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肉排 is Chinese for steak (e.g. 牛排 or 猪排 for beef steak and pork steak), but where did the 排 come from? As a Western cuisine dish, did the word have some roundabout origin?

排 means row/rank, which has nothing to do with steak. 排 makes more sense in the word 排骨 (spareribs) - literally "rows of bones".

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Wiki page of 牛排 gives a clue of its etymology, written by, 姚德懷, the current chairman of 香港中國語文學會 (The Chinese Language Society of Hong Kong Ltd.), a non-profit organization in Hong Kong. Here's a summary:

According to 漢語大詞典, the word 牛排 has been cited in some novels in Qing Dynasty in the beginning of 20th century. Such as:

The author puts: 排 seems to stem from the 排骨 in 排骨麵 served in Shanghai being similar to Western pork chop. (上海「排骨麵」裏的大塊「排骨」近似西菜裏的「豬排」,「排」字的用法似由此而起。)

The pronunciation of 排 in Shanghai local dialect is similar to 扒 in Cantonese, which seems to be the reason that Cantonese also use 牛扒 to mean 牛排. (「排」,上海話讀「bɑ」,廣東人聽成「p’a」,似因此也寫為「扒」。)

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肉扒 might even be more common in Shanghai, at least through my observation. But of course, I haven't been to every restaurant that sells steaks in Shanghai. –  deutschZuid Oct 7 '13 at 2:41
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牛排 might be best translated as (beef) "short ribs," which is a form of "steak."

"Steak" literally is a reference to "grilled beef," and in its original (Nordic) form, referred to the "grilling," not to the beef.

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