Jump to content
Learn Chinese in China

etymological dictionary and etymology of 行李箱

Recommended Posts


Hello Experts,
is there a web source or a book that explains in English (!) the etymology of Chinese words (not characters)?
The reason for asking: I stumbled over the word 行李箱.
How did the plum tree get into the suitcase? Does somebody know?

Thank You


  • Good question! 2
Link to post
Share on other sites
Site Sponsors:
Pleco for iPhone / Android iPhone & Android Chinese dictionary: camera & hand- writing input, flashcards, audio.
Study Chinese in Kunming 1-1 classes, qualified teachers and unique teaching methods in the Spring City.
Learn Chinese Characters Learn 2289 Chinese Characters in 90 Days with a Unique Flash Card System.
Hacking Chinese Tips and strategies for how to learn Chinese more efficiently
Popup Chinese Translator Understand Chinese inside any Windows application, website or PDF.
Chinese Grammar Wiki All Chinese grammar, organised by level, all in one place.

Hey there, there is the 'ABC Etymological Dictionary of Old Chinese' just in case anyone interested stumbles into this topic. It's available for Wenlin and I believe Pleco. However it's of Old Chinese, so will not answer OP's question.

  • Like 1
Link to post
Share on other sites

According to Wiktionary it's simply a phonetic borrowing of the character that's existed since Old Chinese. Old source cited though.


Duffus, William (1883) , “baggage”, in English-Chinese Vocabulary of the Vernacular or Spoken Language of Swatow, Swatow: English Presbyterian Mission Press, page 16

  • Like 1
  • Helpful 1
Link to post
Share on other sites

EDOC is licensed but not released, due to a combination of data processing issues + the fact that we still don't have a great system for appending notes / references / etc to dictionaries (and those are super important for that particular title).


We might take another stab at it after 4.0 is out but of course by that point modern Chinese will probably be considered Old Chinese 🙂

  • Like 4
Link to post
Share on other sites



@calculatrix -- "is there a web source or a book that explains in English (!) the etymology of Chinese words (not characters)?"


Would Outlier Linguistics be of help for your purpose? They got a lot of coverage here for a while, but seem to have somewhat dropped out of view. 


Here's an old link. At the bottom of it is a link to their website. 





  • Like 2
Link to post
Share on other sites

Would definitely pay again to have EDOC in Pleco. I can understand why you might be struggling with it, even the guys at Wenlin had to throw up their hands on certain things and only half integrated it into their Zidian in the end.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and select your username and password later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.
Note: Your post will require moderator approval before it will be visible.

Click here to reply. Select text to quote.

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

  • Create New...