The English term "passive aggressive" is generally used to describe non-overt displays of aggression, such as resistance, poor attitude, posting silly workplace notices or other behaviours that indirectly express hostility to the target.

However, I was unable to find an idiomatic translation. Google returns a few answer sites (1,2,3) which return examples that sound like machine translations, and which also sound partly like oxymorons due to their different connotations in Chinese. For example, 被动攻击 and 消极攻击 were all given as examples, but they do not appear to make sense, and sound like machine translations.

How would one idiomatically translate the phrase into Chinese?

  • see jukuu for not machine translated examples, involving "passive aggressive personality, (also underachievement)" all using 消极攻击
    – user6065
    Commented Apr 22, 2016 at 13:11
  • can you give a couple of examples of when and how you'd want to use the term in Chinese?
    – judester
    Commented Apr 23, 2016 at 18:06

4 Answers 4


To literally translate " passive aggressive" as 「被動攻擊」or 「消極攻擊」cannot capture the essence of this phrase. It is better to use interpretation that truly express the meaning of it.

My choice is " 陰損"




I would say 被动攻击 and 消极攻击 are the correct term. It sounds strange and machine like because it is so rarely used. I would say this is something related to psychology and it is one area that is just beginning to be explored or studied in the Chinese society.

Coming from a Chinese background, I hear a lot of "消极" or "被动" describing a person, but I guess we only thought of it as a personality trait rather than a "Passive aggressive" behaviour. But I think as China is exploring in this area more and more, more people will come to know this term "被动攻击/消极攻击", and it won't sound so machine like anymore.


I think 被動攻擊 and 消極攻擊 are both appropriate for passive aggressive. Because it looks like a proper noun in psychology, not a well-known noun in Chinese.


I would consider it's 消极敌对 or 消极仇视 in the context of hostile working environment or behavior at workplace. Reasons for people behave that way could be insecure, incompetent, over-confident at different times.

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