Publication details [#6178]

Ikegami, Yoshihiko. 2005. The heart? What it means to the Japanese speakers.
Publication type
Unpublished manuscript
Publication language
Place, Publisher


In the earliest linguistic records of Japanese, two names of body-internal organs are attested: 'kokoro' and 'kimo'. The two words are sometimes found to be used in juxtaposition. The first word, 'kokoro', is known to have specifically referred to the heart (as body organ); the second word, 'kimo', is presumed to have referred to the body-internal organs in general, but later tended to be identified specifically with the liver. In the early linguistic records, both words are also known to have been used to refer to mental/emotional states, suggesting that either the heart or the whole inside region with the breast/stomach was associated with mental/emotional activities. This general view was not fundamentally changed, but rather more specified with the introduction and gradual spread of the traditional Chinese medical doctrines, with their characteristic idea of 'five internal organs' (i.e. heart, lung, liver, spleen, kidney). The two traditional Japanese words tended to be supplanted as terms for body-internal organs by the words borrowed from Chinese, 'shinzo' (literally, "heart-storehouse") and 'kanzo' (literally, "liver-storehouse"). Both these borrowed words, however, have only remained to this day as technical terms. In strong contrast to the intensive borrowing from Chinese, the words of native stock, 'kokoro' and 'kimo', especially, the former, have provided by far the largest number of phrases and idiomatic expressions involving the names of body-internal organs. (Yoshihiko Ikegami)