矢 “arrow.”  We start this post by adding two more kanji that contains 矢 – 医短. Then we look at kanji that contains 至, with a reduced shape of an arrow at the top – 至屋握室窒到倒致緻.

  1. The kanji 医 “medical”

history-of-kanji-%e5%8c%bbFor the kanji 医, the two seal style writings, (b) and (c), were originally not related. (b) had its oracle bone style precursor (a), which had an arrow in a box that signified “to hide an arrow.” The other seal style writing (c) had (b) 医 “a box of arrows” at the top left. With the right side殳 “a hand holding a weapon or tool” that meant “to cause,” together it meant an injury caused by an arrow in battle. The bottom酉 was a spirit jar that signified medicinal spirit. Altogether “treating an injured person with medical spirit” meant “medicine.” The kyujitai (d) reflected (c). The shinjitai became only an arrow hidden in a box. The kanji 医 meant “medicine.”

There is no kun-yomi in Joyo kanji. The on-yomi 医 meant “medicine; medical,” and is in 医者 (“medical doctor” /isha/), 医学 (“medical science” /i’gaku/), 内科医 (“doctor of internal medicine; physician” /naika’i/) and 医療費 (“fee for medical treatment; doctor’s bill” /iryo’ohi).

  1. The kanji 短 “short”

history-of-kanji-%e7%9f%adFor the kanji 短, the left side was an arrow and the right side 豆 was a small one-legged tray or bowl. Setsumon explained that an arrow was used in measuring length. From that the kanji 短 meant “short.”

The kun-yomi 短い /mijika’i/ meant “short,” and is in 気短な (“short-tempered; impatient” /kimijika-na/) and in the expression 手短に言えば (“to put it succinctly; to cut a long story short” /temijika-ni-ie’ba/).  The on-yomi /tan/ is in 長短 (“merits and demerits; strength and weakness” /cho’otan/), 短所 (“weakness” /ta’nsho/), 単刀直入に (”frankly; come straight to the point” /tantoo-chokunyuu-ni/) and 短歌 (“tanka poetry; 31-syllabled poem” /ta’nka/).

Now we move to another group of “arrow” kanji — 至屋握室窒到倒致緻.

  1. The kanji 至 “to reach an end”

history-of-kanji-%e8%87%b3For the kanji 至, the bronze ware style writing was an arrow with its arrowhead at the bottom, hitting the ground (一). It meant “to reach an end.” In seal style the arrowhead became long, which in kanji became a part of 土 “soil; ground.” The kanji 至 meant “to reach an end; to the end.”

The kun-yomi 至る /itaru/ means “to reach; arrive,” and is in the expression 至れり尽せりの (“complete; leaving nothing to be desired” /itareri-tsukuse’ri-no/) and 至る所に (“everywhere” /ita’rutokoro-ni/). The on-yomi /shi/ is 至急 (“urgently; without delay” /shikyuu/), 必至だ (“inevitable” /hisshi-da/), 至上命令 (“supreme directive” /shijoome’eree/) and 夏至 and冬至 (“summer solstice” around June 22 and “winter solstice” around December 22. /geshi/ and /tooji/).

  1. The kanji 屋 “house; roof”

history-of-kanji-%e5%b1%8bFor the kanji 屋, in (a) in Old style, (b) Chubun style, and (c) seal style 至 was placed inside a house, (a), or under尸 , (b) and (c). There are different views on its origin: (1) Shirkawa took the view that in ancient times an arrow was shot to determine an appropriate location and where an arrow dropped was considered to be the place. That is 至.  尸 was a hut to house a corpse to intern to weather it before burial. Together 屋 meant a house. (2) Kanjigen explained that a covering drapery 至 “dead end” together blocked passing. 屋 meant a covered house; (3) The Kadokawa dictionary explained 尸 “drapery” and 至 “to reach” together meant a secluded room in the back. The fact that a bushu shikabane 尸has two distinctly different meanings –“corpse,” as the name indicates, and “roof” — is reflected in these different views. The kanji 屋 meant “roof; house.”  In Japanese it was also used to mean business that was conducted under a roof, a “store.”

The kun-yomi /ya/ is in 本屋 (“bookstore” /ho’nya/), 屋号 (“name of a store” /ya’goo/), 屋根 (“roof” /ya’ne/) and 小屋 (“hut” /koya/). The on-yomi /oku/ is in 屋外 (“outdoors; open-air” /oku’gaai/) and 屋上 (“rooftop” /okujoo/).

  1. The kanji 握 “to grip; grasp”

history-of-kanji-%e6%8f%a1The seal style writing of the kanji 握 had 扌, a bushu tehen “an act one does using a hand” and 屋 phonetically for /oku; aku/. Together a hand reaching out to seize meant “to grip; grasp.”

The kun-yomi /nigiru/ meant “to grip; grasp,” and is in the expression 手に汗を握る (“to be in breathless suspense; gripping; heated” /te’ni a’seonigiru/) . The on-yomi /aku/ is in 握手 (“shaking hands” /a’kushu/), 握力 (“grip strength” /aku’ryoku/) and 把握する(“perceive; grasp” /haaku-suru/).

  1. The kanji 室 “room”

history-of-kanji-%e5%ae%a4For the kanji 室 all three ancient style — oracle bone, bronze ware and seal — had a house (宀) and an arrow reaching the ground (至), signifying “the farthest point” in a house. Together they meant a secluded room in the back. The kanji 室 meant “room.”

The kun-yomi /muro/ is in 氷室 (“icehouse” /hi’muro/). The on-yomi /shitsu/ is in 教室 (“classroom” /kyooshitu/), 室内 (“inside a room” /shitsu’nai/), 寝室 (“bedroom” /shinshitsu/), 皇室 (“royal family” /kooshitsu/) and 側室 (“concubine” /sokushitsu/).

  1. The kanji 窒 “to suffocate; smother”

history-of-kanji-%e7%aa%92The seal style writing for the kanji 窒 had 穴 “house; cave” at the top and 至 “an arrow reaching the ground” used phonetically fpr /shi; tetsu/.  Together an arrow reaching a cave meant “to block passing or traffic.”

There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /chitsu/ is in 窒素 (“nitrogen” /chi’sso/) and 窒息する (“to smother; suffocate” /chissoku-suru/).

  1. The kanji 到 “to arrive; come”


The two bronze ware style writings shown on the left had an arrow reaching the ground and a person standing on the right. Together they meant a person reaching the spot where an arrow dropped, or “to arrive.” In seal style on the right side a person changed to a sword, which became 刂, a bushu rittoo in kanji. The mix-up of 人 and 刀 in kanji history was not uncommon, as we saw in the kanji召 in an earlier post. The kanji 到 meant “to arrive; come.”

There is no kun-yomi in Joyo kanji. The on-yomi /too/ is in 到着する (“to arrive” /toochaku-suru/), 到底〜ない (“cannot possibly” /tootee ~nai/), 到達する (“to attain” /tootasu-suru/) and 殺到する (“to rush to” /sattoo-suru/).

  1. The kanji 倒 “to fall down; topple; collapse”

history-of-kanji-%e5%80%92The seal style writing for the kanji 倒 had イ “person” and 到 “to reach,” from a person arriving at where an arrow reached, used phonetically for /too/. Together a person retrieving an arrow and coming back originally signified a person in a reverse manner or upside-down position. The kanji 倒 meant “to invert; fall; topple.”

The kun-yomi 倒れる /taore’ru/ means “to fall; topple,” and 倒す means “to topple; bring down.” The on-yomi /too/ is in 倒壊する (“to collapse; topple” /tookai-suru/), 倒産 (“bankruptcy” /toosan/), 打倒 する (“to overthrow” /datoo-suru/) and卒倒する (“to faint; faint unconsciously” /sottoo-suru/).

  1. The kanji 致 “to do; cause”

history-of-kanji-%e8%87%b4The seal style writing for the kanji 致 had 至on the left. The right side was a hand or glove for shooting arrows holding a long bow. Together they meant “to make someone do something.” In kanji the right side became 攵,a bushu bokuzukuri “to cause.“

The kun-yomi 致す /ita’su/ means “to do” in humble style. The on-yomi /chi/ is in 致命的な (“fatal” /shimeeteki-na/), 一致する (“to agree; conform” /icchi-suru/), 合致する (“to coincide; correspond” /gacchi-suru/ and 誘致する (“to lure; entice” /yu’uchi-suru/).

  1. The kanji 緻 “minute; fine”

history-of-kanji-%e7%b7%bbThe seal style writing of the kanji 緻 had 糸 “stein of threads” that signified “close-grained; fine” next to 致 “to do” used phonetically for /chi/. Together they meant “fine.”

There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /chi/ is in 緻密な (“minute; intricate” /chimitsu-na/) and 精緻な (“detailed; thorough; precise” /seemitsu-na/).

We have collected 16 kanji that originated from an arrow in this and last posts.  I must admit that I was surprised how extensively an image or meaning of an arrow was used in kanji, just as I was astonished at the extensive use of a halberd in Japanese kanji in our December and January posts. I was reminded of the role that that weapons played in ancient time in China and how it inspired the creators of ancient writing to go beyond the use of arrow as weapon. Thank you for your reading.     -Noriko [February 26, 2017]

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