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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 '15 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 '15 at 21:25
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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.

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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:

帶有否定、厭惡等感情色彩的詞(與「褒義詞」相對)。如「昏庸」、「卑鄙」、「討厭」等。也作「貶詞」。

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)

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