What's the difference between 计算机 and 电脑?Do they have the same meaning? They both mean computer, but does the meaning differ between regions, or something else? Or are they completely synonymous?

  • searched site for 电脑,计算机 yet? – user6065 Feb 27 '16 at 8:27
  • It wasn't useful. – SinTheta Feb 27 '16 at 8:27
  • 1
    see previous Q:Which regions use 计算机 for computer?How would one say “my computer died”? – user6065 Feb 27 '16 at 17:37
up vote 3 down vote accepted
  1. In most cases, they're interchangable and both mean personal computer.

  2. 计算机 could be used for wider range. Such as,

大型计算机 (large (-scale) computer; maxicomputer)

中型计算机 (medium-size computer; midcomputer)

小型计算机 (minicomputer; small-size computer)

微型计算机 (microcomputer)

  • 我認為並不是這樣,計算機是大陸的譯名,電腦是台灣的譯名。 – Daniel Cheung Feb 29 '16 at 7:15
  • @DanielCheung Yes what I explained is the situation of Mainland, you might add an answer about the difference in Taiwan. – songyuanyao Feb 29 '16 at 7:28
  • @DanielCheung Nope, we use 电脑 in 大陆 more often than 计算机 – Archeosudoerus Mar 9 '16 at 16:32
  • Anyway, looking at this answer today again, I don't think computer = personal computer. I study Computer. Generally, in Apple's point of view, PC only means Windows. – Daniel Cheung Mar 9 '16 at 16:34

For questions like this, I sometimes do a Google image search. For 电脑 I only get images of computers (which is what I expected); for 计算机 I get images of both computers and calculators.

However, when I asked a native speaker from Henan last year, he insisted that 计算机 refers to calculators. This may be related to the regional differences mentioned by user454038.

Easy. 计算机 means both the computer (desktop, laptop, server, or other variants) and the hand-held calculator that only does arithmetics or basic functions.

电脑 is the desktop, laptop or other computer only, but not the calculator.

  • 3
    In mainland the hand-held calculator is called 计算器. – Stan Feb 27 '16 at 16:43
  • iciba:pocket calculator:便携(式)计算器,袖珍(式)计算器 cf。袖珍 pocket-size; pocket – user6065 Feb 29 '16 at 7:25
  • 1
    It's depends on region. For me 计算机 means a hand-held calculator whereas 电脑 means a computer. For China / Taiwan 计算机 is a computer. – Alex Feb 29 '16 at 16:00
  • I can't comment on in which region this answer is valid, but it's definitely not the case in mainland China. – NS.X. Feb 29 '16 at 22:21

电脑 for daily use, 计算机 is a formal words.

e.g.

大娘: 你学什么的? 小明: 我学计算机的?

an old women: What subject did you major?

xiaoming: I majored in computer science (at college).

计算机 means computer science.

大娘: 你学什么的? 小明: 我学电脑的.

An old women: What subject did you major?

xiaoming: I majored in how to type and install windows (at Department of Community Services).

  • What? How does typing and installing Windows come into your translation?! – Zelphir Mar 3 '16 at 9:29
  • I guess the proper translation of 大娘 is ma'am rather than old woman :p – Sheng-Duan Sun Mar 4 '16 at 11:45
  • @Zelphir Because when someone say he 学电脑的. really mean he learn how to type and install windows. – wolfrevo Mar 5 '16 at 9:23
  • @Jacob wow, so windows has gotten into a language contruct? That's horrible! – Zelphir Mar 5 '16 at 16:43

You ask the difference between 电脑 and 计算机, is like asking the difference between PC and computer.

电脑 is what people use in speaking, 计算机 is more technical.

In English PC is more like a Windows installed desktop computer.

And computer is just a computer and sometimes more technical because the nature of a computer is to do arithmetic computations.

  • 1
    Is this analogy really helpful? From what I know, it has nothing to do with platform vs. OS in Chinese. – Olle Linge Feb 28 '16 at 17:35

I am a native Chinese speaker,in our daily life,there are not so many differences between 计算机 and 电脑,usually,when we are having classes,the official name is 计算机课 rather than 电脑课.the biggest difference may be in some professional feild,for example,in Chinese college a major named 计算机专业 ,so when you speak Chinese ,there is no need to pay much attention to it,unless you are in a special academic field thus you can say 计算机,also,if you say 电脑,most people can still understand you.

For Mandarin, regional differences exist, but there are also similarities. To summarize, here are some rough charts:

Computer:

   Mainland       Both         Taiwan

t: 計算機          電腦
s: 计算机          电脑
r: ji4 suan4 ji   dian4 nao3

Calculator,

as in, pocket calculator:

   Mainland       Both         Taiwan

t: 計算器                       計算機
s: 计算器                       计算机
r: ji4 suan4 qi4               ji4 suan4 ji

Details:

Computer

baike.baidu.com 计算机:

计算机(computer)俗称电脑 ...

Baidu, a mainland website, lists s: 计算机 as computer, with s: 电脑 as a popular term.

When browsing computer websites with localized versions of the same page, HP.com for example:

Taiwan:

HP 桌上型電腦

Mainland:

HP 台式电脑

  • In English, this page would be HP Desktop Computers
  • They have slightly different ways of conveying Desktop, Taiwan: 桌上型 quite literally desk-top-format, whereas Mainland: 台式
  • but for the computer part of Desktop Computer both use r: dian4 nao3, t: 電腦, s: 电脑

So for both the Mainland and Taiwan, you can say computer by saying dian4 nao3

Calculator

For t: 計算器, s: 计算器, r: ji4 suan4 qi4,

Baike.baidu.com 计算器:

计算器是现代人发明的可以进行数字运算的电子机器。 ...外文名 calculator

s: 计算器 is for mathematical calculations, and its English is calculator.

For t: 計算機, s: 计算机, r: ji4 suan4 ji:

CDICT 計算機:

computer

(Tw) calculator

CL:臺|台[tai2]

So while it can mean computer, but in Taiwan, it means calculator.

They are the same and interchangable, no difference. 电脑 tends to be a little bit oral, 计算机 tends to be a little bit formal, and often used in documents, book, literature etc.

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