Pictogram (象形): a bird with a dangling tail.
Compare 烏, which is very similar, of similar origin, and 隹, which originated from a similar image of a bird, but is today rather more abstract and less recognizable.
Compare also 馬 (“horse”), whose current form is similar (graphically, 灬 for claws/legs).
Originally pronounced with a /t-/ initial (compare 島 (OC *tuːwʔ, “island”)). In many dialects, it changed to a /n-/ initial to avoid homophony with the vulgar word 屌 (diǎo, “penis”), which may have developed from the sense “bird” eventually. Birds/fowl are characteristically associated with Chinese slangs for genitalia; compare 雀 (“sparrow > penis”) and 雞 (“chicken > penis”).
Alternatively, Schuessler (2007) hypothesised that the /n-/ initial form for “bird” may be unrelated to the /t-/ form. Instead, it may be connected with the Tai-Kadai word for bird; confer Proto-Tai *C̬.nokᴰ (“bird”), whence Thai นก (nók).
The /t-/ form may be derived from Proto-Sino-Tibetan *daw (“bird”), cognate with Proto-Karen *thoᴮ (“bird”) and Proto-Bodo-Garo *daw/dow (“bird”).
- tiâu - vernacular;
- niâu - literary.
- cēu - vernacular;
- nēu - literary.
- chiáu - vernacular;
- niáu - literary.
- 2tiau - vernacular;
- 2'nyau - literary.
- bird (Classifier: 隻／只 m; 群 m)
― to breed birds
- (dialectal) to pay attention; to heed; to take notice of
- (vulgar) Alternative form of 屌 (diǎo, “penis”).
- (intensifier, vulgar) damned; goddamn
― Nǐ zhè diǎo rén!
― You fucking
鳥 • (jo) (hangeul 조, revised jo, McCune-Reischauer cho, Yale co)
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