Tao Te Ching Etymology 44

SSS = Small Seal Script

# Chinese English (MS Word/Google/Wiktionary) SSS Etymology (Wikitionary)
1 名與身孰親 Fame or the self, which is dearer?
1.1 Name; reputation; fame 夕 (crescent moon) + 口 (mouth) — to say one’s own name to identify oneself in the dark.

An alternative theory has been proposed based on Shang era texts. 口 was originally used to write both 口 and 名. 夕 standing for what later came to be written 明, was added as a phonetic indicator to disambiguate the two meanings.

1.2 Versus; to give; to offer phonetic 舁 + semantic 牙.
1.3 Body; pregnancy a pictograph of a pregnant woman
1.4 who? which? what? which one? 享 + 丮 of some sort; current form of right component simplified to 丸.

emphatic or interrogative pronoun

To hold, catch

To catch 享 a lamb 丮

1.5 Kiss, dear; intimate; bosom; closely acquainted; beloved; dear phonetic 𣓀 + semantic 見 (“see”).

𣓀 Not found Alt. 辛 Picture of a tool – a carving knife or a chisel – used to mark slaves and criminals.
2 身與貨孰多 The self or wealth, which is greater?
2.1 body. See 1.3
2.2 And. See 1.2
2.3 Goods. phonetic 化 + semantic 貝 (“shell, money”) – valuable goods.

shell; money
2.4 who? which? what? which one?
2.5 Many. two pieces of meat (肉). In the bronze script, 肉 was corrupted into 夕 due to visual similarity, making 多 into a duplication of 夕. The form with 夕 was inherited in later scripts.

Chi (2010) suggests that meat is scarce in ancient times, so two pieces of meat is a lot, citing a passage from Mencius: 七十者可以食肉矣。= Persons of seventy years may eat meat.

Chang Ping-chuan suggests that it is the duplicative nature of the character that gives the meaning of “many”, just like in 林 (“forest”), from 木 (“tree; wood”).

3 得與亡孰病 Gain or loss, which is more painful?
3.1 Come on; gain The ancient form of 得 is 㝵, composed of 貝 (“cowry”) + 又 (“hand”) — to pick up a cowry > to obtain valuables. A component 彳 was sometimes added to show that the cowry was picked up on the road.
3.2 And; or See 1.2
3.3 Dead; loss a line on 刀 – cutting edge of a knife; the original form of 芒 (edge of a knife).
3.4 I don’t know; more See 1.4
3.5 Disease; painful, sickness semantic 疒 (“sickness”) + phonetic 丙 – illness. Note that 丙 also means “fire”, hence connotations of “lying feverishly in bed”.
4 是故甚愛必大費 Thus excessive love must lead to great spending
4.1 Is; this; this thing; thus Originally a phono-semantic compound: semantic 早 + phonetic 止, but the original meaning is unclear. It has been suggested that 早 looks like a spoon, so 是 may have been the original character for 匙 (spoon). As early as in late bronze inscriptions, the lower part of 早 split off and combined with 止 to give 昰, which carried over to the small seal script, and Shuowen considers this a compound of 日 (sun) + 正 (upright; right) (i.e. as the upright sun).
4.2 So; old; of the past; cause; reason phonetic 古 + semantic 攵.

Derivative of 古 (old). The sense “cause, reason” may be related to (thing or person of former times), or the same word as 固 (solid, secure, sure) (Schuessler 2007, apud Pulleyblank 1989).

4.3 Even; excessive Ideogrammic compound:


from Proto-Sino-Tibetan (full; flat; straight) and cognate with 斟 (to pour), 淫 (excessive) and Tibetan གཏམས (go fill up).

4.4 Love. Originally 㤅, a phono-semantic compound:

phonetic 旡 + semantic 心 (heart).

As early as the Qin dynasty, a meaningless component 夊 (foot) was added to the bottom of the character, as with some other characters depicting people. Compare 憂 (from 㥑). Further corruption turned the original phonetic 旡 into ⿱爫冖.

4.5 Will; surely; most certainly; always; invariably; must; have to; shall Likely a pictogram – weapon handle made of bamboo strips; the original character for 柲. The character was phonetically borrowed for the senses of “certainly” and “must”. Unrelated to 心, as bronze script makes clear, but in current form very similar.
4.6 Big; of great size; large; huge Ideogram: a person 人 with arms stretched out as far as possible, implying the meaning of big/great/large. Compare with 尢, which is a man with bent legs. Compare also 文, which is a man with arms outstretched and a crest or tattoo on his chest, and to 夭, which is a man with arms outstretched and leaning to side (running).
4.7 Fee; expenses Phono-semantic compound: phonetic 弗 + semantic 貝 (cowry).
5 多藏必厚亡 Excessive hoarding must lead to heavy loss
5.1 Excessive See 2.5
5.2 Hidden; hoarding; storing place; depository semantic 艸 (grass) + phonetic 臧

good, right, generous; command

Weapon 戕 piercing the

eye of a slave 臣.

5.3 Will; surely; most certainly; always; invariably; must; have to; shall See 4.5
5.4 Thick.  + 𣆪

𣆪 To receive property
5.5 Dead. See 3.3
6 知足不辱 Knowing contentment avoids disgrace
6.1 Know; to know; to understand; to comprehend phonetic 矢 (arrow) + semantic 口 (mouth).

This may also be an ideogram – words coming out of people who know are like arrows being fired.

6.2 Foot; excessive; to satisfy; to fulfill; satisfied; to satisfy; to stop; to cease; enough; sufficient; not lacking; abundant; affluent Picture of the calf of the leg on top of the foot.
6.3 No. The character 不 originated as a pictograph of the calyx of a flower. It was then composed into a phono-semantic character with the pictograph for mouth (口), to form 否, representing “no” (negation). This composed meaning then spread back to the original character 不, making it a synonym of 否. A new character of 柎 was eventually created to represent the original meaning of calyx.

Following Shuowen’s interpretation, Karlgren and Wieger interpret it as a bird flying toward the sky (一). The sky being the limit for the bird, thus the idea of negation.

6.4 Disgrace; to humiliate; to insult; to abuse; to disgrace; to bring shame on; disgrace; shame; discredit composition ⿱辰寸

Picture of a giant clam, which were used as hoes.
7 知止不殆 Knowing when to stop avoids danger
7.1 Knowing See 6.1
7.2 Check; to stop; to halt 休止 ― xiūzhǐ ― to stop

to bring to an end; to stop; to relieve 止癢 / 止痒 ― zhǐyǎng ― to stop itching (irritation)

to end; to finish

Pictogram – a footprint, originally meaning “foot”. The derivative 趾 refers to the original meaning. Compare 手 (hand). Note that in oracle script, composed of 3 toes and a sole.

Compare to 夊, 夂, which have similar shape in oracle script, but pointing down (toe pointing right), and 𡕒 (as in right side of 舛, roughly ヰ, toe pointing left), hence different evolution.

7.3 See 6.3
7.4 Dangerous; in peril; at stake composition ⿰歹台


Compound 殆 from bone 歹 dǎi and phonetic mouth-speak 台 tái.

8 可以長久 Thus one can endure indefinitely
8.1 can, may, be able to Phono-semantic compound: semantic 口 + phonetic 丂. From Proto-Sino-Tibetan ⪤ (back (lower); kidney; load; carry). Cognate with 荷 to carry).
8.2 To; a preposition that expresses a boundary in spacetime or bearing Pictogram – a person (人) carrying something. It is often simplified to 㠯 in pre-Qin ancient scripts.
8.3 Long; long (of distance) Pictogram – originally long hair; compare 彡.

Three pronunciations below are cognate, all derived from the original root of 張 (to make long; to stretch; to string a bow).

8.4 Long; (of time) long a man receiving moxibustion[1]. The derivative 灸 refers to the original word.
  1. (in Eastern medicine) the burning of moxa on or near a person’s skin as a counterirritant.

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