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. Dec 2, 2014 at 18:51
  • 2
    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, 2017 at 7:17

2 Answers 2


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, 2014 at 9:20
  • Perhaps you've learned 原 as "field", but it has another meaning: "original". Dec 2, 2014 at 16:12
  • Actually, 原 means original and 地 means field.
    – biubiubiu
    Dec 3, 2014 at 9:56

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

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