친(親) - relatives, parents; intimate

절(切) - to cut; to slice; to disconnect

How does the second character relate to the meaning of 친절?

up vote 11 down vote accepted

The character 切 has various meanings, not only 'to cut' or 'to disconnect'. According to Naver dictionary, 切 has following meanings,

  1. 끊다
  2. 베다
  3. 정성스럽다 <= 절 of 친절 used this meaning.
  4. 적절하다
  5. 중요하다(重要--)
  6. 절박하다(切迫--)
  7. 진맥하다
  8. 문지방(門地枋)
  9. 반절(反切: 한자의 음을 나타낼 때 다른 두 한자의 음을 반씩 따서 합치는 방법)
  10. 간절히(懇切-)

    a. 온통 (체)

    b. 모두 (체)

When this character is used to express the meaning of a. and b., then its pronunciation is '체', not '절'. '일체' is a good example of this case.

  • I was aware that characters could have more than one meaning, but not that one character could have that many meanings. Is there one primary meaning, with the others related to it? – topo morto Oct 12 '16 at 7:53
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    @topomorto If you are willing to think so, many of the meanings are somewhat related to an earnest/sincere feeling in the heart. 절박 切迫 is paired with 迫 which means urgent, so it means you are under a sense of urgency; 懇 itself means sincere, so 간절 means sincere. You should be able to relate 친절 too. – busukxuan Oct 12 '16 at 12:53
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    @topomorto If one goes back to the Chinese, the formation of the character tells you that "cut" (끊다) is the original meaning (七 is the phonetic component while 刀 means knife). Also the traditional Korean eumhun "끊을 절" gives you the principal meaning in the first bit of the phrase. – Michaelyus Nov 14 '16 at 2:43

切 is to cut as a verb. 切 is "desperate, sincere" as a adjective. Many of Chinese characters have several "parts of a speech" in their meaning. Usually each "part of speech" has nothing to do with the others. Those usages are historical. Nobody knows why.

The primary meaning of「切」means to cut.

The extended meaning of this is close, near, analogous to English cutting it very close or drawing a fine line, from which the meanings urgent and relative「親切」arise.

You don't need to memorise 10+ definitions for「切」 - the usage is mostly cut, close/near or pressing/urgent.

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