What's the etymology of 青年?

(there hasn’t been a unified etymology thread in like 4 years so I’ll start this new topic)

This is one of those things I just got used to after joining the local 青年会 a couple years ago, but now I’m wondering. Where does this alternate meaning for 青 come from?


Well, the definition from this dictionary is:


So it’s possibly from 青春. I don’t feel like researching it further though.

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One of the meanings of 青 is similar to what we think of as “green” with regard to inexperience or youth. It can mean “young” or “fresh”.

And 青 is also the color that is used to describe fresh vegetables (and some other things we would use green for in English).


In old Japanese, there wasn’t really a distinction between blue and green. In this case, it means something more like green and it indicates the same thing as “green” in English when we’re talking about someone inexperienced. The connection in both cases is to plants, being fresh and green while they are young. In the English example, youth is associated with inexperience.


You learn something new everyday!

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I think green meant here is as in “not ripe” veggies or fruits that are often green before they ripe.

In Germany, there is that saying that someone is still “green behind their ears” to indicate inexperience. Sometimes funny, how same concepts/similar idioms exists in different culture/languages.


青 can be both “unripe” and “fresh” depending on the context.

Yes, that’s the “inexperience” I was referencing in the first part. The saying exists in English.

More common to just say someone is “green” in English though.


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