🌏 Region(s): Honshu (Standard)
くだらない【下らない】 : kudaranai | define meaning
- Worthless; pointless; nonsense; meaningless; stupid; silly
"Meaningless talk, discussion"
Historically attested written as くだらぬ【下らぬ】 kudaranu; the negative ending ぬ nu was replaced by ない nai around the late 19th century. The sense of "that which cannot be understood" or "unintelligible" is attested around the 15th-16th centuries, if not earlier. The modern senses of "meaningless, pointless, stupid" appear around the 19th century.
Origin debated. Most sources agree it stems from the negative form of the verb くだる【下る】 kudaru "to go down, to descend", but which historically carried other meanings such as "to go away from the capital (Kyoto)" and "to pass through easily". The latter meaning may have given way to "[to be] difficult to pass through" → "[to be] difficult to parse, difficult to understand" → "[to be] unintelligible" → "[to be] meaningless, pointless, stupid".
Other sources posit a connection to the Edo-era terms くだりもの【下り物・下りもの】 kudarimono "product from Kansai" and くだりざけ【下り酒】 kudarizake "sake (alcohol) from Kansai", explaining that quality products (such as good sake) were generally exported from Kansai to Edo, so the leftovers in Kansai were considered inferior. So くだらぬ【下らぬ】 kudaranu could have effectively meant "[that which] is not destined for Edo" and shifted to "[that which] is insignificant, illogical, unintelligible, absurd".
- Nifonno cotobato: Historia uo narai xiran to fossvrv fito no tameni xeva ni yava ragvetarv feiqe no monogarari (1592), records "Quantôye cudaranu", meaning "not go down to Kanto".
- Vocabulario da Lingoa de Iapam (1603), aka Nippo Jisho (日葡辞書), records "Cono qiǒi o guiriga cudaranu", meaning "the reason or the meaning of this book cannot be understood" (translated).
- ドン・キホーテ (1605), by Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, uses "下らぬことは些ともありはせん", meaning "there is not even the slightest trivial thing (or 'thing that cannot be understood')" (translated).
- A Japanese and English Dictionary: With an English and Japanese Index (1867), by James C. Hepburn, records "Kudaranu, クダラヌ, 不下, (neg. of Kudari) As used in com. coll. = don't understand, unintelligible, useless, stupid, absurd. Kono bun no imi ga kudaranu, the meaning of this writing is unintelligible. Kudaranu koto wo iu, to say something absurd or foolish".
- An English-Japanese dictionary of the spoken language (1876), by E.M. Satow and Ishibashi Masakata, records "Unmeaning, adj. kudaranai; ai-mai(e)na."
- Sitzungsberichte der Philosophisch-Historischen Klasse der kaiserlichen Akademie der Wissenschaften, Volume 86, records "mitsi-no ku-je-ja kudaran" translated as "we will go down [set off] to the kingdom [province] of Mutsu".
- The Chrysanthemum (1881), Volume 1, records "Kudaranai yatsu (useless fellow)".
- An Unabridged Japanese-English Dictionary, with Copious Illustrations Part 1 (1896), by Frank Brinkley et al., records:
- "Kudaranu, くだらぬ, 不下, v.f. [neg. of kudaru]: (1) Do not come down or descend. (2) Don't understand; to be unintelligible. Kono bun no imi wa kudaranu. The meaning of this sentence is unintelligible."
- "Kudaranu, くだらぬ, 不下, a. [coll.] (1) Unintelligible. (2) Useless; foolish; absurd. Kudaranu koto wo iu hitotachi da. You (or they) are men who speak absurd things. Kudaranu koto wo shita. Have done a foolish thing."
- A Text-book of Colloquial Japanese (1903), by Rudolf Lange, records "kudaranu, kudaranai... unintelligible, absurd".