yin and yang
noun (used with a singular or plural verb)
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Origin of yin and yang
Words nearby yin and yang
What does yin and yang mean?
There’s light and dark, day and night, good and evil, yin and yang.
It is commonly represented by the yin-yang symbol, a circle made up of black and white swirls, each containing a spot of the other.
Where did the term yin and yang come from?
The concepts of yin and yang have been around since at least the 1300s b.c., when they were found referenced in inscriptions related to Chinese divination of the weather. One of the first mentions of yin-yang for the concept of cosmic harmony comes from a verse in the Shih Ching, a 6th-century BCE collection of poems compiled by Confucius.
Sometime between roughly 700–400 BCE, Yin-yang was the name of a school of teaching, with chief thinker: alchemist Zou Yan. The school focused around the idea that all life revolved around five basic elements (metal, wood, water, fire, and earth), governed by the forces of yin and yang, part of the qi, or vital life force, of the cosmos.
Yin, Chinese for “female” or “moon,” represents darkness, femininity, passivity, and the earth. Yang (“sun” or “male”) represents light, masculinity, activity, and the heavens. The balance of yin and yang were seen to influence health and order within an individual, society, and the entire universe.
And. their interrelationship came to be depicted in the taijitu, or “Diagram of the Great Ultimate”—better known by Westerns as the yin-yang symbol, first appearing in the 1000s CE and attributed to the philosopher Zhou Dunyi. In the symbol, yin is represented by the color black and yang, white.
The term yin-yang is first found in English in the 1850s, and it spread in the 20th century especially thanks to interest in Eastern philosophy, non-Western medicine, and martial arts.
Unicode 1.0 approved the yin-yang symbol for computers in 1993 and added it to its Emoji 1.0 set in 2015. Like other religious and astrological emoji such as the om symbol, the yin-yang emoji appears as white on a purple square.
How to use the term yin and yang
In contemporary English, yin-yang (or yin and yang) is casually used to describe any two opposites seen to balance each other out or to characterize life’s ups and downs.
Always takes a toll on me talking to my uncle especially when he goes "Sometimes I feel like you're my only friend" because honestly he is mine too. We are ying and yang standing two different generations
— CHIN (@Kay07ming) May 6, 2018
Everything in life is a yin-yang. Even people. Believe that.
— JEAN ⚡️ WATTS (@jeanwatts_) December 23, 2016
They may also simply use it as a shorthand for the symbol taijitu itself.
More examples of yin and yang:
“Many people choose to get a yin-yang-style koi tattoo, representing balance.”
—Sarah Siegel, PopSugar, May 2018
“One chapter in the book is dedicated to Yin Yang yoga, also called couple yoga. With nuclear families and with both partners working, pregnancy and a baby can change the balance. Both parents have to be involved in the pregnancy. Couple yoga, through some simple asanas, helps fine-tune your connection with your partner.”
—Payal Gidwani Tiwari quoted by K. Jeshi, The Hindu, May 2018
This content is not meant to be a formal definition of this term. Rather, it is an informal summary that seeks to provide supplemental information and context important to know or keep in mind about the term’s history, meaning, and usage.
British Dictionary definitions for yin and yang
Word Origin for Yin and Yang
Cultural definitions for yin and yang
Two forces in the universe, according to a Chinese theory: yin is the passive, negative force, and yang the active, positive force. According to this theory, wise people will detect these forces in the seasons, in their food, and so on, and will regulate their lives accordingly.