Ideogrammic compound (會意): 人 (“man”) + 毛 (“hair”) + 匕 (“cane”) – a man with long hair (an old man), leaning on a cane. Compare top component to 孝 (OC *qʰruːs).
Cognate to 考 (OC *kʰluːʔ); the most commonly cited example of 轉注 (“reciprocal meaning”).
Unknown. Compare Proto-Sino-Tibetan *s-raw (“withered, residue, corpse”), *rwat (“stiff, tough”), whence Burmese ရော် (rau, “wither, become overripe; age”), ရွတ် (rwat, “old, stiff, tough”). See also 古 (gǔ), 故 (gù).
An old Sino-Vietnamese borrowing is rệu (“overripe, pulpy”).
- sē, la̿u, lo̤̿ - vernacular;
- lǎu - literary.
- lâu - vernacular;
- lō̤ - literary.
- lāu/lǎu - vernacular;
- láu - vernacular (sometimes considered literary);
- làu - vernacular (limited, e.g. 老闆);
- lǎ - vernacular (limited, e.g. 老鶚);
- ló/ló͘/nó͘ - literary.
- lao6 - vernacular;
- lao2 - literary.
- old, aged, elderly (for persons, animate and inanimate objects generally)
- † the elderly, one's elders
- † to respect (the elderly, one's elders)
- overcooked, tough, stringy, hard (used in reference to cooked food or meat)
- stale, not fresh (used in reference to food or potable liquids)
- always, all the time
― Nǐ bié lǎo zhèyàng!
― Stop being always
- (chiefly dialectal) very, quite
- → 很 (hěn)
- (affectionate, respectful) Used before surnames to refer to heads or elder members of families.
- → 小 (xiǎo) (for younger people)
- (usually respectful and affectionate) Used by analogy in several other relationship terms.
- (zoology) Used before several animals considered noxious or unpleasant.
- (colloquial) Used before placenames, particularly countries, to form nouns.
― (pejorative) American person, Yank
― (pejorative) Russian person
- (Mainland China, Hong Kong) Short for 老撾／老挝 (Lǎowō, “Laos”).
老 (lão, láu, lảo, lảu, rảu, lẩu, lẽo, lếu)
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