Yi-Feng asked in 社會及文化語言 · 1 decade ago

Why 聞 = hear/smell ?

Can anyone answer the source/root of the Chinese character "聞" ?

It is a "Door" with an "Ear", when and why it has the meaning of "smelling" finally?

A "Door" with a "Mouth" = "問" or ask, we can understand.

A "Door" with a "Ear" = "聞" or hear, , we can understand.

There must be a time that "聞" is being used to represent "smelling", while the original creator of the character just meant "hear"...

I am asking this question for an ABC (American-born Chinese) friend, and I try search for an answer, but come to a dead end, please share with me the correct answer if you can :)

thanks :)


I want to find out exactly when is the time, 聞 becomes smell, like what year B.C. etc ? Which dynasty?Before Qin?and any reference. So far I do understand that 聞 has been used for smell for a long long time, when is that specific era for the usage change? I think we are getting there.thanks again.

3 Answers

  • kelman
    Lv 7
    1 decade ago
    Favorite Answer

    樓上is not correct at all. 聞as the meaning of 'smell' is not only used in cantonese. It is not a kind of 方言usage. It adopted the meaning of 'smell' long long ago. Searching thru the great 漢語大辭典shows the following entry:




    It proves that dated back to 《韓非子》, the word 聞 already had the meaning of 'smell'.

    2009-11-05 13:28:40 補充:

    《韓非子》was written more than 2000 years ago.

  • Anonymous
    1 decade ago

    kelman_1234 是對的。另一例:漢·劉向《說苑·雜言》:“與惡人居,如入鮑魚之肆,久而不聞其臭,亦與之化矣。”

  • 1 decade ago

    "聞" is originally used to qualify the action of hearing eg. 聽聞, that is why the character is a ear within the door. This is a formal explanation of hearing, but no meaning of smelling at all. There is another word "嗅" used for action of smell & "臭" for foul smell, "香" for fragrant.

    "聞" or the homophone was used for smelling only adopted in Cantonese region,it is what we called 「方言」dialect。

    Source(s): me
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