咲 (Saki) – Meaning behind the Name (Part 1)

Lately, I’ve developed a keen interest in etymology and I thought let’s go look at the meaning of the names for fun . I’ll be the first to admit that I’m a beginner here and I will probably make a lot of mistakes feel free to point it out in the comment section.

First would be Saki (咲). The title of our show and of course the protagonist. ^^

Anyway, I’m pretty sure that you already know that this kanji (咲) meant “bloom”. The show practically beat the meaning into you while watching. But, did you know that it wasn’t its only meaning?

According to online etymology, 咲 (bloom) is actually a variation of this character 芺 . 芺  is as per 夭 (slender and limber) + 艸 (grass/plant) → slender and limber plant. The addition of 口 mouth suggests a slender opening of the mouth that was smiling/laughing.

Which meant, this kanji conveys 咲 plant’s laughter.

In fact, the original meaning and still is in Chinese of 咲 was laughter. It means to be delighted, to express joy, to smile. 

The blossom meaning which we are familiar with comes from this saying,  鳥鳴花咲 (Birds sing, flowers smile). This was to convey an analogy. 鳥(Birds) to 鳴 sing and 花 (flowers) to 咲 smiling. The author of the saying was trying to poke at the similarity between the two kanji. If you guys noticed 鳥(bird) and 鳴 (sing) as well as 花 (flower) and 咲 (smiling) is very similar aesthetically. The main difference was the small  口 (mouth) at the left side.

Thus, from the saying comes the expression or meaning in Japanese. A blossom is a plant’s conveying its smile. Or something like that.

Beside that, there is also this kanji 笑  to consider. Its quite thematically close to 咲 that sometimes they are used interchangeably specially in Mandarin.

笑 (xiao in Chinese and warai in Japan) means to laugh, giggle, snicker, etc. This is also the primary reason why when your browsing in a Japanese web, you see “w” or “www”. This is a shorthand for warai, so when you see www in a japanese website. It doesn’t usually means World Wide Web. Chances are they are giving the functional equivalent of LOL (laughing out loud.)

Anyway, I went off topic again. This kanji 笑  is from 夭  (slender and limber) + 竹 bamboo → slender, flexible bamboo. Take note, the similar construction to  咲 (bloom). The only variation is the mouth part and this one uses 笑  bamboo while 咲 uses generic plant in its construction.

In my personal unsubstantiated imagination, I thought that this is because:

笑  uses 夭 which meant “yao”-  young, fresh looking. In pictogram,  it looks like a young man tilted.

咲  uses 天 which meant “tian” – sky, heaven, god, celestial. In the pictogram, it suggest the space 一 above men 大.

Note: Yes the tilt in the line on the head of the stick man makes the freaking difference in meaning. ^^

So perhaps, while we have 笑 this as a personal laughter due to the young man in the construction. 咲  meant more like heaven’s laughter due to way it was constructed. This has some thematic sense if you factor Saki and the manga in it.

So there you have it. The etymology of 咲. If you want, it is possible to add a third meaning which is “to hope”  Saki can be written in kanji as a combination of 咲 (sa) “blossom” and 希 (ki) “hope” after all. ^^

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4 Responses to 咲 (Saki) – Meaning behind the Name (Part 1)

  1. tealterror says:

    Hello! First of all, I want to complement you on your blog, which I spend most of last night reading through. As someone who knew the basic rules of (riichi) mahjong but was shaky on the scoring and understood almost none of the strategy, it was quite illuminating; it also gave me a great appreciation of the effort and detail Ritz puts into the matches. Thanks!! Anyway, as someone who knows some Japanese, I thought I might be able to contribute a bit to this topic.

    As you know, Saki’s name 咲 comes from the verb 咲く (saku), “to bloom.” However, there are other verbs with the same pronunciation. Most common are 割く meaning “to cut” and 裂く meaning “to rip/tear” or “to separate.” This might be taken to refer to the rift between Saki and Teru.

    More interesting, though, especially for your blog, is the meaning of ‘saki’ as a noun. There are three possible kanji here, actually. One is 崎, “small peninsula”—not very exciting. Another is 幸, “happiness” or “good luck”; the relevance of this is clear. Finally, and most importantly (as it’s the most common usage), ‘saki’ can be 先, which has many meanings but they all center around the concept of “ahead” (in different senses of the term), including “tip” (e.g. of a finger), “previous,” “beyond,” “destination”…and “the future.” (The word is used in this last sense in the Zenkoku-hen OP, incidentally.) This, of course, has obvious connections to your theory about Saki being able to see "potential."

    I hope this was interesting. Thanks again, and I’m looking forward to your next Zenkoku-hen analyses!

    • Thank you very much for telling me this. Its very illuminating and fodder to my theories. YEY!

      Actually, Ritz-sensei is being very kind in giving me stuff for that. The short anime original scene of Saki while she was chilling out with Nodoka, practically states that Saki knows that someone is still hiding something. Which is true. ^^

      And there is also the latest manga chapter. With Hisa asking Saki if she sensed something amiss about her.

      Anyway, I'm glad that you enjoyed this blog. ^^

      • tealterror says:

        To be fair, Saki's statement in the anime-original scene may just be an example of the "aura sense" powerful players seem to have. (Teru, for example, probably would've known too.)

        I don't actually read the manga (though I have spoiled myself as to what happens…it was hard waiting for Zenkoku-hen)–I tried, but it's just not as exciting without the anime's crazy special effects for me. :/

  2. Mel says:

    Hi, I was warching this TVB show called "Rippling Blossom" and theres a character who has this as her Japanese name 慕容咲 and the characters father said that the last character in her name is non existant in the Chinese language. I copied that last character into a mandarin dictionary and it came up with the 笑 along with 咲 in brackets indicating that the latter is the traditonal version of the latter. The characters love interest read 咲 as "smile" in Chinese and was told by the father of the character that it is incorrect and it is another character that looks like 咲 .Which makes me think did the screenwriters decided to select any random kanji and claimed that it was a kokuji (Japanese national character) or is there really a character that looks so much like this character 咲 that it is mistaken for "smile in Chinese?

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