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A friend of mine said in a photo of me, my eyes looked very 萌(meng2).

你的眼睛很萌

My dictionary defines 萌 as;

萌 méng (动)

sprout; bud; germinate

But apparently in this context it means "cute", "kawaii".

How is this so?

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1  
One amusing fact : "kawai" is just the Japanese pronunciation for the characters 可爱 :) –  Clément Mar 10 '13 at 13:38
    
which is then re-transliterated to 卡哇伊 :) –  Matthew Rudy 马泰 Mar 11 '13 at 17:12
    
Maybe the use of meng, come from Japan. –  tooonyone Jul 5 at 5:04

4 Answers 4

up vote 9 down vote accepted

From the wikipedia article:

關於「萌」這個字現今用法的來源,至今依舊眾說紛紜,以下為部份幾種的說法:

  • 有種說法認為,原本所用的詞語應該是「燃え」(もえ),但是因為「萌え」和「燃え」的日語發音相同,且動漫喜好者認為「萌え」更能形容他們對事物喜好的狀態,因此後來都用「萌え」了。

  • 亦有說法認為,這個詞語原本來自較為常用的「燃えている」(燃燒),但由於日文電腦輸入平假名時會智能判斷漢字,而萌え排序在前面,變成現在的寫法。

目前「萌」大多使用在二次元裡,如果遇到刻意將現實世界(三次元)的人套用到二次元的審美的情況,也有可能用到「萌」。 不過這種狀況十分稀少,因為三次元的人通常難以構成萌屬性。 現在「燃え」在中文界解作萌的相對詞,是對熱血的喜愛。

Abbreviated translation:

There are two main theories of the origin:

  • One is that 「燃え」(to burn, describing a reaction to something attractive) is a homophone in Japanese with「萌え」(to sprout), so Japanese Anime enthusiasts decided the latter was a better (perhaps more poetic?) way to describe this kind of reaction.

  • One is that「燃え」and「萌え」got switched because the IME would put「萌え」 first.

In any event, it seems clear that this use of comes from Japanese anime, and it originally described a reaction to a beautiful woman. Now, it can refer to anything loveable.

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so seeing beautiful things make us "burn"? –  Matthew Rudy 马泰 Dec 30 '12 at 22:15
1  
@MatthewRudy马泰 With desire, yes. And it makes your nose bleed if you're Japanese. –  Stumpy Joe Pete Dec 30 '12 at 23:02
    
To clarify, though, it's essentially "internet slang" of Chinese. It originates in some aspect of pop culture and is transferred to all internet. –  Kye W Shi Jul 8 at 2:08
    
@KyeWShi It's Chinese internet slang that comes from Japanese internet slang. –  Stumpy Joe Pete Jul 8 at 4:53
    
Yeah, that works. –  Kye W Shi Jul 8 at 22:19

萌 = cute/lovely is an adoption from Japanese usage (wikipedia).

It is widely used as such in Mainland China, Taiwan, Hong Kong pop culture media (website, forum, publication), especially related to comics, animation, and video game.

It is popping up in main stream media from time to time, but only in entertainment section.

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The word 萌 méng, defined as "sprout; bud; germinate" has the connotations of a "baby" plant.

Another term for "cute" (at least in American English) is "baby-faced."

To liken someone to a 萌 is to refer to him as a "baby" (face), and therefore cute.

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is more than cute or lovely,it performs a way to express the feelings about something is too adorable that you can't resist.
It is like the one you described makes green shoots grow out of your heart.
It is extended by Japanese phrase 萌え。
's common usage in chinese phrase:
萌芽,"grow up"
萌生,"grow out"

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