9 October 2010

The Etymology of Kaba

Ikumi: your wish is my commend!

Kaba is the Japanese word for hippopotamus. This word probably has one of the strangest etymologies I've ever seen, so I thought I'd break that down.

The Japanese "kaba" uses the kanji 河馬, which comes from the Chinese "hema", using identical characters. The kanji in both cases seem to come from the Latin "hippopotamus", which is literally "river [河] horse [馬]", however, Japanese Wikipedia says it's also possibly a direct translation of the German word flusspferd, which is also literally "river horse", probably also coming from the Latin. Now, that Latin comes from the Greek ἱπποπόταμος, which you can almost see from the Greek characters is almost letter-for-letter the same. As you can see to your left, hippos used to live all the way down the Nile to the Mediterranean, where the ancient Greeks saw them in the mouth of the river and gave them that silly name. So, there you go! A Japanese word with an ancient Greek root.

2 comments:

ikumi said...

*giggle* You're an Otaku~<3 I love you!!!

Lalique said...

Friendly visit from Turkey

welcome too friend