Graphical etymology
rest; day off; retire; sleep
on: KYUU
kun: yasu-mu yasu-maru yasu-meru
strokes: 6
radical: 人, 亻,𠆢 (no. 9)
to rest; to stop doing sth for a period of time; to cease; (imperative) don't;
pinyin: xiū
strokes: 6
radical: 人, 亻,𠆢 (no. 9)

Graphical etymology

The original meaning of the word 休 may have been like “shade” > “to shade oneself”—in other words, “rest in the shade”.¹ From this a whole lot of extended meanings seem to have been derived. First of all the broader meaning “rest.” On the other hand, the word 休 could also be taken as simply “the shade of a tree.” A further extended meaning originated as “for a senior to protect a junior,” or more strictly, “to protect, to shield,” or, taken as a noun, “shield.” Subsequently, “bestow” is yet another extension. ²

Qiú writes that while establishing the development of the meanings of the word for which 休 was used involved looking up lots of instances of 休 being used in ancient texts, the composition of the character itself was helpful as well. The graph 休 consists of person /亻 and tree, which corresponds with the idea of someone resting in the shade of a tree. In fact, some early variants have the top of 木 slightly longer and bend over the person, according to Qiú to emphasize the idea of the tree giving shade.³


  1. Schuessler, p. 542.
  2. Qiú, 2000, pp. 209-211.
  3. Qiú, ibid. In bronze inscriptions of 休 the shape of 木 became close to standing grain, apparently as a result of graphically emphasizing that the tree gave shade. Ochiai adds that this trend started already in oracle bone inscriptions (Ochiai, 2016, p. 13).

Additional details for 休

Morohashi: 440 1.0663
Item no. in Henshall: 13
SKIP code: 1-2-4
Four corner code: 2429.0
Korean reading: hyu
Unihan English meanings (for Chinese):
rest, stop; retire; do not!
Unihan on: KYUU KU
Unihan pinyin: xiū