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Character etymology for Elementary - Checking Baggage 和

Posted by mandarinboy September 16, 2008 in the Group General Discussion .

Tags: etymology,

Today we look at a very common and also tricky character 和 hé (and, harmony)


Traditional form: 



Meaning: and,harmony, peace, peaceful, calm


Frequency: 24

Strokes: 8


禾 hé (grain) + 口 kǒu (mouth)

Radical part: 口 kǒu

Alternative forms of radical: none


Radical meaning: mouth


Stroke animation: (the strokes are drawn the direction the picture is tipping)






In early seal script the character looked like this:




The left part, yue, is the name of an ancient musical instrument that indicated the meaning and the right part, he, indicated the sound. The sound of the music is peaceful. The character anyhow quickly evolved so in seal script it where written like this:






This is 禾 hé (grain) + 口 kǒu (mouth) grain is man's staple food and most agreeable to the mouth. Grain agrees with mouth to produce harmony.

I like to remember it like this: mouth AND grain makes my hunger go away and fill me with HARMONY hence the meanings ("and" and "Harmony") are remembered.  


Link to nciku usage of the character (examples, sound etc)


The tricky part:

pronounced as hé  and with the meanings "and / together with / with / sum / union / peace / harmony / " is the absolutely most common one but the tricky part is that the  character actually do have more meanings and even more pronunciations e.g.:

和 hè
 verb join in the singing

和 huò
verb mix; blend
mix a little sugar into the bean paste
dòushā lǐ huò diǎnr tánɡ

和 hé
1. adjective gentle; mild; kind
温和 temperate; mild; moderate

和 huó soft / warm

Please join in the discussion about this very common word and its tricky behavior.



Example words:

共和国 gòng hé guó republic 
和谐 hé xié harmonious 
中华人民共和国 Zhōng huá Rén mín Gòng hé guó The People's Republic of China 
和平 hé píng peace 
平和 píng hé gentle / mild / moderate / placid 
和尚 hé shang Buddhist monk 
柔和 róu hé gentle / soft 
中和 zhōng hé to neutralize 
总和 zǒng hé sum 
和服 hé fú kimono / Japanese: traditional national clothing, as opposed to Western clothing 洋服 
共和 gòng hé republic 
维和 wéi hé peace-keeping 
和局 hé jú draw / tied game 
和谈 hé tán peace talks
讲和 jiǎng hé peace talks
和约 hé yuē peace treaty
和平鸽 hé píng gē dove of peace 
义和乱 yì hé luàn the Boxer uprising 

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