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Thread: 四字熟語 - Yojijukugo

  1. #1

    四字熟語 - Yojijukugo

    四字熟語 - Yojijukugo are four-character compound word that then form an idiomatic phrase, a phrase that often means a lot more than the four characters that composes it.

    Quite often it often derives from the Japanese or Chinese culture that spawned the word, much like English idioms. For example, if I say "That came from out of left field" you would know that whatever the phrase was referring to was crazy or unexpected. What you may not know is that the phrase owes it's existence to the Chicago Cubs. You see, the Cubs, before they played at Wrigley Field, used to play across from an insane asylum. Where was the asylum? You guessed it, just beyond the left field limits.

    The characters are typically paired up forming subphrases that combine to make the whole phrase.

    Even 四字熟語 is a yojijukugo

    四 - よ, yo, four
    字 - じ, ji, letter - self evident - four letter

    熟 - じゅく, juku, mature
    語 - ご, go, word - actually means idiom
    So all together a four kanji idiomatic phrase.

    I heard Taigu use this phrase in english in the Rakusu videos

    一石二鳥, いっせきにちょう ,Isseki nichō
    一 - one
    石 - stone
    二 - two
    鳥 - bird
    Killing two birds with one stone.

    But since we're Buddhists, perhaps we should say
    一挙両得, いっきょりょうとく, Ikkyo ryōtoku
    One + Behavior + Both + Gain
    Doing one action to gain two things
    It's an expression that comes from a history book about Jin Chinese dynasty.

    And now one from Buddhist culture
    会者定離 ,えしゃじょうり, eshajōri
    meeting + person + always + be separated
    Every meeting must involve a parting; Those who meet must part.

    And on that note I will take my leave.

    Inconsistent student of Japanese for 7 years, no JLPT taken.
    Marc Connery
    Myo̅ Gan - Bright Cliff

    I put the Monkey in Monkeymind

  2. #2
    Thank you Myogan. I had been wondering aboout compound words and why there seemed to be more going on in the translation than was obvious from a direct reading of the kanji. It makes me realise how important cultural knowledge is to understanding. Is it similar for 2 and 3 kanji compound words? Are there compound words with more than 4 kanji?



  3. #3
    thanks, Marc, very interesting


    Let silence take you to the core of life (Rumi)

    Aprāpti (अप्राप्ति) non-attainment

  4. #4
    Hi, I would not call them "words." They are sayings or proverbs, often originally from China. The writing style is actually Chinese, thus no kana between. But, in order to understand, the Japanese had to add kana in reading. It is something like saying the following, where the part in [] is the Chinese Kanji, and the Japanese had to inject the rest of the sentence structure using Kana ...

    When the [going] gets [tough], the [tough] get [going].

    Only "going tough tough going" is sufficient for a Chinese reader to understand without further ado. The Japanese needed to add the rest to clarify when translating to Japanese.

    Gassho, J

    Last edited by Jundo; 10-05-2017 at 10:04 AM.

  5. #5
    As far as I’m aware, to 2 and 3kanji compounds are just called jukugo. Some are idioms, but most are not.

    Types of jukugo- compound Kanji words

    1. Kanji having the same meaning (同義) – two or more kanji forming a word are synonymous to each other or have similar meaning. For example,

    価値 (かちvalue) is made of the kanji 価(あたい) and 値(あたい), both meaning the same; value/price.

    増加 (ぞうかincrease) is made of the kanji of the verb 増える (ふえる to increase) and 加える (くわえる to add).

    2. Kanji having totally opposite meaning (異議) – two or more kanji forming a word are having opposite meaning to each other. For example,

    勝敗 (しょうはい victory or defeat/ outcome) is made of the kanji of the words 勝つ (かつ to win) and 敗れる (やぶれる to be defeated).

    貧富 (ひんぷ rich and poor) is made of the kanji of the words 貧しい (まずしい poor) and 富 (とみ rich), both the words having two opposite meanings.

    3. Jukugo or Compound Kanji words which indicate an action (Verb+Noun) – when the compound kanji word (jukugo) like, 読書 (どくしょ reading) is broken down into two words i.e. 読む(よむ) meaning to read and 書 (ショ) meaning a book, a relationship between the two can be established by forming a sentence like, 書を読む to read a book.

    Similarly, 帰国 (きこく return to one’s own county) are made of two words; 帰る (かえる) meaning to return and 国 (くに) meaning country. A relationship can be established between the two words by forming a sentence like, 国へ帰る returning to country.

    4. Jukugo or Compound Kanji words which define an object or thing – the jukugo 缶詰 (かんづめ canned) is made up of two words i.e. 缶 (かん can) and 詰める (づめる to stuff). When 缶 and 詰める are combined together, they form a word which indicate an ‘object that is packaged or canned’.

    The word 人工 (じんこう artificial/man-made) can be analyzed in a similar way. 人 (ひと) means a man and 工 (こう) means craft. The two words 人 and 工 are combined together to form a word that means ‘crafted by man’ or ‘artificial‘.

    5. Jukugo or Compound Kanji words belonging to the same group – words like 夫婦 (ふうふ husband and wife) and 姉妹 (しまい sisters) are formed by two nouns that belong to the same category. Another fine example is 土日 (どうにち Saturday and Sunday). 土曜日(Saturday) and 日曜日(Sunday) are clubbed together to form a single word which means ‘Saturday and Sunday’.
    Marc Connery
    Myo̅ Gan - Bright Cliff

    I put the Monkey in Monkeymind

  6. #6
    Very very interesting.

    Lots to learn from this. I am not yet into idioms, but it's a full world with tons of details to grasp. The good thing is that I am in no hurry to keep on learning.

    Thanks guys.


    Hondō Kyōnin
    奔道 協忍

  7. #7
    Thanks for clarifying Myogan.


  8. #8
    This is great Myogan, thank you for sharing this! =)



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