sci.lang.japan FAQ / 3. Word origins

3.11. Why are there so many adjectives ending in yaka?

The best guess of scholars is that there was a suffix "-ya" in the Nara era, meaning "softness", followed by a suffix "-ka", meaning "visible" "apparent", thus the original nuance of "xxxx-yaka" was "looks slightly xxxx".

This yaka was attached to nouns, adjective stems, onomatopoetic words, and other words that express a state, forming adjectives. It expresses the meaning "not [the thing] itself, but almost like it; not in that state, but almost so; it's just as if ..."

Anciently, it was used the same way as the suffix "raka", which has a similar meaning, but "yaka" became more common beginning in the Heian era (794-1185). Also, "yaka" is seen more commonly than "raka" in more psychological, subjective words; it is considered to express somewhat of a distance from the object.

Yaka cannot be added to words to make a new word, as can be done with, for example, . The following table of some of the yaka words was extracted from Edict:

Rōmaji Kanji/kana Meaning Similar Japanese words
adeyaka 艶やか bewitching, fascinatingly elegant
azayaka 鮮やか vivid, clear, brilliant
hanayaka 花やか・華やか gay, showy, brilliant, gorgeous, florid
hiyayaka 冷やか cold, chilly, cool, indifferent, cold-hearted, surly, curt, composed
karoyaka 軽やか light, easy, non-serious, minor
karuyaka 軽やか light, easy, non-serious, minor
kirabiyaka 煌びやか・綺羅びやか gorgeous, gaudy, dazzling, gay
komayaka 細やか friendly
maroyaka 円やか round, circular, spherical, mild (taste)
miyabiyaka 雅びやか elegant, graceful
nagoyaka 和やか mild, calm, gentle, quiet, harmonious
nigiyaka 賑やか bustling, busy
nobiyaka 伸びやか comfortable, carefree
odayaka 穏やか calm, gentle, quiet
sasayaka 細やか meagre, meager, modest
sawayaka 爽やか fresh, refreshing, invigorating, clear, fluent, eloquent
shinayaka 嫋か supple, flexible, elastic
shinobiyaka 忍びやか stealthy, secret
shitoyaka 淑やか graceful
sukoyaka 健やか vigorous, healthy, sound
sumiyaka 速やか speed
taoyaka 嫋やか willowy, graceful
tsuyayaka 艶やか glossy, beautiful
yuruyaka 緩やか lenient yurui, loose.

This material is used under the licence of the Electronic Dictionary Research and Development Group of Monash University, Australia.


sci.lang.japan FAQ / 3. Word origins

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