The origin of 感動する

Hello everyone. I was doing my lessons the other day when I came across the word ‘感動する’ which means ‘to be moved’ in English. And that got me thinking… English and Japanese are so far removed from each other but they share this similar phrasing of ‘being moved’ in an emotional sense. Nothing about ‘being moved’ really seems very emotional, and yet both languages use this to convey being impacted emotionally. I was wondering where this overlap could have come from…?

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It doesn’t seem like too much of a stretch to me for people to think of “movement” with regard to emotions. Going from indifferent to sad or impressed… we naturally map these things onto the physical concepts we know well, like movement.

As an aside, since this is a kanji compound, I would suspect the origin is Chinese rather than Japanese (though it’s not impossible for it to have been Japanese).


Okay well now I just feel stupid lol


I don’t think it’s because emotions themselves seem “movement-y”, but rather that emotions are what motivates us to act, i.e. they move us to do and think varius things. We are moved (どう) by our feelings (かん).


That’s not really in line with my understanding of how kanji compounds are formed.

If we assume 動 is “move” and thus acting like a verb, and 感 is “emotion” and thus acting like a noun, typically, when you have a verb-y kanji and a noun-y kanji there’s a transitive or intransitive relationship between the two of them. As in “emotions move” or “move emotions.” I wouldn’t expect “emotions move (some third, unrepresented concept) to do something.”

But I don’t actually know the etymology of 感動.

Perhaps they’re both verb-y in this word. Or something else entirely.

The point was that it’s easy to imagine connections between emotion and movement, regardless of what the specific connection is anyway.

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When I learn Japanese, I often see similarities in the languages. It’s just interesting to think about how these came about. No regrets. And no need to feel stupid. :joy:

I see, I don’t know the etymology either (and didn’t mean to imply I did). I’m just presenting my view (without much evidence in mind, maybe it’s just colored by me having studied psychology - and having been interested in evolutionary psychology in particular).

After a quick search



So they were both verb-y.


Yea me too! It’s crazy to think about and makes me wonder the origin of certain words, phrases, and how sentences are structured. Crazy how similar humans are in expressing themselves.