可愛い

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Japanese[edit]

Etymology 1[edit]

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Kanji in this term

Grade: 5
あい > わい
Grade: 4
Irregular

/kawajui//kawaiː/

Shift in pronunciation from kawayui below.[1]

The kanji spelling 可愛い is an example of ateji (当て字), and uses an irregular reading of . The phonological resemblance to Chinese 可愛 (lovable, Mandarin kě'ài, Min Nan khó-ài) is coincidental. Note that the medial -w- here is not an excrescence added between ka () and ai (), since the word is not formed from these morphemes.

Already realized phonetically as /kawaiː/ by the early 1600s, and possibly found alongside older form kawayui, as seen in the 1603 edition of the Nippo Jisho.[2]

Pronunciation[edit]

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Adjective[edit]

可愛い (-i inflection, hiragana かわいい, rōmaji kawaii, historical hiragana かはいい)

  1. lovable, beloved
    可愛 (かわい) ()には (たび)をさせよ
    kawaii ko ni wa tabi o saseyo
    spare the rod and spoil the child
    (literally, “send your beloved child on a journey”)
  2. cute, adorable
    かわいい () () ()
    kawaii ko to tsukiau
    to go out with (date) a cute girl
Inflection[edit]

Usage notes[edit]

Often spelled in hiragana.

Derived terms[edit]

Etymology 2[edit]

Kanji in this term
Grade: 5 Grade: 4
Irregular

/kahahajushi//kahajushi//kawajui/

A contraction of classical 顔映し (kawahayushi, embarrassing, shameful). The meaning evolved from shameful to evoking pity, to evoking compassion, and then to lovable.[1]

Pronunciation[edit]

  • (Irregular reading)

Adjective[edit]

可愛い (-i inflection, hiragana かわゆい, rōmaji kawayui, historical hiragana かはゆい)

  1. embarrassed, having a guilty conscience: see 顔映し (kawahayushi).
  2. (obsolete) pitiable, pitiful
    • 1632, Diego Collado, Dictionarium sive thesauri linguae Iaponicae compendium
      Miſerabilis, e: coſa que cauſa laſtima, cavaij.
      (Latin:) Wretched; (Spanish:) thing that causes pity, kawaii.
  3. lovable, adorable, cute
Inflection[edit]

References[edit]

  1. 1.0 1.1 1988, 国語大辞典(新装版) (Kokugo Dai Jiten, Revised Edition) (in Japanese), Tōkyō: Shogakukan
  2. ^ 1603, Nippo Jisho (in Portuguese), relevant text here. Left-hand column, third entry down, listed as Cauaij.
  3. 3.0 3.1 2006, 大辞林 (Daijirin), Third Edition (in Japanese), Tōkyō: Sanseidō, →ISBN