Is desu a contraction of de arimasu?

There are a wide variety of explanations for the origin of desu, with none of them achieving the status of standard explanation. Explanations include origins in de sō (で候), a polite ending used in Kyogen and Noh plays, de arimasu, and de gozaimasu.

The Daijisen dictionary states[1][2]

There are many theories on the origin of desu, including de sō, de ohasu, de gozaimasu, and de arimasu. The word desu dates from the Muromachi period (1337-1573), and it is used in Noh and Kyogen for self-introduction of characters such as Daimyo, Sōshaban, demons, and priests. In recent history, it was used in some circumstances by certain kinds of persons such as chivalrous men and prostitutes. It became widespread as a form of polite speech and used in a variety of tenses from the end of the Edo period (1603-1867) and the Meiji period (1868-1912).

The Daijirin dictionary states[3]

(1) [Said to be from de sō] A fairly respectful way to come to a conclusion. Used in Kyogen to announce Daimyos and others.
Kore wa kono atari ni kakure mo nai daimyō desu / from the Kyogen play Hanatorizumō[a] Shinano no kuni no sumibito asafu no nanigashiku desu / from the Kyogen play Asō[b]
(2) [Said to be from de gozaimasu] A polite way to come to a conclusion, used at the end of a sentence. Used by prostitutes, chivalrous men, doctors, etc.
kono sunahachi mono wo kuratte sugu ni haku mono desu / Kokkeibon Ukiyoburo[c] (first half) ...
There are various etymologies for desu including the de sō etymology, the de gozaimasu etymology, the de arimasu etymology, and others, but none of these has become widely accepted. Desu became widely used after the Meiji period (1868-1912).


  1. Hanatorizumō (鼻取相撲), a kyogen play, author and date unknown.
  2. Asō (麻生), a kyogen play, author and date unknown.
  3. Ukiyoburo (浮世風呂), a kokkeibon (illustrated comic novel) dating from 1809-1813 by Shikitei Sanba.


  1. Matsumura, Akira (July 2010). Daijisen. Shogakukan.
  2. Goo online dictionary (Daijisen)
  3. Weblio online dictionary (Daijirin)

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