Four Japanese words the standard kanji for which obscure the real etymology

  • 志す, kokorozasu: to aim at, to aspire to. Obviously kokoro (心: heart, spirit, etc., like I said last week) + sasu (差す: to stretch something out (usually the hand or arm)): to "point one's heart at something", along exactly the same lines as 指差す, yubisasu, "to point one's finger at something". The kanji 志 is made of 心 and 士, the latter of which is in this case a warped version of a footprint, signifying going somewhere.
  • 雷, kaminari: thunder (and/or lightning). Really from kami (神), "god", and nari (鳴り), "call" or "cry".
  • 巫, mekannagi: a kind of sacred performance artist and/or shaman, usually female. The word is made of:
    1. me, woman, usually kanjified 女
    2. kamu, became modern kami, god, as above
    3. nagi, to calm or soothe, related to the modern word nagomu (和む), to calm down
    But it all gets crammed into the single character 巫. Incidentally, the specifically male version is okannagi, same etymology except me becomes o (man), and is written 覡. If you leave out the me and the o you get the unisex kannagi, which is written the same as the female version, 巫.
  • 男, otoko: man, male. You knew it had to break up into smaller parts, if only because of the related word otome (乙女, nowadays meaning "maiden"; note that telltale me). Etymology is oto (in this case meaning "young") + ko (child). Yes, this means that "otoko no ko" (男の子: "boy" as opposed to an older male) is redundant.

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