speak chinese like a native

Character etymology for 是 (shì, yes, right, to be)

Posted by mandarinboy September 27, 2008 in the Group General Discussion .

Tags: etymology, yes, shì,

After some sidesteps we are finally there with the character I meant to write about, . Very useful and frequent.


Traditional form: 

Historical variant:

Pinyin: shì

Meaning: yes, right, to be

Frequency: 4

Strokes: 9

Decomposition: rì (sun) + yī (one) +  zhǐ (stop)

Radical part:

Alternative forms of radical

Radical meaning: Sun

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






We have looked on the sub part in earlier posts:




Earlier forms of this character is just a combination of those characters.



What we see is the sun over the character for correct. There is a debate about the history behind this. To me the most plausible suggestion is that the ideograph locates the sun over the character for right and correct, ( this modified to the alternative form). The sun is the standard for correctness since it always on time will show up at the horizon. The sun also corrects tells us the time and the season of the year. Chinese people where very good in studying the planets and especially the sun since the agriculture where dependant on knowing when to plant and when to harvest.

Other more philosophical persons suggest that the sun is the exact reason we can exist on this planet and hence the meaning of am, are, is, right. I can see the sun, therefore I am so to say.  

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



Example words: 

不是 bù shì no / is not / not 

只是 zhǐ shì merely / simply / only / but 

可是 kě shì but / however 

不是吗 bù shì ma isn't that so? 

尤其是 yóu qí shì especially 

或是 huò shì or / either one or the other 

也就是说 yě jiù shì shuō in other words / that is to say / so / thus 

可不是 kě bu shì that's just the way it is / exactly 

不幸的是 bù xìng de shì unfortunately





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