I would like to find out more about the two sayings "吹牛" and "拍马屁".

How these sayings come about and get their current meanings?

吹牛 chuīniú meaning to brag

拍马屁 pāimǎpì meaning to excessively flatter someone

  • xiaohouzi79, I removed the 和 in your title so it's all in English. I think the best is to either post in English or in Chinese, but mixing the two might not be the best.
    – Alenanno
    Jan 20, 2012 at 9:48

1 Answer 1


I found something in Baidu Encyclopedia.

For 吹牛


Originally 吹牛 comes from 吹牛皮 (blowing cow leather). In the old times, people who lived along the Yellow River used cow leather to make rafts, cuz the yellow river could easily destroy wood boats. However there was no bumpers at that time. So it was strong people who were responsible to blow air into the "leather bag" to make it a raft. However, even the strongest man could not make it by himeself. So if someone says "I can blow a raft by myself", he must be bragging. As a result, people use 吹牛皮 to refer to bragging.

A photo of a 牛皮筏
The photo comes from: http://www.chinavalue.net/Wiki/%E7%89%9B%E7%9A%AE%E7%AD%8F.aspx

For 拍马屁


When it was Yuan dynasty in ancient China, the mongolians loved riding horses (cuz they conquered China and many other places with their cavalry force). At that time, when a mongolian met another mongolian, he would pat the other's horse, and say something like "nice horse". It was the best way to make generals and officers of the Yuan dynasty happy by saying "your horses are good". And when the mongolians ruled China, this custom also came to China.

However, originally it was 拍马 (patting the horse), not 拍马屁.

Forgive my translate ^_^

  • Interesting - I'd never thought about the meaning behind these expressions - thanks for the clear insight.
    – Ciaocibai
    Jan 20, 2012 at 2:57
  • The picture is hilarious. LOL
    – Betty
    Apr 13, 2012 at 3:57

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