|variant forms||僾逮 “eyeglasses”|
Phono-semantic matching of a word from an unidentified foreign language (pronounced ai-dai, ai-na, etc.), since the 15th century CE (Chiu, 1936). Frequently cited etymons are Arabic عُوَيْنات (ʿuwaynāt), الْعُوَيْنات (al-ʿuwaynāt, “spectacles”, literally “little eyes”) and Persian عینک (eynak, “spectacles”), both derived from Arabic عَيْن (ʿayn, “eye”) (Chiu, 1936; Needham, 1962: 118–121; Hong, 1994; Chiu, 2015).
Semantically, the sense “eyeglasses” was associated with Etymology 1, the interpretation being that eyeglasses are what cover the eyes to allow one to see more clearly, akin to the way clouds cover the sky, according to Liuqing rizha (《留青日札》, 1573 CE) by Ming-dynasty scholar Tian Yiheng.
- (literary, obsolete) eyeglasses; spectacles
- 靉靆如大錢……色如雲母。老人目力昏倦，不辨細書，以此掩目。精神不散，筆畫倍明。……出於西域滿利國。 [Classical Chinese, trad.]
- From: 16th century, Tian Yiheng (田藝蘅), 《留青日札》
- Àidài rú dàqián...... Sè rú yúnmǔ. Lǎorén mùlì hūnjuàn, bù biàn xìshū, yǐ cǐ yǎn mù. Jīngshén bù sàn, bǐhuà bèi míng....... Chū yú Xīyù Mǎnlìguó. [Pinyin]
- Ai-tai resemble big coins […] and their color is like talc. When eyes of old people are dizzy and tired, and cannot read fine print, they put ai-tai over their eyes, then their concentration will not be dispersed and the strokes of the characters will appear doubly clear. […] Ai-tai come from Malacca in the West [sic].
叆叇如大钱……色如云母。老人目力昏倦，不辨细书，以此掩目。精神不散，笔画倍明。……出于西域满利国。 [Classical Chinese, simp.]