Point of interest: the origin of ありがとう

the origin of ありがとう
ありがとう is one of the most common words in Japanese - it's used almost every day by any Japanese person, and is one of the first words a student learns. It means 'thank you', and is used to express gratitude for something.
In modern Japanese it is usually written with kana, but it can also be written with kanji and okurigana in several ways, most commonly
う. This combines
る (to exist) with
い (difficult), and is descended from the classical adjective form ありがたし, which did in fact originally mean 'extremely uncommon' or by extension 'rare and precious'. The phrase ありがたきもの occurs in one of Japan's earliest novels, The Pillow Book, to mean 'it is hard to live'.
Over time, however, the phrase began to be used not just to express the rarity of an object, but gratitude for the possibility of possessing such a rare object. Over time, it became a way of expressing gratitude generally.
From time to time you may hear the suggestion that ありがとう is connected with the Portuguese word obrigado, which sounds similar, and also means thank you. However, the two words evolved entirely separately - the Japanese word was in use well before any contact between Japan and Portugal, and the Portuguese word derives originally from the Latin root 'obligare' (the origin of oblige and obligation etc. in English).

Kanji used in this point of interest

ユウ   ウ   あ to possess; to exist   
Please LOG IN to view this kanji's mnemonic
ナン   むずかしい difficult   かた hard   
Please LOG IN to view this kanji's mnemonic
Problem with this point of interest? Question or comment? Please CONTACT US.
Change component list
By default the component builder shows the most common components (themselves joyo kanji, or used in at least 3 other joyo kanji). Select an alternative set of components below.

Full details of all components and their English names can be found here.
Help with the component builder
For detailed instructions, see the Component builder how to guide.
To find any kanji, first try to identify the components it is made up of.
For any components you recognize, if you know the English meaning or name, start typing it in the text area. Full details of all components and their English names can be found here.
Alternatively, count the strokes of the component, and scan the list to find it visually.
To find the kanji :
  • Notice that it is made of several components: 氵 艹 口 夫.
  • 氵 艹 口 all have three strokes, so you could look in the list in the 3 stroke section. 夫 has four strokes.
  • Alternatively, you could start typing 'water' (氵), 'grass' (艹), 'mouth' (口) or 'husband' (夫) in the search area, and the components will be highlighted in yellow.
  • Keep adding components until you can see your kanji in the list of matches that appears near the top.