- KangXi: page 1468, character 10
- Dai Kanwa Jiten: character 46070
- Dae Jaweon: page 2001, character 16
- Hanyu Da Zidian: volume 7, page 4680, character 14
- Unihan data for U+9B8E
|Characters in the same phonetic series (占) (Zhengzhang, 2003)|
|煔||*ɦlaːm, *hljems, *hl'eːms|
|詀||*rteːm, *rdeːms, *teːm, *tʰjeb|
|沾||*tem, *teːms, *tʰeːm|
|鉆||*tʰem, *ɡrem, *tʰeːb|
|Kanji in this term|
- One commonly encountered etymology suggests that ayu may derive from 饗 (ae, “hosting someone to a meal”), in reference to the way that this fish may be used in Shinto offerings. However, this would have been pronounced ape in ancient times, and while this ape did later become ahe, and a shift from -he to -ye did occur in many terms during the Muromachi period, the word ayu in reference to the fish appeared in the Man'yōshū dating to the late 700s at the latest, and is thus too old for this shift to have occurred.
- Another common etymology states that ayu may be from extinct Old Japanese term 落ゆ (ayu, “to fall, as nuts from a tree; to flow down, as liquid in a stream”), in reference to the way that ayu swim downstream to spawn in the autumn. Some references suggest that this is not very eventful and that this etymology is therefore unlikely. However, there are terms specific to the ayu downstream migration, such as 落鮎 (ochiayu, “ayu migrating downstream to spawn”) and 鮎落つ (ayuotsu, “ayu migrating downstream to spawn”), suggesting that this event has been culturally important enough that the 落ゆ (ayu) derivation may be plausible.
- Alternatively, this term may be borrowed from Ainu アイ (ay, “arrow”) in reference to how fast the fish moves. See also obsolete Japanese reading ai below.
The kanji spelling 鮎 in reference to sweetfish is specific to Japan, probably in reference to the way the fish (魚) stakes out its territory (占). There is another tale wherein Empress Jingū caught an ayu and thereby prophesied (also spelled 占) the outcome of a battle, but this is likely a folk etymology. In China and elsewhere, the 鮎 character refers instead to catfish.
- A sweetfish, an amphidromous fish of East Asia, the only member of its genus, Plecoglossus altivelis, prized for its sweet-tasting flesh. It is a game fish and is also subject to extensive aquaculture.
As with many terms used in biology, this term is often spelled in katakana.
- 鮎掛 (ayukake): ayu catching: fishing for ayu with a hook and line
- 鮎寄 (ayuyose): alternate for 鮎豆腐 (ayudōfu); see below
- 鮎擬 (ayumodoki): the Parabotia curtus (formerly Leptobotia curta) or kissing loach fish; a kind of dish made with tofu cut into long strips, sauteed in oil, then prepared with smartweed vinegar in a fashion similar to salt-roasted ayu
- 鮎汲 (ayu kumi): using a net on a pole to catch young ayu as they swim upstream in March or April
- 鮎祭 (ayu matsuri): a festival formerly held at Ise Shrine on the fifth day of the fifth lunar month
- 鮎刺 (ayusashi): alternate name for the 小鰺刺 (koajisashi, “little tern”)
- 鮎子 (ayuko): ayu fry; a term of endearment for the ayu fish
- 鮎鷹 (ayutaka): alternate name for the 小鰺刺 (koajisashi, “little tern”)
- 鮎豆腐 (ayudōfu): ground ayu sandwiched between layers of strained tofu, placed on a wooden board, and steamed
- 鮎落つ (ayuotsu): ayu migrating downstream to spawn
- 鮎籠 (ayu kago): an ayu basket, made of bamboo with a narrow opening and bulging bottom, used in ancient times to trap ayu
- 鮎鮨 (ayuzushi): a kind of sushi prepared by salting or vinegaring a gutted and cleaned ayu fish, then presenting with the belly packed with rice; popular during the Edo period
|Kanji in this term|
Obsolete variant of ayu pronunciation. May have been the original pronunciation.
- (obsolete) see ayu above
Found in some compounds. Generally not used on its own.
|Kanji in this term|
The kanji spelling 鮎 in reference to sweetfish is specific to Japan. In China and elsewhere, the 鮎 character refers instead to catfish. See the 鯰 entry for more detail about the Japanese term namazu.
- 鯰 (more common)
- (rare) a catfish
- 1988: あて字のおもしろ雑学 (Interesting Ateji Trivia, in Japanese), Freelance Trivia Writers, p.46, Nagaokashoten, Ltd.
- 1988, 国語大辞典（新装版） (Kokugo Dai Jiten, Revised Edition) (in Japanese), Tōkyō: Shogakukan
- ^ Gogen Allguide, http://gogen-allguide.com/a/ayu_sakana.html
- 2006, 大辞林 (Daijirin), Third Edition (in Japanese), Tōkyō: Sanseidō, ISBN 4-385-13905-9
- 1998, NHK日本語発音アクセント辞典 (NHK Japanese Pronunciation Accent Dictionary) (in Japanese), Tōkyō: NHK, ISBN 978-4-14-011112-3
- 鰋 (언, eon)