Graphical etymology
fit; suit; join; 0.1
on: GOU GAッ KAッ
kun: a-u -a-u a-i ai- -a-i -ai a-wasu a-waseru -a-waseru
names: au an i ka kou goo ni ne ya ri wai
strokes: 6
radical: (no. 30) (Nelson uses , 亻,𠆢, no. 9)
to close; to join; to fit; to be equal to; whole; together; round (in battle); conjunction (astronomy); 1st note of pentatonic scale; old variant of 盒 ; ◇ 100 ml; one-tenth of a peck; measure for dry grain equal to one-tenth of sheng 升 or liter, or one-hundredth dou 斗;
strokes: 6
radical: (no. 30) (Nelson uses , 亻,𠆢, no. 9)

Graphical etymology

Scholarly analyses of 合 vary. There are at least three theories. One is that 合 consists of “receptacle” 𠙵 and “cover; lid; cap” 亼. This seems a way to establish the meaning “to join together” as primary.¹ The second theory interprets the top part 亼 as an inverted (perhaps open) mouth and the bottom part as regular “mouth”. According to Chi this indicates “to answer”.² The third theory takes the bottom part also as regular “mouth”, but sees the top part 亼 as a phonetic

Given the similarities between the graphs and 合, and the sound shift required to make 亼 work as a phonetic, it seems more likely that 合 simply depicts a receptacle with a lid on top, or two receptacles, one reversed, covering the other. The variation in the original forms of the graph (see below) allow for multiple interpretations.



  1. Ochiai, 2016, p. 111.
  2. Chi, p. 438 (referenced in Outlier). Schuessler seems to agree with this graphical analysis (Schuessler, p. 274).
  3. For example Katō, p. 175; Seeley et al. reference other scholars for this approach (Seeley et al.p. 79).


Developmental overview for 合 [source]

Additional details for 合

Morohashi: 3287 2.0795
Item no. in Henshall: 121
SKIP code: 2-2-4
Four corner code: 8060.1
Korean reading: hab
Unihan English meanings (for Chinese):
combine, unite, join; gather
Unihan kun: AU AWASERU
Unihan pinyin: hé
Unihan kZVariant: