Chinese Etymology

I’ve been using Wiktionary to understand the origin of the characters and it helps me to visually remember what the strokes are suppose to represent.
This is how they would write the character 血 in the Shang dynasty. It represents a drop of blood in a chalice.

The history of the character can also be a mnemonic. Do you study the etymology of the Chinese characters you study? Do you prefer mnemonics? What sources do you use?


I think looking at early forms of characters can help quite a lot for remembering character components that are pictographs (most of them, in other words). I normally advise students to use real etymology when it seems to make sense to them and include that in mnemonics. If the etymology doesn’t seem helpful, then making stuff up is fine. By far the best source for etymology is the Outlier dictionary in Pleco (see my review here for more details than you might want). I also discussed the role of etymology in character learning here:


Very helpful, thank you!

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