Introduction of the term
Before exploring, researching the phenomenon of Zentai (see the articles section below for more in depth articles), we think its vital to understand the roots of the term. The signifier Zentai (ゼンタイ) is a portmanteau word, which is a word or morpheme whose form and meaning are derived from a blending of two or more distinct forms.
Zentai derives from the term: “zenshin taitsu”, 全身タイツ. Let’s take a closer look at that last signifier and the kanji’s and katakana’s of which it is composed.
- The first kanji is 全. It’s on’yomi, sino-Japanese reading is ぜん (zen or せん (sen). It’s Kun’yomi, Japanese reading is まったく (mattaku), まったい (mattai) or まっとうする (mattousuru). As noun zen (全, ぜん) means entire, complete, overall. As prefix zen (全, ぜん) means all, pan-, omni-.
- The second Kanji is 身. It’s on’yomi reading is しん (shin) or けん (ken). It’s kun’yomi reading is み (mi), みずから (mizukara). As noun it means body, main part, oneself or sword.
The meaning of the two first kanji’s (全身, zenshin) together is ‘full body’ or ‘the whole body’. But we could read or understand zenshin (前身) also as ‘past life’, if we read the word at the hiragana level, instead of the kanji level.
- Taitsu, タイツ is an english loanword and is derived from ‘tights’.
So Zenshin taitsu (全身タイツ) means full body tights.