Some people in the US normally avoid saying a person has "died." They say the person "passed on," or "has left us." Are there similar, gentle ways in Chinese to avoid saying a person died? Would it generally seem rude among friends to just say that someone has died?
The most general euphemism for "die" in Chinese is
Literally means "leave the world". Similar to the English expression "pass on/away".
It would be polite enough to address anyone's death and is commonly used in speaking and writing. So if you don't know which word is the best, just use this one – in only a few cases would it sound unsuitable (even though it won't sound impolite), e.g.
When using euphemism is absurd. For example, it's weird to say
(Awful!) 这个专门杀男孩的杀手终于去世了。 (Awful!) Finally, the serial killer who aims at boys has passed away.
As you wouldn't say that in English, don't try it in Chinese.
When addressing children's death. Chinese consider 去世 is too solemn for children, and in formal writing we use
夭折. In conversations, personally I might (I hope there's no chance for me) say
离开了我们(has left us).
A Longer List
General (for grown-ups)
- (leave the world; leave forever) 去世/过世/离世/谢世/辞世/与世长辞 / [长逝/永逝]
- (sleep forever; rest in peace; say farewell forever) 安息/永眠/长眠/永别
For children and youths
夭折/夭亡/早逝 / [殤/兰摧玉折]
For young girls
For the great
For those who die for illness
For ancient emperors
For Buddhist monks
For those who die for accidents
For those who normally die at an old age
For old masters (these phrases are Taoism related)
Brackets [ ] denote expressions that would be too formal to be used in conversations.
This list is far from and is not supposed to be perfect (as expressions are too many). Feel free to improve it :)