- KangXi: page 248, character 4
- Dai Kanwa Jiten: character 5833
- Dae Jaweon: page 500, character 2
- Hanyu Da Zidian: volume 1, page 522, character 1
- Unihan data for U+5929
|simp. and trad.
|Oracle bone script||Bronze inscriptions||Large seal script||Small seal script|
A top line representing the level above a man with outstretched arms (大). Ancient representation of the character show a man with a large head, an anthropomorphic representation of heaven.
Original meaning of the word is "sky". Such concept is difficult to depict with a pictogram, hence the current form. Influenced by the glyph, the character was frequently glossed in Old Chinese documents with 顛 ("crown of the head"), and such had led to incorrect hypotheses which regarded 天 as a derivation of 顛 or 巔, "top (of the head/hill)".
Graphical opposite of 立.
This character was previously reconstructed to have a *tʰ-initial in Old Chinese, but this hypothesis has been largely discounted in recent reconstructions, in light of evidence from early Chinese accounts of dialectal pronunciations, transcription of other languages, as well as cognate/derived characters within Chinese, which has all pointed to a voiceless resonant initial *l̥- in Old Chinese. The book Shiming showed that, by c. 200 CE, this initial had already produced dialectal variation in the pronunciation: People in central-western China pronounced it with the back of the tongue, like 顯／显 [*xˤenʔ], while people in eastern China pronounced it with the tip of the tongue, like 坦 [*tʰˤanʔ]. An old northwestern dialect variant survives as 祆 (God of the Zoroastrians) [xen], and the word 天竺 ("India") was used to transcribe Old Persian *Hind-uka ("India").
Further etymology is unknown. While it was reconstructed with a /*tʰ-/ initial, it was frequently compared with tengri, the name for God in early Turkic and Mongolic peoples' languages. This now appears unlikely. The only certain external cognate is the Central Bai (a language closely related to Chinese) word heinl (“sky, heaven”) [xẽ⁵⁵].
- Cantonese (Jyutping): tin1
- Hakka (Pha̍k-fa-sṳ): thiên
- Min Dong (BUC): tiĕng
- Min Nan (POJ): thian / thiⁿ
- Wu (WT Romanisation): thi (T1)
- Min Dong
- Min Nan
|Middle Chinese pronunciation (天, reconstructed)|
|Character (天), Pronunciation 1/1|
Initial: 透 (6)
|Old Chinese pronunciation (天, reconstructed)|
|Baxter-Sagart system 1.1 (2014)|
|Middle Chinese||Old Chinese||English|
|天||tiān||‹ then ›||/*l̥ ˤi[n]/||heaven|
|天||xiān||‹ xen ›||/*l̥ ˤi[n] (W dialect: l̥ ˤ- > Hàn-time *xˤ- > MC x-)/||heaven|
Notes for Old Chinese notations in the Baxter-Sagart system:
|Zhengzhang system (2003)|
- top, overhead
- † day (24 hours)
- † day (as opposed to night)
- † season
- natural, innate
- 日 ("day (to express date)")
From Old Japanese.
- (archaic) the sky, the heavens
- the area above a kitchen stove:
- (archaic) heaven
- 天に跼り地に蹐む (あめにせかがまりつちにぬきあしにふむ, ame ni sekagamari tsuchi ni nukiashinifumu; あめにせぐくまりつちにぬきあしにふむ, ame ni segukumari tsuchi ni nukiashinifumu): “in heaven, bow and step carefully on the ground” → to be humble and respectful in heaven
- 天に唾する (てんにつばする, ten ni tsuba suru): “to spit at heaven” → a metaphor for courting disaster
- 天にも昇る心地 (てんにものぼるここち, ten ni mo noboru kokochi): “a feeling like rising to heaven” → being in seventh heaven, a really good feeling
- 天を衝く (てんをつく, ten o tsuku): “to pierce the heavens” → to tower, to be very tall
- Sound (hangeul): 천 (revised: cheon, McCune-Reischauer: ch'ŏn)
- Name (hangeul): 하늘()
- 天子 (천자, cheonja) king
- 天才 (천재, cheonjae) genius
- 天地 (천지, cheonji) heaven and earth
- 天平秤 (천평칭, cheonpyeongching) scale, balance
- 天下 (천하, cheonha) all the world over
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