Graphical etymology
ego; I; selfish; our; oneself
on: GA
kun: ware wa wa-ga- waga-
names: a aga ka
strokes: 7
radical: (no. 62) (Nelson uses 丿, no. 4)
I; me; my;
[free morpheme] (can be used on its own)
strokes: 7
radical: (no. 62) (Nelson uses 丿, no. 4)

Graphical etymology

我 was originally a pictogram. It used to look like OBI for 我 and BI for 我 (see below). However, early on it was loaned to write “I, we”. The original word (the name of a saw or some kind of weapon) fell out of use, as a result of which 我 became an arbitrary sign.¹ 我 seems to have been adopted as a phonetic in several later graphs, but in modern Mandarin only very few of the words or morphemes that those graphs write have similar pronunciations.²


The word 我 is related to the word . That word (“I, my”) was originally “a dependent pronoun and therefore [...] a subject or possessive, not the sentence-final object”. 我 was the “independent pronoun”. Apparently this distinction disappeared from colloquial language.³


  1. Qiú, 2000, p. 21; Ochiai, 2016, p. 340. Schuessler, p. 518.
  2. Phonetic series of Old Chinese recognized by Zhengzhang (2003).
  3. Schuessler, ibid.


OBI for 我.
Bronze inscription for 我.

Additional details for 我

Morohashi: 11545 5.0019
Item no. in Henshall: 817
SKIP code: 4-7-3
Four corner code: 2355.0
Korean reading: a
Unihan English meanings (for Chinese):
our, us, i, me, my, we
Unihan on: GA
Unihan kun: WARE WA
Unihan pinyin: wǒ