Phono-semantic compound (形聲): semantic ⺼ (“meat”) + phonetic 利. Specialization of 利 (“benefit; profit”).
From 利 (“benefit; profit”), used as a euphemism for 舌 (sit6, “tongue”), which is homophonous to 折, 蝕／蚀 (sit6, “to be at a loss”).
Alternatively, it may be from 舐 (OC *ɦljeʔ, “to lick”), preserving the Old Chinese initial *l- (Schuessler, 2007).
- lei5* - as an independent word or the head of a compound;
- lei5 - in compounds (not as the head).
- (Cantonese) tongue (Classifier: 條／条)
- (Hakka, Sichuan) tongue of an animal