Graphical etymology
of; this
on: SHI
kun: no kore yuku kono
names: yuki itaru aki tsuna yumi kuni nobu hisa hide
strokes: 3
radical: (no. 3) (Nelson uses , no. 8)
(possessive particle, literary equivalent of 的 ·de); him; her; it;
pinyin: zhī
strokes: 3
radical: (no. 3) (Nelson uses , no. 8)

Graphical etymology

According to Ochiai, oracle bone inscriptions for 之 show “foot” with an extra horizontal line below 止 (confusingly, modern 止 is also written with a horizontal line at the bottom). That is becomes (see below).¹ As such it could represent visually “leave here to go somewhere else”.² Traditionally 之 might also be analyzed as a variant of “growing plant” , ³ but that would leave unexplained why so many early graphs are identical to 止 with an extra line.⁴ According to Ochiai 止 also lends its sound to 之, and Schuessler has the two as linguistically related words.⁵ 之 was loaned to write unrelated grammatical words.


  1. Ochiai, 2016, p. 135; Qiú, p. 192.
  2. Qiú, ibid.
  3. Wieger, p. 203.
  4. More specifically, the more complex graphs clearly show , while simpler variants can be confused with . See below for all OBI for 之 from the Sinica database.
  5. Ochiai, ibid.; Schuessler, p. 613. Schuessler shows a group of possible related words like: “to go, proceed” 之, “time, season” (“what is proceeding”), “goal, purpose, will, wish” (“what is being proceed to”), “foot” .



Overview of the OBI for 之 in de Sinica database.

Additional details for 之

Morohashi: 125 1.0343
SKIP code: 4-3-4
Four corner code: 3030.7
Korean reading: ji
Unihan English meanings (for Chinese):
marks preceding phrase as modifier of following phrase; it, him her, them; go to
Unihan on: SHI
Unihan kun: YUKU KORE NO
Unihan pinyin: zhī