Ginkgo, Apricot, and Almond: Change of Chinese words and meanings from the kernel’s perspective

Roland Kirschner, Shelley Ching-yu Hsieh

Abstract


 

The term /apricot/ is associated with the fleshy part of the fruit in Chinese and European languages, such as English and German, whereas in Chinese /almond/ and /ginkgo/ are associated with a kernel removed from a hard shell and classified as nut-like. Historically, the modern Chinese for ginkgo, commonly translated as silver apricot replacing the older name meaning duck foot, has appeared only since the Song period (960-1279 AD). The apricot, however, has played an important role in Chinese for more than 2000 years. The element apricot which occurs in the contemporary Chinese term for gingko is considered to be derived in a technical terminology from the use in Chinese medicine of unshelled apricot seeds. In contemporary Chinese, the term xingren (unshelled apricot seed) has changed its meaning which now is unshelled almond seed. This change suggests that silver almond is a more adequate modern translation for ginkgo than silver apricot.

 


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