Take the 2-minute tour ×
Chinese Language Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for students, teachers, and linguists wanting to discuss the finer points of the Chinese language. It's 100% free, no registration required.

I assume 雪茄 (cigar) is a loanword. Who can tell me what language this word was loaned from and, if appropriate, how it was transcribed?

My own guess is that the word was transcribed from English and entered the Chinese lexicon via Cantonese - in which case the pronunciation of the characters may actually be similar to the English pronunciation of the word "cigar". This is just my guess though and I have no idea whether it's on the mark of completely off.

share|improve this question

2 Answers 2

From Chinese wikipedia:


(Loose!) Translation:

The Chinese translation 雪茄 was created by Xu Zhimo. In addition to the similarity of the sounds, the name also comes from the fact that its ash is white like snow.

My dictionary confirms that it is a loanword from English. If wikipedia is to believed, it probably didn't come through Cantonese since Xu Zhimo is from Zhejiang.

share|improve this answer
To add a bit more information, 茄 in most of the southern Chinese varieties has an initial sound that corresponds to pinyin g-. Mandarin underwent a sound change roughly 3-4 centuries ago that turned gi-, ki-, and hi- into ji-, qi-, and xi-; the southern varieties did not undergo this change, so you can often tell that a transcription is likely southern in origin when g- or k- sounds end up getting transcribed with a character that is pronounced with j- or q- in Mandarin (e.g., Canada - 加拿大, Jiānádà). –  Claw Jan 9 '12 at 18:15

Zombie thread!

In Wu dialect (in Zhejiang), this is pronounced as an almost exact transliteration of 'cigar' (like pinyin xiega, but with a short vowel on the first syllable). Several other transcriptions are also from Wu, coming through the Shanghai foreign port, such as jacket.

share|improve this answer
Welcome to Chinese Stack Exchange; have an upvote! In the future (once you pass 15 points), you can comment on other people's posts. This answer is somewhat slim and might do better as either a comment on or an edit to the other answer that indirectly suggests that 雪茄 entered via Wu. Alternately, you could expand your answer (e.g., with similar background to the other one along with sourced transcriptions of 雪茄 into some Wu dialect). –  Stumpy Joe Pete Jul 23 at 7:47

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.