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The word "経済" was, at its origin, the abbreviation for an ancient Chinese word "経世在民" which means "govern the world and save the nation".
It used to be a much more wide discipline than it is now, which included not only economics but also politics, management, administration etc.
But with a development of monetary economy in 19th century or so, 経済 tended to be used in particular for economic activities, such as production, trade and so on.
That's why in the late 19th century, when Japanese officially began to introduce western culture, some scholars adopted 経済 as a translation of the word "economy"

The term 經濟 comes from Chinese (as are many Japanese terms), but only recently became known as the term for economics in both languages.
(I'm going to switch to and from Japanese kanji and Chinese character styles as I can type in Chinese only).

經濟 is an abbreviation for 經國濟民, which literally is to 經 administer 國 the realm and 濟 support 民 the subjects. The term 經國濟民 originated in the Eastern Jin dynasty but the abbreviation 經濟 first came in the Sui, and evolved to mean the study of national and social administration. A general term for political science and political economy. The term was revived during the late Ming and early Qing dynasties as new political theories developed, and that's when the term found footing during Tokugawa Japan.

The Meiji restoration saw a mass influx of Western ideas into Japan. The first person to use 經濟 is possibly Kanda Takahira, who translated William Ellis' Outlines of Social Economy (titled 『経済小学』), or Fukuzawa Yukichi who used the term in his Seiyō Jijō. Later, Chinese scholars borrowed back the term into their own language.

So 經濟 has a strong flavour of political economy to it, which makes sense considering much of the influence came from the later 19th Century, when almost all economics is political economy, and was being studied by Asian governments desperate to learn from the success of industrialized Europe.

Even ignoring history, 経済 basically looks like "administering the support" which has a political economy tint. 経 should be read as in 経営. Not sure about any Japanese definition of 済 that isn't based on the Chinese kanji.

Thanks 227thDay and Kelvin. That is really cool information. Appreciate it!

Kevin: I don't know enough about Japan so does that mean that the division between poli-sci and economics is not completed yet?

227thday, one quibble: the Chinese word should be "経世済民". The third character is the 済 in 経済.

While agreeing with 227thday and Kelvin, I would point that the term 經濟 or 経済 is originally a Confucian term. 經 originally means a classical canon. Before modern times in East Asia, especially China and Korea, governing was done by Confucian scholars. What they did was reading and studying Confucian classics. The original meaning of 濟 is 'cross the obstacle'. In most Confucian classics, 經濟 or 経済 is described as the role of the monarch or government.

Elliott: thanks. You are right. That kind of mistype happens too often with a Japanese keyboard.

Jacques: As a Japanese, I use the word "経済" without any perception of the original meanings of each character, as you don't think of ancient Greece when you're taking about "economy".
Whatever it's origin, today "経済" is the literal translation of "economy".

to put my German 2 cents in,

I think the separation of economics from every thing else, is
a) pretty anglo specific and
b) a relatively recent event

As in China and Japan, the art to govern, was seen way more holistic.

wiki/Kameralwissenschaft was way larger than just macroeconomics.

In Germany wiki/Johann_Wolfgang_von_Goethe was and is the incarnation of a full, well rounded, exemplary life:

War minister
Finance minister
heading the state theater

Word etymology is typically of very little value in understanding current culture. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Etymological_fallacy

We all know that the word “economics” comes from the Greek “okionomia” ...

Shouldn't that be "oikonomíā"?

Anyway, regarding your general thesis, I think there are a few holes. "Economy" may still mean (household) "thrift" today; it's just that it may also mean something else.

You are right Phil - my Greek is about as proficient as my Japanese. I will correct that.

genauer: what about Schumpeter who boasted of being the world's best economist, Austria's best horseman and Vienna's best lover?

@ Jacques,

long time no see!

with respect to Schumpeter

the first to be completely unverifiable, the evidence of the other two would have been what?

: - )

Our concept of economy is absolutely separated from the concept of life sustaining functions. This helps to create poverty, instability, lack of basic resources to help poor people, and also hugely impact the environment we live in. Monetary profit is currently the only goal of those who govern us. Our word economy means the exact opposite than to economize, to behave without producing insufficient waste with maximum attention paid to natural resources that are irreplaceable. No, we just want more and more of everything, while being completely unable to enjoy what we already have...

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