autumn; fall; harvest time; a swing
|Kanji in this term|
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- 三馬 (dated, rare)
- Theorized as alteration from earlier compound 狭 (sa, “narrow”, in reference to the slender body of the fish) + 真魚 (mana, “edible fish”). /samana/ → /samuma/ → /samma/
- An alternative derivation suggests 狭間 (sama, “narrow space”) + 魚 (na, “fish”, ancient term, and part of the roots of modern reading sakana), where mana again references the narrowness of the fish's body, but this is problematic, as 間 (ma) can only refer to the space between things, not the width of a thing itself.
- Another possibility is that sanma is cognate with 鯖 (saba, “mackerel”). The two kinds of fish are somewhat similar, and sanma is even called mackerel pike in English. In addition, the voiced plosive /b/ sound in modern Japanese appears to have been pre-nasalized in Old Japanese as something closer to /mb/, and there is evidence of /b/ ⇔ /m/ alternation in various terms in Japanese. There is also Ainu サㇺバ (samba, “mackerel”), likely a borrowing either into or from Japanese. This suggests that modern sanma may have arisen as an /m/ ⇔ /b/ alteration of older sanba.
The 秋刀魚 spelling likely arose quite recently in 1922 during the Taisho period, when a popular poem by Haruo Satō used this spelling. This is ateji (当て字), in reference to the fish's harvest season of autumn (秋) and its blade-shaped body (刀). Another ateji spelling found starting from the Edo period is 三馬, which would likely be read as either sanma or sanba.
- さいら (saira)
- ^ John Batchelor, (1905), An Ainu-English-Japanese dictionary (including a grammar of the Ainu language), Tokyo: Methodist Publishing House, London: Kegan Paul, Trench, Trubner Co.
- 2006, 大辞林 (Daijirin), Third Edition (in Japanese), Tōkyō: Sanseidō, ↑ISBN
- ^ 1998, NHK日本語発音アクセント辞典 (NHK Japanese Pronunciation Accent Dictionary) (in Japanese), Tōkyō: NHK, ↑ISBN