Origins: unfortunately a man and a women are contradicting you

What a weird title, but it probably has a deep meaning, right? well, Yeah! I’ve got 5 words that I want to show you how they came to be, because knowing the origin of words is usually fun and will make those words just stick in those brain cells of yours. besides you’ll have something to brag about when talking with your Japanese friends or your fellow Japanese learners.
So any body could guess what the words are?

First we have

  1. 生憎(あいにく):

    It means “unfortunately” and used to express sorrow when things don’t go as planned or when a situation is inconvenient.
    The 生of「 生憎」 is Ateji and 憎 comes from 「憎らしい」 which means hateful where the original word form is 「あやにく」which changed to「 あいにく」 later on. 「あや」 is the same as the interjection 「ああ」 and 「あら」. and 憎 is the stem of the adjective 「憎し (old form)」. So basically it means (Aw! That’s hateful) It’s almost like (Aw! that’s too bad) and used when you feel that way. and now it’s used to express sorrow and inconvenience as in 「生憎の雨だ」 which is very inconvenient. also 「お生憎様(おあいにくさま)」is used to express sorrow for not being able to meet expectations and for sympathy.
    Next we have

    Otoko no yurai

  2. 男(おとこ):

    I guess you never thought about the origin of 「おとこ」 before, we usually remember new words as is with out thinking too much about each word. you probably learned about the word 「男」 when you were just a beginner, and unless you’re into etymology and origins of words you probably didn’t care to know more about it. but it’s fun to know that 「男」 originally consists of 「をと+こ」Where 「をと 」means young in ancient Japanese and こ is the same as 「彦 (ひこ)」 which referred to males (boys) in opposition to females. Anciently a young man who became an adult was referred to by 「をとこ」. In modern Japanese the opposite of 「男」 is 「女」 but that wasn’t the case in the past.
    check out the next word…

    Onna no yurai

  3. 女(おんな):

    in the Nara period it was 「をみな」 but it changed in the Heian period to をんな due to a nasal sound change (を) was a prefix indicating “small” in this case it means youth. 「み」 in 「をみな」 Denotes the meaning of a women. A girl in the marriageable age was referred to by 「をとめ」, However girls at the same age was also referred to as 「をみな」 which was confusing at the time. and it wasn’t before long that the antonym of 「をとこ」 changed to「 をみな」 from being 「をとめ」 and the word 「女」 became so that it means A women in general.


  4. 矛盾(むじゅん):

    You might know that this word means “Contradiction”, It originated from an anecdote in the Han Feizi (a work written by Han Feizi at the end of the Warring States period of ancient China.)
    It is said that in  the state of Chu in China there was a merchant who was peddling lances and shields, and when he tries to sell a lance he would say ” this lance is so sharp that it will pierce any shield no matter how tough it is” and when he tries to sell the shield he would say ” This shield is so tough that no lance would pierce it no matter how sharp it is” so one of the customers asked him what would happen if he tried to pierce his tough shield with the lance he is selling, the merchant couldn’t say anything. and so this word came to mean “contradiction”. In Japan however, 「矛盾」used to mean “to fight”( to hold a weapon and fight) 

  5. 貴方(あなた):

    The original meaning of the word is 「彼方(あなた)」denoting a far place or location; previous time. and from the word that indicates distance 「彼方(あち)」words like 「あちらの方」「あの方」to indicate a person who is in a somewhat far place in the Heian period. and later it was used to refer to the second person in the Houreki era (1751 – 1764) in the Edo period.


I love knowing about origins of the words, I think it really helps deepen my understanding of each word and makes me connected to it. I feel like I’ve been always there watching how the change of time affects the language, the culture and the people. I understand more about how people used to think, and that sometimes leads me to new discoveries.

I hope that everybody understand this and try to know more about words, not just Japanese your first language as well. It’s a journey full of new discoveries, encounters, revelations and a lot of fun moments.




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