Phono-semantic compound (形聲): semantic 女 (“female, woman”) + phonetic 也 (OC *laːlʔ).
Originally a variant of 姐 (jiě, “elder sister”). Later repurposed as a feminine third-person pronoun influenced by European languages, with the glyph being the result of replacing the 人 (“person”) radical in 他 (tā) with 女 (“woman”). Linguist Liu Bannong is credited with coining this use around the 1910s (Bi, 2013).
|For pronunciation and definitions of 她 – see 姐 (“elder sister; young lady; etc.”).|
(This character, 她, is a variant form of 姐.)
- she, her
― Tā qù le.
― Wǒ rènshi tā.
― I know her
- Occasionally, 他 (tā) may be used for both genders.
No major Chinese dialect distinguishes between “he”, “she” and “it” in spoken form, and Mandarin 他／她／它 (tā) is the only instance where such a distinction is made in written form. Thus see the table below for words for “she” in other varieties of Chinese.
|Standard Chinese personal pronouns
- 妳／你 (nǐ, “(feminine) you”)