There doesn't really seem to be a clear standard, if you will, of how things are abbreviated in Chinese. For example:

  • 中华人民共和国人力资源和社会保障部 -> 人社部

  • (传染性) 非典型肺炎 -> 非典

So: How are abbreviations determined in Chinese?

3 Answers 3


In whatever way that makes it convenient. There are probably endless different techniques used if one bothers looking for examples.

The situation is analogous to acronyms in Western languages. If you read that wiki article you'll find a huge list of examples and techniques used. Sometimes it's taking the first letters of words (North Atlantic Treaty Organization). Or the first few letters (Geheime Staatspolizei). Sometimes even numbers are used (K9, 3M). Sometimes it's whatever the creators think is cool (GNU).

Back to your examples:


The 中华人民共和国 is highly redundant, so remove.


This is actually 4 words, 人力资源, 社会保障, 部. Words like 和 are redundant so remove. Take the first character of each word and voila:


With 非典型肺炎, it's a bit unusual. There are two words here, but the 非 modifies 典型 so you can't remove it without changing its meaning. So the best you can do using common techniques is "非典肺". From there it's easy to simply drop the 肺.


中华人民共和国人力资源和社会保障部 -> 人社部 ,this emphasize the meaning. but (传染性) 非典型肺炎 -> 非典 maybe emphasizing the serious of the ill,this one actually doesn't obey any concrete rule.

  • So what is the concrete rule?
    – Mou某
    Mar 24, 2015 at 11:39
  • I mean,for example,a government department must use a abbreviation related to it's function,and most abbreviations follow this rule.Why use "人“in"人力资源"?,it's the same as in English.But when the abbreviation "非典" became popular,many Chinese scientist think it's wrong.....It's confusing to us Chinese too......
    – slyfc
    Mar 24, 2015 at 11:50
  • I must say there isn't a rule for all abbreviations in Chinese
    – slyfc
    Mar 24, 2015 at 12:05

I found that a good reference for this is the Wikipedia entry on simplified chinese characters. In particular, in the section under methods of simplification, you'll find four different methods listed:

  • Structural simplification of characters
  • Derivation based on simplified character components
  • Elimination of variants of the same character
  • Adoption of new standardized character forms

And you'll find examples for each of the methods as well, but I won't bother repeating the contents here.

  • This does not address the question.
    – Olle Linge
    Oct 9, 2018 at 15:01

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