Heard this on TVB: 原地踏步. What does the phrase mean? There's nothing in the Cantonese dictionary for this phrase.

  • The Perapera Chinese Pop-up Dictionary knows this phrase, as does the Yellowbridge Mandarin-English Talking Dictionary. Good resources. As to paper, it is in the big 2000 page Oxford Chinese Dictionary. – Colin McLarty Dec 2 '14 at 18:51
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    The literal meaning in Chinese is to step on the same position, translated to English is to mark time in military training. The extended meaning is no progress or improvement on something. – xenophōn Oct 31 '17 at 7:17

Actually, 原地踏步 is not a Cantonese phrase, it's just a Chinese phrase.

The literal meaning is marking time, and it's often used to describe a situation that one doesn't make progress or fall behind.


The squad leader ordered the men to mark time.


I could either tread water until I was promoted, which looked to be a few years away, or I could change what I was doing.

  • cool thanks! but why 原地? the last two characters make sense. – Crashalot Dec 2 '14 at 9:20
  • Perhaps you've learned 原 as "field", but it has another meaning: "original". – broccoli forest Dec 2 '14 at 16:12
  • Actually, 原 means original and 地 means field. – biubiubiu Dec 3 '14 at 9:56

原地踏步 basically means "going around in circles".

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