Saturday, October 22, 2005

What does 화훼(花卉) mean?

화훼(花卉) means "a flowering plant." 화(花) means "flower," and 훼(卉) means "plant."

The word 화훼(花卉) seems a little strange to me because of the Chinese character 卉, whose radical is 십(十), not 초(艸). The radical 艸 means "grass" or "plant" and is usually used with characters that refer to grass, plants, and flowers, usually in its simplified form, which is 艹. Notice that even 화(花), the character for flower, uses 艹. So isn't it strange that a Chinese character that means "plant" does not use the radical for "plant"? However, even though 艹 is not used as the radical for 卉, it looks like it is being used as the bottom part of the character, which means the literal meaning of the character is "ten plants," or "many plants."

Another thing that bothers me about 卉 is its pronunciation, "훼," which is relatively uncommon in Korean. About the only time I can remember seeing 훼 is when it represents the Chinese character 毁, which means "to destroy," "to slander," "to pine away," "to cause injury," and "to kill off." Here are some words that begin with 훼.

  • 훼기(毁棄) 하다 to demolish
  • 훼단(毁短) 하다 to use a person's weak point to criticize him or her
  • 훼방(毁謗) 하다 to interrupt; to slander
  • 훼상(毁傷) 하다 to injure; wound
  • 훼손(毁損) 하다 damage; injure, impair; spoil
  • 훼예(毁譽) praise and [or] criticism
  • 훼절(毁節) 하다 betray

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