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. ^^