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I want to describe that a certain action gives you '面子', or that people do things to try and maintain or protect their '面子' but I can't think of an appropriate English word for it.

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Have you checked out Wikipedia? – NS.X. Apr 23 '13 at 1:09
Exactly: It's just "face". It's a direct translation from Chinese, but the usage is widely understood and long standing (since at least the late 1800's). – Stumpy Joe Pete Apr 23 '13 at 1:21
It just seems to be more of a Chinese concept/semantic, so I wasn't sure whether a direct translation is appropriate. But based on the comments I think it is the best option. – Michael Lai Apr 23 '13 at 3:50
It had been assimilated into English vocab quite some time ago as Pete pointed out. – deutschZuid Apr 23 '13 at 8:00
The idea has been brought to the West at the time of trading in Qing. The word "lose face" is directly used in English so I think "face" is fine. – Daniel Cheung Aug 11 '15 at 9:21

You just need to use face, prestige, reputation, and so on.

  • 爱面子 be keen on face-saving
  • 保全/顾全面子 save face
  • 丢面子 lose face
  • 给面子 give face to somebody
  • 面子问题 matter of face; issue concerning one’s reputation

I hope that would be useful for you.

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Give face to somebody 翻譯有點牽強…… – Derek 朕會功夫 Apr 23 '13 at 7:13
@Derek朕會功夫 This is an interesting term. It doesn't sound forced at all to me, however, it seems to be used more when associated with the Chinese as it is, after all, culturally specific. Normally, one would simply say, to honour or to pay respect to (someone's sensitivity or sensibilities), but these lack the cultural nuance that comes with to 'give face'. – deutschZuid Apr 23 '13 at 8:03
I definitely think that there are some context where a direct translation is appropriate, but some sound a bit unnatural. – Michael Lai Apr 24 '13 at 6:31
From time to time I heard people (English speaking) using "save face" or "to save face" in conversation. It is also in this online idioms dictionary. – John Siu Apr 24 '13 at 15:38
@JohnSiu Yes. Wiktionary even says that "lose face" came into English from Chinese. Certainly English uses "face" this way. – Colin McLarty Feb 4 '15 at 3:33

面子 = Face, self-esteem, etc. A word can contain many meanings by how you use it in a sentence. If you split those two words it will have even more meanings. So just by how you use it in a sentence.

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"面子" means the reputation and Compliment from others

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