New Sino- words in the OED

« previous post | next post »

From the latest updates to the online OED, new senses added to these words:

Sinicism, n., sense 2: “A Chinese word, phrase, or idiom borrowed into, or introduced into a sentence in, another language.”

Sinitic, adj. and n., sense B: “The languages of East Asia considered collectively; spec. the branch of the Sino-Tibetan language family to which the Chinese dialects belong.”

Sino-Tibetan, adj. and n., sense A.2a: “Linguistics. Of or relating to a variety of the Tibetan language strongly influenced by Chinese, e.g. in having numerous Chinese loanwords or using…”

Here's another new entry, one that has a citation from me:

sinograph, n.

Brit. /ˈsʌɪnəɡrɑːf/, /ˈsʌɪnəɡraf/, /ˈsɪnəɡrɑːf/, /ˈsɪnəɡraf/
U.S. /ˈsaɪnəˌɡræf/
Forms:  also with capital initial.
Origin: Formed within English, by compounding. 
Etymology: Sino- comb. form1 + -graph comb. form.
Compare earlier sinogram n.1

Each of the characters used for writing in Chinese and (often in adapted form) in some other languages related to or strongly influenced by it; a Chinese character. Cf. earlier sinogram n.1kanji n.

It's true that I was an early proponent of "sinograph" and "sinographic", but lately I've been using "sinogram" and "sinogrammic" fairly often, though I still go back to "sinograph" and "sinographic" much of the time.  In my mind, these words correlate to hànzì 漢字 / 汉字.
Another Sino- word with which I have been deeply involved for the last decade and more is "Sinophone", as in this series at Cambria Press, which is the leading publisher of books on that topic.

Selected readings

[Thanks to Ben Zimmer]


  1. david said,

    March 18, 2021 @ 12:09 pm

    Sinicism and cynicism are temptingly close. Does the OED pun?

  2. Chris Button said,

    March 18, 2021 @ 1:03 pm

    Sino-Tibetan is always a tough one. It's Tibeto-Burman plus Sinitic. The weird thing is that the Burman part gets dropped in the name.

  3. Ben said,

    March 18, 2021 @ 3:04 pm

    What is the advantage of using sinogram over sinograph?

    A quick Google search tells me a sinogram It's a kind of radiological medical procedure.

  4. Alexander Browne said,

    March 18, 2021 @ 4:49 pm

    @Chris Button

    Similarly, "Iranian" from Indo-Iranian is missing from Indo-European.

  5. Arthur Waldron said,

    March 18, 2021 @ 4:59 pm

    I have taken to using the phrase “Sinitic peoples” when I wish write inclusively of a group that is not tied to 漢

    E.g “God gave us Taiwan so we would understand that PRC was not the best Sinitic people could do”

    What do colleagues think? Licet? Non Licet?

    We need a way of saying this. And yes I am aware of the Austronesian Malayan and other non Sinitic components

    But we need word. Best to all. Arthur

  6. Jim Breen said,

    March 18, 2021 @ 7:46 pm

    I wish the Unicode Consortium had chosen Sinogram/Sinograph as the general term for hanzi/kanji/hanja, instead of their now-locked-in "ideograph".

  7. Victor Mair said,

    March 18, 2021 @ 8:14 pm

    You're right, Jim.

    "Ideograph / ideogram" is just about the worst term imaginable (ask Jim Unger, who wrote a book about it), although "hieroglyph" would be a close contender for worst.

  8. Jon said,

    March 19, 2021 @ 12:49 am

    Off at a tangent:

    It puzzles and irritates me that the online OED still uses abbreviations like adj., n,. comb., Brit., and spec. It is a hangover from the paper dictionary days, pointless now, and potentially confusing, especially for those whose first language is not English.

    And inconsistent, too. Common dictionary terms like pronunciation and origin are not abbreviated.

  9. Antonio L. Banderas said,

    March 19, 2021 @ 5:09 am

    Beginning in 2000, the editors of the dictionary began a major revision project to create a completely revised OED3, expected to be completed in 2037.

  10. Jon said,

    March 19, 2021 @ 7:08 am

    Antonio – thanks, though no word there or on the OED website about whether the 2037 edition will keep the abbreviations.

    I was surprised to see the 1991 compact edition of the dictionary on that wikipedia page, with 9 original pages per page. I have the old compact edition with 4 original pages per page, and that is hard enough to read.

    As a member of a UK public library, I have free online access to the OED, a wonderful benefit, so I mostly use that.

  11. Philip Taylor said,

    March 19, 2021 @ 12:38 pm

    I owned both the SOED and the compact edition of the OED, but when I managed to acquire the full 1933 edition in 13 volumes, I passed on my compact edition to an elderly friend. Even at the age of 90 she could read it without glasses or a magnifying glass !

  12. gds555 said,

    March 19, 2021 @ 10:13 pm

    Given China's ever-increasing presence on the world stage, the OED's adoption of these words can be considered a Sino the times.

RSS feed for comments on this post