I'm trying to explain to a Chinese penpal that certain word and phrases in English carry a negative connotation and so shouldn't be used in specific situations.

I want to say "that phrase is very negative" (as in lacking in optimism or positivity). Google translate gives the word negative as 消极, but looking 消极 up in a Chinese to English dictionary tells me it means "passive", which isn't at all what I'm going for.

What's the right word to use?

  • has user looked up iciba? at entry for "negative" users can find sample sentences with the required meaning
    – user6065
    Mar 4, 2015 at 21:20
  • @S.Rhee Nope, I hadn't heard of that site until you just mentioned it. Looks like a great resource. Thanks!
    – Egghead99
    Mar 4, 2015 at 21:25

2 Answers 2


According to iCIBA:

If someone is a negative person, or has a negative attitude, then they are 消极 (xiāo jí), or 悲观 (bēi guān).

To say that a word has a negative connotation, you use 负面含义 (fùmiàn hányì), literally, "downside meaning".

Thanks to S.Rhee for pointing me to iCIBA, where I was able to find the answer to my own question.


Consider: 贬义词:

derogatory term; pejorative -(ABC)

derogatory term; expression of censure -(A Chinese English Dictionaty)

两岸 lists a defintion with some examples of these 贬义词:


and an example of usage:

‘爱情’二字在他的特别词典里是个贬义词, 跟‘贪污’、‘盗窃’、‘资本主义’等词语一样的难听。 -(周克芹 《许茂和他的女儿们》第四章)

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

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