The Kanji 牛物利件牧牲半判伴畔   


I have written last week that I was going to take a break from writing for a while. I am posting a new one so soon. This post was prompted by a comment from a reader last week about the origin of the kanji 物, which involves the discussion of the bushu ushihen “ox; cow.”  First we look at kanji with a bushu ushihen– 牛物件牧牲 with revisiting 利. Then we look at the kanji with 半-半判伴畔.

  1. The kanji  牛 “bull; ox”

For the kanji 牛 in oracle bone style, in brown, bronze ware style, in green, and seal style, in red, the top was an ox head with its two horns growing upwards, and the bottom was its body. It meant “an ox; a cow.” In kanji a short-slanted stroke was added on the top left for an emphasis on the horns. The kanji 牛 means “cow; ox; cow.” [Composition of the kanji 牛: a short ノ, 二 and丨]

The kun-yomi 牛 /ushi/ means “cow; bull; ox; cattle.” The on-yomi /gyuu/ is in 乳牛 “dairy cow; dairy cattle” /nyuugyuu/, 牛乳 “milk” /gyuunyuu/, 牛肉 “beef” /gyuuniku/, 牛車 “ox-drawn carriage used by nobility in the Heian period” /gi’ssha/ and 水牛 “buffalo” /suigyuu/.

  1. The kanji 物 “stuff; thing; various; to select”

For the kanji 物 there was an old view that the right side was streamers of different colors. Oxen had different coloration and signified “various or assorted.” From various things it meant “thing; stuff.” Another view (seen in Shirakawa) seems to explain the ancient writings here better. (a) was “a plough or hoe spattering the soil,” which was phonetically /butsu/. This eventually became the shape 勿 in kanji. In (b) and (c) “an ox,” a large animal, signifying all animals, was added. (d) had “a plough with spattering soil” only. (e) comprised “an ox” and “a plough.” Cows or oxen that pulled a plough for tilling the fields had different coloration, thus it meant “various or assorted.” Choosing from various things also signified “to select; make one’s choice.” The kanji 物 means “stuff; thing; various; to select.” [Composition of the kanji 物: 牛 and 勿]

The kun-yomi 物 /mono’/ means “thing; matter; article; goods,” and is in 安物 “cheap article; inferior article” /yasumono/, 買い物 “shopping” /kaimono/, 生き物 “living creature” /iki’mono/ and 物々しい “showy; stately” /monomonoshi’i/. The on-yomi /butsu/ is in 物品 “goods; an article” /buppin/, 物理学 “physical science” /butsuri’gaku/, 物色する “look for; select” /busshoku-suru/ and 見物する “to go sight-seeing” /kenbutsu-suru/. Another on-yomi /motsu/ is in 禁物 “tabooed thing; forbidden thing” /kinmotsu/.

[The interpretation of the shape in (a), (b) and (c) as “a plough or hoe spattering the soil” is also relevant to the kanji 利. So, let us look at the kanji 利 here. It is a revision of my earlier writing a year ago.]

The kanji 利 “sharp;  useful; advantageous”

For the kanji 利 (a) comprised “a knife” or “a plough or hoe” and “a rice plant with crop.” (b), (c) and (d) comprised of “a rice plant” and “a plough or hoe spattering the soil.” A sharp pointed plough or hoe could dig up the soil effectively and be useful. It meant “useful; advantageous; sharp.” In (e) the plough or hoe became replaced by “a knife,” preserving the sense of a tool that was sharp. (On the other hand in 物 it became 勿.) In kanji it was replaced by 刂 a bushu rittoo “knife.” The kanji comprises 禾, a bushu nogihen, and刂 a bushu rittoo “knife.” The kanji 利 means “sharp;  useful; advantageous.”

  1. The kanji 件 “case; matter”

The seal style writing of the kanji 件 had イ “an act that a person does” and 牛 “an ox.” Together they signified “a person counting oxen in a herd” or “counting cases.” The kanji 件 means “case; matter.” [Composition of the kanji 件: イ  and 牛]

There is no kun-yomi in Joyo kanji. The on-yomi /ken/ is in 事件 “incidence; case” /ji’ken/, 条件付き “conditional” /jookentsuki/, 件名 “case name” /kenmee/, 別件 “separate charge; different case” /bekken/, 用件 “business; things to be done” /yooke’n/ and 人件費 “personnel expenses” /jinke’nhi/.

  1. The kanji 牧 “to herd cattle; a place where cattle graze; pasture”

For the kanji 牧 at the top left (a) had “sheep” while (b), (c), (d) and (e) all had “ox.” (The direction of the horns differentiated the two animals.) The bottom in all was “a hand holding a stick to herd sheep or oxen” (攴攵, a bushu bokunyuu “to cause.”) Where animals grazed was “pasture.” The kanji 牧 means “to herd cattle; a place where cattle graze; pasture.” [Composition of the kanji 牧: 牛 and 攵]

The kun-yomi /maki/ is in 牧場 “pasture; meadow” /makiba’/. The on-yomi /boku/ is in 放牧 “pasturage; grazing” /hooboku/, 牧師 “pastor; minister; cleric” /bo’kushi/, 遊牧 “nomadism” /yuuboku/, 牧場 “stock farm; ranch” /bokujoo/ and 牧歌的な “pastoral; idyllic” /bokkateki-na/.

  1. The kanji 牲 “sacrifice; sacrificial animal”

For the kanji 牲 the oracle bone style writing comprised “a sheep” and “a new emerging plant” used phonetically for /see/ to mean “life.” Together they signified “live sheep that was offered to a god as a sacrificial animal.” From bronze ware style on, however “an ox” was used. An ox is a big animal, and a sacrificial ox was more valuable than a smaller animal. The kanji 牲 means “sacrifice; sacrificial animal.” [Composition of the kanji 牲: 牛 and 生]

There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /see/ is in 犠牲になる“to sacrifice oneself” /gisee-ni na’ru/ and 犠牲者 “victim; prey” /gise’esha/.

The next four kanji 半判伴畔 contain 半, which came from a half of an axe.

6. The kanji 半 “a half”

For the kanj 半 the top of bronze ware style and seal style writings was ハ “to divide something in half” used phonetically for /han/. The bottom was “an ox.” Together they signified an ox that was cut in half.  In kanji ハ flipped upside down forming a sort of a truncated katakana ソ. The kanji 半 means “a half.”  [Composition of the kanji 半: a truncated ソ,二 and丨]

The kun-yomi 半ば /nakaba’/ means “the middle,” and is in 月半ば “middle of the month” /tsuki nakaba’/. The on-yomi /han/ is in 過半数 “majority; more than half” /kaha’nsuu/, 上半身 “the upper body” /jooha’nshin/, 生半可な “shallow; superficial” /namahanka-na/, 半可通 “superficial knowledge; smatterer” /hanka’tsuu/, 折半する “to cut into halves; split in half” /se’ppan-suru/ and 半べそをかく “be on the verge of crying” /hanbeso-o ka’ku/.

  1. The kanji 判 “a seal; to judge; discern”

For the kanji 判 the seal style writing comprised 半 “half” used phonetically for /han/ and “a knife” adding the meaning dividing something in half. After signing a contract both parties took one half of the contract as proof. In a dispute of a contract, a judge decided which party was right. In kanji the knife became 刂, a bushu rittoo. The kanji 判means “a seal; to judge; discern.” [Composition of the kanji 判: 半 and 刂]

There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /han/ is in 判子 “hanko seal” /hanko/, 判決 “judicial decision; ruling” /hanketsu/, 公判 “public trial” /koohan/, 小判 “koban; Japanese gold coin of the Edo period” /ko’ban/, 判定勝ち “winning on point” /hanteegachi/, 判読する “to decipher; make out” /handoku-suru/, 談判 “negotiation; bargaining” /da’npan/ and 判事 “judge” /ha’nji/.

  1. The kanji 伴 “to accompany someone; companion”

The seal style writing of the kanji 伴 comprised “an act that a person does,” which became イ, a bushu ninben in kanji, and 半 “half” used phonetically for /han/. They signified two people, each being a half of each other’s accompaniment. The kanji 伴 means “to accompany someone; companion.” [Composition of the kanji 伴: イ and 半]

The kun-yomi 伴う /tomona’u/ means “to accompany; bring in its train.” The on-yomi /han/ is in 同伴者 “one’s companion” /dooha’nsha/, お相伴する “to join for a meal” /oshooban-suru/, 伴走する “to pace set; run alongside” /bansoo-suru/ and 伴奏 “accompaniment in music” /bansoo/.

  1. The kanji 畔 “a side; a ridge”

For the kanji 畔 the seal style writing comprised 田 “rice paddies” and 半 used phonetically for /han/ tomean “the side.” They meant the side or ridge of rice paddies, which was used for a walk path. It also meant “side.” The kanji 畔 means “a side; a ridge.” [Composition of the kanji 畔: 田 and 半]

There is no kun-yomi in Joyo kanji. The on-yomi /han/ is in 湖畔”lakeside” /kohan/ and 河畔”riverside” /kahan/.

Now I return to my break. Thank you very much for your reading. –Noriko [June 24, 2018]

The Kanji 一二三四五六七八九十上下


Finally, this is the last post on which we explore the origin of individual kanji using ancient writing. By my rough estimate we have touched upon over 1400 kanji last four years. This last post is about the kanji for the numbers 1 through 10 – 一二三四五六七八九十, and “top of” 上 and “bottom of”下.

  1. The kanji 一 “one; single; only; first”

History of Kanji 一For the kanji 一a single bar was used to mean “one; single; only; first.” The kun-yomi /hito/ is in 一つ /hito’tsu/, 一人 “one person” /hito’ri/, 一人っ子 “only child” /hitori’kko/, 一人暮らし “living alone” /hitorigu’rashi/, 一息つく “to take a break” /hitoiki tsu’ku/. The on-yomi /ichi/ is in 一番 “first” /ichi’ban/ and “most” /ichiban/ and 一度 “once” /ichido/. Another on-yomi /itsu/ is in 均一 “uniform; even” /kin-itsu/, 統一する “to unify” /tooitsu-suru/, 同一 “the same; identical” /dooitsu/ and 一般的な “general; popular; common” /ippanteki-na/.

  1. The kanji 二 “two; double; second”

History of Kanji 二For the kanji 二, two bars placed side by side horizontally meant “two; double; second.“

The kun-yomi /huta/ is in 二つ “two” /hutatsu/, 二人 “two person” /hutari/, and /hutsu/ is in 二日 “two days; second day of the month” /hutsuka/. The word /hatsuka/ “20th day” is written as 二十日. The on-yomi /ni/ is in 二分する “to divide into two” and 二人三脚 “three-legged race” /ninin-sa’nkyaku/.

  1. The kanji 三 “three”

History of Kanji 三For the kanji 三, three bars placed horizontally meant “three; third.”

The kun-yomi /mi/ is in 三つ “three” /mittsu/ and /mi/ is in 三日月  “crescent” /mikazuki/. The on-yomi /san/ is in 三角形 “triangle” /sanka’kkee/, 再三 “repeatedly” /saisan/ and 二、三  “two or three; a few” /ni’san/.

  1. The kanji 四 “four”

History of Kanji 四For the kanji 四 four bars stacked up horizontally meant “four; all (directions).” Later on the shape 四was borrowed to mean “four.”

The kun-yomi 四 /yo’n/ means ‘four.”  /-Yo/ is in 四人 “four people” /yoni’n/, and /yotsu/ is in 四角 “intersection; four corners” /yotsukado/,  The on-yomi /shi/ is in 四角い “square” /shikakui/, 四方 “four directions; everywhere” /shiho’o/ and 四季 “four seasons” /shi’ki/.

  1. The kanji 五 “five; half”

History of Kanji 五For the kanji 五the shape in which two sticks crossing with a bar at the top and the bottom was borrowed to mean “five.” Five divides ten equally so it also meant “equal.”

The kun-yomi /itsu/ is in 五つ. The on-yomi /go/ is in 五分五分 “on even terms; evenly matched” /gobugobu/, 五感“five senses” /gokan/.

  1. The kanji 六 “six”

History of Kanji 六For the kanji 六the oracle bone style shape was the shape of a tent, but it is believed that the writing was never used for that meaning. Instead it was borrowed to mean “six.”

The kun-yomi /mu/ is in 六つ “six” /muttsu/ and 六日 “six days; sixth day of the month” /muika/. The on-yomi /roku/ is in  六月 “June” /rokugatsu/ and 四六時中 “around the clock; day and night” /shirokujichuu/, and /ro-/ is in 六法全書 “Compendium of Laws” /roppooze’nsho/.

  1. The kanji 七 “seven”

History of Kanji 七For the kanji 七, in oracle bone style, bronze ware style and seal style it was a bone being cut. But it was borrowed phonetically for /shichi/ to mean “seven.”

The kun-yomi /na’na/ means “seven,” and is in 七つ “seven; seven-years old” /nana’tsu/. The on-yomi 七/shichi‘/ is in 七分目 “three-quarter filled; not full” /shichibunme/, 七分袖 “three-quarter sleeves” /shichibu’sode/ and 七面倒臭い “extremely tiresome” /shichimendookusa’i/.

  1. The kanji 八 “eight”

History of Kanji 八For the kanji 八it was the motion of splitting something into two. Eight is the multiples of two. It means “eight.”

The kun-yomi /ya/ is in 八つ “eight; eight years old” /yattu/, 八つ当たり “random venting; of one’s anger” /yatsuatari/, 八百屋”green grocer” /yaoya/ and 八百長 “race fixing; match rigging” /yaochoo/. The eighth day /yooka/ is written as 八日. The on-yomi 八 /hachi’/ is in 八人 “eight people” /hachi’nin/ and 四苦八苦する “to suffer terribly; be in dire distress” /shikuha’kku-suru/.

  1. The kanji 九 “nine”

History of Kanji 九For the kanji 九 it was a bent elbow with fingers. One tried to thrust a hand into a hold to reach something but fell short of it. A number almost full but short of full is “nine.”

The kun-yomi 九つ /koko’notsu/ means “nine” and is in 九日 “nineth day of the mondy; nine days” /kokonoka/. The on-yomi 九  /kyuu/ is “nine” and is in 九十 “ninety” /kyu’ujuu/.  Another on-yomi /ku/ also means “nine” and is in 九月 “September” /ku’gatsu/.

  1. The kanji 十 “ten”

History of Kanji 十For the kanji 十it was just a vertical line that had a thickness changing or a small dot added, signifying a bundle of ten. In seal style, the dot became a line. It meant “ten; full.”

The kun-yomi 十/to’o/ means “ten,” and is in 十日 “ten days; tenth day” /tooka/. The on-yomi 十 /ju’u/ means ‘ten” and is in 十分な “sufficient” /juubu’n-na/. /Jitsu/ is in 十分 /ji’ppun/ “ten minutes.”

  1. The kanji 上 “top; above; to come up; superior; upper”

History of Kanji 上For the kanji 上 a spatial position above a line signified “above.” The kanji 上 means “top; above; to come up; superior; upper.”

The kun-yomi 上 /ue/ means “above; top” and is in 身の上 “one’s circumstances; one’s upbringing”  /minoue/. /Uwa/ is in 上書き “overwriting” /uwagaki/, 上着 “upper garment; coat” /uwagi/. 上がる /agaru/ means “to rise up” and 上げる /ageru/ means “to raise; give.” /Kami/ is 川上 “upper stream of a river” /kawakami/. The on-yomi /joo/ is in 上品な “stylish; elegant; refined” /joohi’n-na/, 三月上旬 “the first ten days of March” /sa’ngatsu joojun/.

  1. The kanji 下 “bottom; below; to go down; lower; inferior”

History of Kanji 下For the kanji 下a spatial position below a line signified “below.” The kanji 下means “bottom; below; to go down; lower; inferior.”

There are a number of kun-yomi and on-yomi. The kun-yomi 下/shita/ means “below.” /Shimo/ is in 川下”downstream of a river” /kawashimo/, /Moto/ is in 足下 “at one’s feet; steps” /ashimo’to/. 下げる /sage’ru/ means “to lower.” 下る/kudaru/ is in 下さる “a superior gives to me” /kudasa’ru/ and 下り電車 “down train; trains going away from the capital” /kudaride‘nsha/. The on-yomi /ka/ is in 廊下 “passage way; middle corridor” /rooka/. Another on-yomi /ge/ is in 上下 “top and bottom” /jo‘oge/ and 下車 “getting off a vehicle” /ge‘sha/.

Now that we have covered all the categories of kanji origins, it is the time to reflect on this approach to kanji learning that we have been exploring last four and a half years. I would like to take a break here for a few weeks to sit back and think about what we have learned through this rather lengthy exploration. I shall be back in a few week time, hopefully refreshed a little, with more thoughts. Thank you very much for your interest.  – Noriko [June 17, 2018]

The Kanji 均句拘旬匂勾掲葛喝渇褐謁 – (3)


On this post we are going to explore two shapes 勹 “a hook shape; (a body) bending down” in the kanji 均句拘旬匂勾, and 曷 used phonetically for /katsu/ in the kanji 掲葛喝渇褐謁.

  1. The kanji 均 “even; average”

History of Kanji 均For the kanji 均 the bronze ware style writing, in green, had “a long arm with a hand at the top wrapping around two short lines of even length.” Inside was 土 “soil.” They signified that a person was trying “to make the ground even with his hand.” In the seal style writing, in red, the soil was moved out to the left. From “leveling the ground,” the kanji 均means “even; average.” [The composition of the kanji 均: 土へん, 勹 and 冫]

The kun-yomi 均しい /hitoshi’i/ means “equivalent of; identical; exactly alike.” The on-yomi /kin/ is in 均一 “uniformity; equality” /kin-itsu/, 均等に “equally; evenly” /kintoo-ni/, 平均 “average” /heekin/, 不均衡 “imbalance; disproportion” /huki’nkoo/ and 百均ショップ “100-yen shop” /hyakkin-sho’ppu/.

  1. The kanji 句 “phrase”

History of Kanji 句For the kanji 句 in (a) in oracle bone style, in brown, inside two hooks there was 口 “mouth.” They meant “speech that was enclosed.” In (b), (c) and (d) “speaking; words” was taken out of the two interlocking hooks. The kanji 句means “phrase.”  [The composition of the kanji 句: 勹 and 口]

There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /ku/ is in 禁句 “forbidden word; tabooed phrase” /kinku/, 慣用句 “idiom; common phrase” /kan-yo’oku/, 句読点 “punctuation mark” /kuto’oten/, 句切る “to punctuate; mark off with a comma; cut off” /kugi’ru/, 節句 “seasonal festival” /sekku/ and 一字一句 “every word and every phrase” /ichiji-i’kku/.

  1. The kanji 拘 “to seize; is particular about; adhere to”

History of Kanji 拘The seal style writing of the kanji 拘 comprised “an act that one does using a hand” and 句 “something bent; crooked” used phonetically for /koo/. They signified “to seize (by hand); bind.” It also means the way in which one is particular about a certain thing. The kanji 拘 means “to seize; is particular about; adhere to.”  [The composition of the kanji 拘:扌, 勹 and 口]

The kun-yomi 拘る /kodawa’ru/ means “to be obsessive; have a fixation; be a perfectionist” /kodawa’ru/, 拘束する”to restrict; shacke” /koosoku-suru/, 拘泥する “to worry too much about; be overpaticular about” /koodee-suru/, 拘置所 “prison; detention house” /koochisho/ and 拘留 “detention pending trial; custody” /kooryuu/.

  1. The kanji 旬 “ten days; in the season”

History of Kanji 旬For the kanji 旬 the oracle bone style writing was a coiling shape with a short line crossing at the end, perhaps signifying “a cycle with its end marked.” The bronze ware style writing had “the sun” added inside a semi-circle that was similar to 勻. During the Yin (Shang) dynasty the calendar used then had a cycle of ten days. A rounded shape suggested “a cycle of ten days.” In seal style the two short lines inside 勻 dropped. The kanji 旬 means “ten days,” which is one third of a month. In Japan it is also used to mean produce and fish that is “in the season”- the best time to eat. [The composition of the kanji 旬: 勹 and 日]

There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi 旬 /shun/ means “in the season.”  /-Jun/ is in 上旬 “the first ten days of a moth” /joojun/, 中旬 “the second ten days of a month” /chuujun/ and 下旬 “the last ten days of a month” /gejun/.

  1. The kanji 匂 “fragrant; scent; aroma; beautiful; to hint”

The kanji 匂 was created in Japan and there is no ancient writing. 匂う meant “to shine beautifully,” as in the classical phrase (花が) 朝日に匂う”flowers shining beautifully in the morning sun,” but it is no longer seen in ordinary writing. The kanji 匂 means “fragrant; scent; aroma; beautiful; to hint.” (The kanji 匂う /nio’u/ is generally, but not always, used for a pleasant smell while 臭い /kusa’i/ is for an unpleasant smell.)  [The composition of the kanji 匂: 勹 and ヒ]

The kun-yomi 匂う /nio’u/ means “to smell,” and in 匂わせる “to suggest; hint; insinuate” /niowase’ru/ and 匂い “smell; fragrance” /nio’i/. There is no on-yomi.

  1. The kanji 勾 “hook; to enclose”

History of Kanji 勾The bronze ware style writing looked incomprehensively complex. I cannot make out what this writing originally signified and there is no account in reference. The kanji 勾comprises 勹 “a hooked shape” or “a body bending down” and ム used phonetically for /koo/ to mean “to bend.” The kanji 勾 means “hook; to catch; hitch.”  [The composition of the kanji 勾: 勹 and ム]

There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /koo/ is in 勾配 “slope; incline; pitch; gradient” /koobai/, 勾引 “bench warrant” /kooin/ and 勾留 “detention; custody” /kooryuu/. (勾 is a newly added Joyo kanji, and some words overlap with the kanji 拘.)

The next shape, 曷, was seen in the kanji 葛 and in the kyuji of the kanji 掲喝渇褐謁. The origin of 曷 remains mystery, but here is what has been said in reference.  History of Kanji 曷曷: The top was something coming out of a mouth, 曰 /etsu/, which meant “to say.” The bottom had a “person” (人) and a frame inside an semi enclosure 勹. The interpretations of this shape vary – (1) With “a box of prayers” on the top and “bones of a dead person” on the bottom together meant “praying so that the dead would grant a prayer’s wish” and 曷 was a voice of prayer (Shirakawa); (2) 曷 was “showing contempt and confining someone by a hand (勹)” (Kanjigen); and (3) it was used phonetically to meant “sound of scolding voice.”

Two things about the shape 曷: It was used phonetically in all kanji; 人 with “a screen” (?) in seal style remained in kyuji, but changed to ヒ, another shape to mean “person” in shinji in all kanji except 葛.

  1. The kanji 掲 “to display; hoist”

History of Kanji 掲For the kanji 掲 the seal style writing comprised 扌 “an act that one does using a hand” and 曷 used phonetically for /kee/ to mean “to hoist.” Together a hand hoising something up means “to display; put up.” The kanji 掲 means “to display; hoist.”  [The composition of the kanji 掲: 扌, 日and 匂]

The kun-yomi 掲げる /kakageru/ means “to put up; hoist; herald,” as in 主義主張を掲げる “to advocate principles and opinions” /shu’gishuchoo-o kakageru/. The on-yomi /kee/ is in 掲示する “to post; put up a notice” /keejiban/, 掲載 “to print; put in; run an article” /keesai-suru/ and 電光掲示板 “electric bulletin board” /denkoo-keejiban/.

  1. The kanji 葛 “kuzuvine; kuzuroot starch”

History of Kanji 葛The seal style writing of the kanji 葛 comprised 艸 “plants” and 曷used phonetically for /katsu/. Together they meant “kuzuvine.” The fibers in the vine were used for weaving. Its root provides good starch for cooking. The kanji 葛 means “kuzu vine; kuzu root starch.” The kanji 葛 is the only Joyo kanji that retained the kyuji shape 曷, even though the kanji with 匂 at the bottom is seen as a popular informal shape.  [The composition of the kanji 葛: 艹 and 曷]

The kun-yomi 葛 /ku’zu/ means “kuzu root starch,” and is in 葛粉 “kuzu starch” /kuzuko’/, 葛切り “slices of kuzu jelly with syrup (as sweets)” /kuzukiri/ and 葛桜 “cherry-leaf-covered kuzu filled with sweet azuki bean” /kuzuza’kura/. The on-yomi /katsu/ is in 葛藤 “an entanglement; embroilment” /kattoo/. (Both 葛 and 藤 “Japanese wisteria” /huji/ are vines.)

  1. The kanji 喝 “to shout; scold”

History of Kanji 喝For the kani 喝 the seal style writing comprised 口 “mouth; to speak” and 曷 used phonetically for /katsu/ to mean “to scold in a loud voice.” The kanji 喝 meant “to shout; scold.” [The composition of the kanji 喝: 口, 日 and 匂]

There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /katsu/ is in 喝采する “to applaud; cheer loudly” /kassai-suru/, 拍手喝采 “clapping and sheering; enthusiastic applause” /ha’kushu kassai/, 恐喝する “to blackmail; extort” /kyookatsu-suru/ and 喝を入れる “to give a pep talk” /ka’tsu-o iresu/.

  1. The kanji 渇 “to thirst for; dry out”

History of Kanji 渇For the kanji 渇 the bronze ware style writing had “running water” on the left, and the right side was used phonetically for /katsu/ to mean “lack of.” The seal style writing had “a mouth open” (曰) and “a person disappearing” (亡) in 勹, but what those components meant is not clear. The kanji 渇 means “to be thirst; dry out; thirsty.” [The composition of the kanji 渇:氵, 日 and 匂]

The kun-yomi 渇く/kawa’ku/ means “to crave; thirst for,” as in 喉が渇く”to become thirsty” /no’do-ga kawa’ku/.  The on-yomi /katsu/ is in 渇する “to dry up; suffer from thirst” /kassuru/, 渇望 “craving for; longing for” /katsuboo/, 枯渇する “to dry up; be drained” /kokatsu-suru/ and 渇水時 “period of drought” /kassu’iji/.

  1. The kanji 褐 “brown; humble clohtes”

History of Kanji 褐For the kanji 褐 the seal style writing comprised 衣 “clothes” and 曷 used phonetically for /katsu/ to mean “kuzu vine.” Clothes or footware made by weaving vines signified “humble simple clothes.” It also meant “brown” from the color of humble clothes dyed in dull color from vines and other plants. The kanji 褐 means “brown; (humble clothes).”  [The composition of the kanji 褐: 衤, 日 and 匂]

There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /katsu/ is in 褐色 “brown” /kasshoku/ and 茶褐色 “dark reddish brown” /chaka’sshoku/.

  1. The kanji 謁 “to be received in loyal audience”

History of Kanji 謁For the kanji 謁 the seal style writing comprised 言 “word; language; to say” and 曷 used phonetically for /etsu/. To say something to a ruler became the meaning “to be received in loyal audience.” [The composition of the kanji 謁: 言, 日 and 匂]

There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /etsu/ is in 謁見 “imperial audience” /ekken/, 拝謁する “to be received in audience by His (or Her) Majesty” /haietsu-suru/.

Thank you very much for your reading. – Noriko [June 10, 2018]

The Kanji 凶胸凸凹区殴欧枢匹医匠- (2)


As the last category of kanji origin, we are exploring kanji that originated from a shape. In this post we are going to look at 凵 “a receptacle; container” in the kanji 凶胸凸凹 and 匸 “a hiding place” in the kanji 区殴欧枢匹医匠.

  1. The kanji 凶 “misfortune; disaster; bad luck”

History of Kanji 区For the kanji 凶 one view is that in the seal style writing, in red,the bottom凵was “a container that was empty.” Having no rice in the container signified “famine.” From that it meant “disaster; famine.” Another view is that the bottom (凵) was a chest. The inside shape was a tattooing on the deceased chest to prevent an evil to come near. It meant “misfortune; bad luck.”The kanji 凶 means “misfortune; disaster; bad luck.” [The composition of the kanji: メ and 凵]

There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi 凶 /kyoo/ means “disaster,” and is in 凶器(“dangerous weapon; the weapon used in an assault” /kyo’oki/), 凶作 (“a very poor harvest; a crop failure” /kyoosaku/), 凶暴な (“atrocious; barbarious” /kyooboo-na/, 凶悪な (“extremely wicked; heinous” /kyooaku-na/), 吉凶 (“good or bad luck; fortune” /kikkyoo/) and 吉凶を占う (“to tell someone’s fortunre” /kikkyoo o urana’u/).

  1. The kanji 胸”chest; bosom; mind”

History of Kanji 胸For the kanji 胸 the bronze ware style writing, in green, comprised “chest” (凶) used phonetically for kyooand “flesh; part of the body” (月), together signifying “a chest.” In seal style, 凶 was placed inside the shape 勹 “something that surrounds” or “a body bending over” without 月. In kanji 月returned to the left as the bushu nikuzuki. The kanji 胸 means “chest; bosom; mind.”

The kun-yomi 胸 /mune’/ means “chest; breast; heart; lung,” and is in 胸元 “the pit of the stomach; the bosom,” 胸を張る (“to be puffed up with pride” /mune’-o haru/), 胸が塞がる (“full of deep emotion” /mune’-ga husagaru/) and 胸算用 (“expectation; anticipation” /munazanyoo/). The on-yomi /kyoo/ is in 胸囲 (“one’s chest measurement” /kyo’oi/), 度胸 (“boldness; daring” /do’kyoo/ and 胸筋を開く (“to be frank; have a hear-to-heart talk” /kyookin-o hira’ku/).

  1. The kanji 凸 “protruding; convex”

There is no ancient writing for the kanji 凸. It signifies something that had protrusion in the middle. It is used in a pair with the kanji 凹. The kanji 凸 means “protruding; convex.”

There is no kun-yomi, but the word /dekoboko/ “unevenness; bumpiness” is often written as 凸凹. The on-yomi /totsu/ is in 凸レンズ (“a convex lens” /totsure’nzu/) and 両凸レンズ (“double-convex lens” /ryoototsu-re’nzu/).

  1. The kanji 凹 “hollow; conclave”

There is no ancient writing for the kanji 凹. It signifies something that had a conclave in the middle. The kanji 凹 means “hollow; conclave.”

The kun-yomi 凹む /hekomu/ means “to give; collapse; be beaten; become disheartened.” The on-yomi /oo/ is in 凹凸 (“unevenness; irregularity” /oototsu/), 凹面(“concave side; hollow side” /oomen/), 凹レンズ (“a concave lens” /oore’nzu/) and 凹凸レンズ (“a concavo-convex lens” /outotsu-re’nzu/).

Related to this shape is the origin of the kanji 脳悩思細 that pertained “brains.” They were discussed twice on the earlier posts (February 21, 2015 and July 25, 2015.) Thrice would be a little overdone, so we are not going to look at them here. In the earlier posts you can see that the ancient writings all had the shape 囟. The brain was represented by メshape inside the skull. The shape 囟has also been interpreted as a baby’s fontanel, a soft spot between the bones on a new baby’s head signifying “brain.”

The next group is 匸 “a hiding place.”

  1. The kanji 区 “to separate; divide; section; ward”

History of Kanji 区For the kanji 区 the oracle bone style writing, in light brown, had “three boxes (口) stashed away behind a screen.” A screen separated them from others or make smaller sections. It meant “to separate; divide; section.” In bronze ware style the boxes were linked together. In seal style and kyuji (區) three boxes remained, but in shinji they were replaced by a simplifying shape. In Japan in a larger city this is used in an address as  /ku/ “ward.” The kanji 区means “to separate; divide; section; ward.” [The composition of the kanji:  凵 and メ]

There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /ku/ is in 区画 (“subdivision; panel” /kukaku/), 区分 (“division” /ku’bun/), 区域 (“area; segment; zone” /ku’iki/), 学区(“school district” /ga’kku/) and 港区 (“Minato-ward” in Tokyo /minato’-ku/).

  1. The kanji 枢 “pivot; center; essence; coffin”

History of Kanji 枢For the kanji 枢 the seal style writing comprised 木 “tree; wood” and 區, which meant “something concealed.” A pivot to a wooden door” is not visible and yet it is  important for the use of a door and it signified “essence; very important.” The kyuji 樞 reflected seal style, which was simplified to 枢 in the shinji. The kanji 枢 meant “pivot; center; essence.” A wooden box to cover the deceased is “coffin.” [The composition of the kanji: 木 and 区]

The kun-yomi枢/hitsugi/ means “coffin.” The on-yomi /suu/ is in 枢機 (“most important affair” /su’uki/), 中枢 (“center; centrum” /chuusuu/) and 運動中枢 (“motor center” /undo-chu’usuu/).

  1. The kanji 殴 “to strike; assault; beat”

History of Kanji 殴For the kanji 殴 the left side of the bronze ware style writing was used phonetically for /oo/, and the right side was “a hand holding a stick,” which would have become 攴 “to act; cause.” They meant “to hit.” In seal style a stick was replaced by weapon, forming 殳, a bushu hokozukuri“to strike.” The kyuji 毆 was replaced by the shinji 殴. The kanji 殴 means “to strike; assault; beat.” [The composition of the kanji:  匸,メ and 殳]

The kun-yomi 殴る /nagu’ru/ means “to strike,” and is in 殴り書き (“scribble; scrabble” /nagurigaki/), 殴り合い (“fisticuffs” /naguriai/) and 殴り込む (“to raid; laugh an attack” /naguriko’mu/). The on-yomi /oo/ is in 殴打 (“strike; blow” /o’oda/).

  1. The kaji 欧 “Europe; European”

History of Kanji 欧For the kanji 欧in seal style 區was used phonetically for /oo/ to mean “to groan; howl,” and the right side was “a person singing with his mouth open large.” Together they originally meant “to groan; howl.” It was used only phonetically to mean “Europe.” The kyuji 歐 reflected the seal style writing. The kanji 欧means “Europe; European.” [The composition of the kanji:  匸, メ and 欠]

There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /oo/ is in 欧州 (“Europe” /o’oshuu/), 北欧(“Scandinavian countries” /hokuhoo) and 欧米 (“the west; Europe and America” /oobee/).

  1. The kanji 匹 “a counter of animals”

History of Kanji 匹For the kanji 匹the origin is not clear. (a)(b) and (c) in bronze ware style all had the shape 厂 with a couple of curved lines underneath. Different accounts include “two pieces of cloth hanging down,” giving the meaning “to match,” and “horses bellies lining up.” The kanji 匹 is a counter of animal.[The composition of the kanji:  一, 儿 and an angle]

There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /hiki/ was used as a counter of animal as in 二匹(/nihiki/ “two small animals”).  /Hit-/ is in 匹敵する”equal; comparable” /hitteki-suru/,  匹夫の勇”rash courage; foolhardiness” /hippu-no-yuu/.

  1. The kanji 医 “medical”

History of Kanji 医For 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) was more complex: It had 医 “a box of arrow,” 殳 “a hand holding a weapon or tool” together signifying “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) 醫 reflected (c). The shinjitai has retained “an arrow hidden in a box” only. The kanji 医 meant “medicine.” [The composition of the kanji:  凵 and 矢]  (from the post on February 26, 2017)

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 匠 “design; craftsman; master”

History of Kanji 匠For the kanji 匠, 斤  “an axe” was inside a box or container 匚. Together they meant “to make a craft work using an axe” or a person who made craft work using an axe. It also included someone who excelled in his art. [The composition of the kanji: 斤 and 凵] (from the post on November 27, 2016)

The kun-yomi /takumi/ means “artisan; master craftsman.” The on-yomi /shoso/ is in 意匠 (“design; idea” /i’shoo/), 巨匠 (“great master” /kyoshoo/) and 師匠 (“teacher; master” in traditional art /shi’shoo/).

We shall continue with our exploration on kanji that originated from a shape next time. Thank you very much for your reading. – Noriko [June 2, 2018]