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Online Sinograph (Chinese Character) Dictionary
Etymologies and interpretations of characters used in Chinese and Japanese


Sinograph Logic


Sinograph Logic


Stationary

In Old Chinese, the term conveyed by 主 is cognate with terms conveyed by 朱 豆 斗 投 and 兪, among others. All involve the primary theme Straight and the secondary theme Circle/Mass. 主 is 丶 lamplight plus a massive lamp stand, indicating a lamp stand giving off light ("lamplight" remains the operative concept in the derivative character 炷). Conceptually, 主 represents a stationary object, which led it to acquire the meaning "master" (person of main importance, who remains fixed in one spot). "Master" remains the operative concept in the derivative character 麈.

To grasp the logic in the formation of the other derivative characters 住 拄 注 柱 註 駐 and 黈:

Associate 主 with the concept stationary.


Derivative Character Phonosemantic Element Semantic Element Meaning(s) Notes
丶 lamplight obsolete element = lampstand master; owner; host; Lord; god; main; principal people fixed in one spot, likened to an object that remains stationary. "Main" and "principal" are associated meanings (be of primary importance).
主 stationary 亻/人 person dwell; reside; inhabit; live; stop person remaining stationary
主 stationary 扌/手 hand/action indicator (set in place a) prop/support set in place a prop or support that keeps another object stationary
主 stationary 氵/水 water pour into; flow into; concentrate on pour liquid into a tubular container, where it becomes and remains stationary. "Concentrate on" is a borrowed meaning.
主 stationary 木 tree/wood pillar; post; support (n.) cylindrical pillar, a stationary object
主 lamplight 火 fire lamp wick; light/burn; stick of incense light source of a lamp
主 stationary 言 words write down; annotate; comment; interpret write down/annotate, fixing words in place; compare 著 and 書
主 stationary 馬 horse stop; rest; be stationed; stay tether a horse, causing it to become and remain stationary. In Japanese, also the associated meaning "park (a vehicle)."
主 master 鹿 deer leader of a herd; (large species of) deer leader of a herd belonging to a large species of deer
主 stationary 黃 yellow yellow ornament; yellow circular yellow ornament suspended from a crown, remaining stationary at and covering the side of the head
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Copyright 2015 Lawrence J. Howell


What do other online sources say about these characters?
The most comprehensive resource is the dictionary of the Chinese Text Project, which will tell you everything you could possibly wish to know about any given sinograph except the relation between its form and meaning(s).

Chinese Etymology presents an outstanding selection of the ancient forms of the characters, but its interpretive information is of dubious value.

English Wiktionary is very much a work in progress. The vast majority of the entries devoted to sinographs have an Etymology section, but the type and quality of information presented varies wildly from entry to entry.

Each entry in Japanese Wiktionary has a section corresponding to character origins (denoted 字源), but in most cases this section is empty.

A Chinese Wiktionary exists, but at present the entries have no section covering character origins.

One other site that should be mentioned is zhongwen.com, if only for the presentation method that many students find useful. The site makes no effort to incorporate the past century's worth of scholarly findings into its explanatory matter.

A recommended work available only in paper format is the ABC Etymological Dictionary of Old Chinese.

Character Chinese Text Project Chinese Etymology English Wiktionary Japanese Wiktionary
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