Cuttings: 美しい - Beautifully Woolly 美しい - Beautifully Woolly | Cuttings
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November 29, 2013

美しい - Beautifully Woolly


Love for sheeps make beauty.

The following kanji confounded me when I was starting to learn Japanese:

The radicals ‘sheep’ and ‘large’ didn’t intuitively explain how they could, together, mean ‘beautiful’.

Meaning / Translation

Well, according to 語源由来辞典:

美しいとは、形・色・音などがきれいであること。

『万葉集』に「父母を見れば尊し妻子見れば米具斯宇都久志(めぐしうつくし)」とあるように、上代では妻子など自分より弱い者に対して抱くいつくしみの感情を表した。


平安初期以降、小さいものや幼いものに対する「かわいい」「いとしい」といった感情を表すようになり、平安末期頃から「うつくしい」は「きれいだ」を意味するようになった。


漢字の「美しい(美)」は「羊+大」で、形の良い大きなヒツジを表しており、中国古代の王朝「周」の人々が、ヒツジを最も大切な家畜としていたことからと考えられている。

美しい (‘Utsukushii’) refers to beauty, whether of form, colour, sound, or the like.

As per the Manyoushuu, “父母を見れば尊し妻子見れば米具斯宇都久志”, the expression ‘美しい’, in ancient times, denoted the love and affection that one harboured for his wife and children and those of a weaker disposition.

From the early Heian era onwards, the expression was used to express adoration or fondness for the young and the small. But by the end of the Heian era, ‘utsukushii’ became a rather declarative way of saying “beautiful”.

The kanji for 美しい, “美”, is comprised of (羊) ‘sheep’ and (大) ‘large’, and expresses the meaning of a well-formed, large-sized sheep. To the people of the Zhou dynasty of ancient China, sheep were the most-prized of their domesticated animals; the kanji is believed to have been constructed in consideration of this.



 

 
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