CultureEssayEtymologyIdiomJapanese traditionKanjiProverbUncorrected

Te wo Someru (To Dye One’s Hand)

  • Te wo Someru


    Yesterday, I introduced a Japanese idiom “ashi wo arau” (to wash one’s feet), which means “to quit crime or evil jobs.”

    Today, I will talk about the Japanese idiom “te wo someru” (to dye one’s hand), which means “to start things or jobs.”

    The most widely accepted theory about the etymology is that “染める(someru)”, which means “to dye”, was originally “初める(someru)”, which means “to start”.

    Also, there is another theory: once you dye your hand with dye ink, it will remain for a long time, as well as once you start something, it’s hard-to-quit.

    Since “te wo someru” is often used with words related to crime, many people think of it as “to start bad things,” but it actually means just “to start something.”

    By the way, I heard that when you want to express “te wo arau” in English, you can say “to get one’s feet wet.”
    ちなみに英語では「足」を使って “to get one’s feet wet” のように表現することができます。

    Original sentence