What would be the most accurate term for newbie or noob, namely one that also conveys a dash of sarcasm and a bit of a condescending tone? I guess it should also be slang.

新来的 or 新手 are pretty neutral, 外行 simply means layman.

Well, while I was researching the question I may have found the answer.

Pleco says its 菜鸟, as well as the Chinese version of Newbie on Wikipedia.

One of the other interpretations in Pleco is idiot which may be too harsh,and another is beginner which is neutral and descriptive. But one of the definitions is indeed newbie.

I'm pretty much sure the answer would be 菜鸟, but what the heck, let's post anyway and see if something better comes up.

  • Instead of just claiming that this word is what it is, try citing some sources or examples to back up what you're saying. Don't just make claims, explain why you believe your answer is correct. Some say the word originates from the NBA term for a rookie player, while others claim it's a misread of 笨鸟. – Krazer Nov 9 '15 at 21:07
  • 牛逼 is actually a variant, although opposite in actual meaning. – user4452 Nov 9 '15 at 21:10
  • newbie != 牛逼,don't be fooled by the similar pronunciation. :) – thinwa Nov 10 '15 at 3:11
  • @Krazer, Not my "claims" at all, as I indicated exactly where I obtained the information. By the way, no mentioning about the term originating from NBA in the link you posted (which is actually the Wikipedia page I mentioned). Perhaps you used the wrong link? I added a link myself though. Thanks. – Yoav Vollansky Nov 11 '15 at 1:16

新手 (新=new)(手=hand)

If you're new to a subject there will often be a 新手指南. You can see this all over: for example in the Chinese language Weibo developer documentation there is a section titled 新手指南。 A 指南 is a "user guide" or "guide book".
(指= to point)(南= although it means south, it is used in the word for compass) I have seen 新手 used perhaps 50 or 60 times to communicate essentially the same meaning as a noob or newbie. 新手, however, is not slang.

  • In fact, the usage of character 手 in the word is quite interesting in Chinese. As you mentioned, 手 means hand in Chinese, there is not any meaning reference the ability of someone for the character. But there are two words which contains to 手 to describe one's ability. 高手 and 新手, 高手 is a very popular word to describe someone has expertise in some fields. – thinwa Nov 10 '15 at 3:27
  • 指南 comes from 指南针(compass) or 指南车, it's ancient equipment to guide people who is traveling in a strange place. Because the feature of guide, it is borrowed to stands for guide book/tutorial for beginners. – thinwa Nov 10 '15 at 3:39
  • An interesting anacdote: I happened to be sitting in a taxi today when suddenly noticed that the car in front of us had a sign hanging on its back windshield saying "女新手”. – Yoav Vollansky Nov 11 '15 at 19:13

新手,菜鸟, 新人。

It can be used to express newcomer, beginner.

Cheers

小白 is also a possible translation of newbie.

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