How to pronounce the word "下载", "xià zǎi" or "xià zài"?

Most Chinese people pronounce it "xià zǎi", but there are some people insist on pronouncing it "xià zài". There are different also different pronunciations in different dictionaries.

The followings are the interpretations of the character "载" from zdic.net:

● 载 (載)zǎi ㄗㄞˇ

  1. 年;岁:千~难逢。三年两~。
  2. 记录;刊登;描绘:记~。连~。转~。

● 载 (載)zài ㄗㄞˋ

  1. 装,用交通工具装:~客。~货。~重。~体。装~。满~而归。
  2. 充满:怨声~道。
  3. 乃,于是(古文里常用来表示同时做两个动作):~歌~舞。
  4. 姓。

"载" of "下载" has the same meaning as "load" of "download", but which meaning should we choose? The second meaning of "zǎi" or the first meaning of "zài"?


I visited an online dictionary site of the Ministry of Education of R.O.C. (http://dict.revised.moe.edu.tw). The followings are the interpretations of the character "载" there:

● 載  部首:車 部首外筆畫:6 總筆畫:13 ㄗㄞˇ zǎi


  1. 量詞。計算時間的單位。相當於「年」。如:「一年半載」、「三年五載」、「千載難逢」。

● 載  部首 車 部首外筆畫 6 總筆畫 13 ㄗㄞˋ zài


  1. 乘坐。說文解字:「載,乘也。」史記˙卷二十九˙河渠書:「陸行載車,水行載舟。」唐˙孟郊˙感興詩:「吾欲載車馬,太行路崢嶸。」

  2. 裝運。如:「載人」、「載貨」。唐˙李白˙懷仙歌:「巨鼇莫載三山去,我欲蓬萊頂上行。」

  3. 記錄。如:「記載」、「刊載」、「轉載」。

  4. 承受。易經˙坤卦˙象曰:「君子以厚德載物。」三國志˙卷二十七˙魏書˙王基傳:「臣聞古人以水喻民,曰:『水所以載舟,亦所以覆舟。』」

  5. 充滿。如:「怨聲載道」。唐˙李白˙天長節度使鄂州刺史韋公德政碑:「頌聲載路,豐碑是刊。」


  1. 且、又。同時做兩個動作。如:「載歌載舞」。詩經˙鄘風˙載馳:「載馳載驅,歸唁衛侯。」

There is no interpretation we can choose if it is pronounced zǎi.

  • Interesting. I have always pronounced 载 in 载歌载舞 in the third tone. No one ever pointed it out to me :(. Commented Aug 14, 2012 at 22:13
  • I believe that zai4 is prescriptively correct (For one thing, the interpretation makes sense...), but everyone says zai3 in practice. Such is life. Good question. Commented Aug 15, 2012 at 17:19
  • @BML, please refer to my answer under Justification heading for the interpretation of pronouncing as zǎi.
    – 杨以轩
    Commented Aug 19, 2012 at 2:26
  • Though the right tones of 下载 is xià zài, almost everyone read as xià zǎi, the fact is difficult to change.
    – xenophōn
    Commented Aug 26, 2019 at 12:21

4 Answers 4


What the online community thinks

From Baidu 百科:

准确读音 xià zài

  “下载”这个词,规范读音按照现代汉语词典、现代汉语规范词典等权威字典的标注应为“xià zài”。随着电脑的普及,这个词使用的频率越来越高,但可惜的是绝大多数人一开口就是从网上“xià zǎi”,就连播音员、主持人也读“xià zǎi”,如央视的晚间新闻在播送“网络侵权BT下载”时就读成“xià zǎi”。可以说电台、电视台的播音员、节目主持人对“xià zǎi”这个错误的读音起了推波助澜的作用。就目前的趋势来看,要推广“下载”的正确读音已非常困难,已经习非成是了。这些现象给人一种感觉,好像电台、电视台的播音员、节目主持人的发音很随意,因为这些错误的读音许多是在同一个播音员或主持人嘴里反复发出的,而这些错误的读音又严重影响了普通话规范语音的推广普及。这是当前语言文字规范化工作中不容忽视的一个问题。

It says: According to the Modern Chinese Dictionary and other authoritative sources, the accurate pronunciation should be "xià zài". But due to the proliferation of computers and rise in the usage frequency of this term, the great majority of the people when they speak, pronounce it as “xià zǎi”. This includes radio and tv hosts, and even a newscaster from CCTV. This mispronunciation has a rippling effect that from current trend seems difficult to reverse and has already become a norm. The phenomenon seems to give one the impression that the these professionals are very lax in their pronunciation. However, the mistake, in most occasions, originated from one host or one presenter, repeated over a number of times. These mispronunciations have seriously impeded the popularisation and standardization of Mandarin as the universal dialect, and is a problem that should not be ignored.

The above is further corroborated with answers to the same question here.

What a research shows

There is an interesting research paper on this “下载”的读音和释义 (

To summarize:

  1. The two most authoritative dictionaries give different interpretations of the same term:

    下载 xià zài: 从互联网或其他计算机上获取信息并装入到某台计算机或其他电子装置上 (跟 “上传” 相对)。

    《现代汉语词典》(第 5 版)

    下载 xià zǎi: 将互联网或其他电子计算机上的信息资料复制到本台计算机上 (跟 “上载” 相对)。


  2. According to research [see table], most of the dictionaries indicate the pronunciation as "xià zài", however this is inconclusive since many of the minor dictionaries take reference from the more authoritative sources such as《现代汉语词典》and《新华词典》.
  3. According to a classroom survey of about 500, 68% respondents indicated that they pronounce the term as "xià zǎi" while 32% pronounce as "xià zài".
  4. An online poll was also conducted with a clear majority of 94% pronouncing the term as "xià zǎi" out of 225 respondents.
  5. "记载" and "装载" are the two most closely associated terms with "下载".
  6. The word "载" is derived from "车" and "装载" precedes "记载" which is derived from "containing" in a metaphorical sense.
The above are some points put forth by the author, I left out part of his argument and conclusion which I find subjective and highly debatable.


The use of "xià zǎi" can be justified to be derived from the term "记载" (jì zǎi) since "下载" or download refers to receiving a copy of the original file on the local system. The action of copying can be taken to mean recording or "记载" although it is not so obvious to some.

The use of "xià zài" can be justified by the single word "载" (zài) which means transporting. Downloading is a process of transmitting (or transporting) electronic data from the remote system to the local system.

The verdict

Inconclusive. Use whichever pronunciation that you feel can get the other party understand you.

  • I also saw that page, but I would say that 《现代汉语规范词典》 is also an authoritative source, if not even more than the others.
    – BertR
    Commented Aug 14, 2012 at 15:08
  • Does anyone have a paper version of 《现代汉语词典》? In this online version 51240.com/cidian it's xiàzǎi and not xiàzài. I have an older paper version, but it doesn't have the word.
    – BertR
    Commented Aug 14, 2012 at 15:29
  • @BertR, no, I don't have that dictionary. I could be wrong since Baidu is the Chinese version of Wikipedia which relies purely on crowd-sourcing. My conjecture is that came from the first meaning of "zài" (to load) in BML's question, so it should logically follow the same pronunciation. The newer dictionaries may have subsequently revised the pronunciation to "xià zǎi" as many people are already pronouncing it this way. However, these are just my personal opinions.
    – 杨以轩
    Commented Aug 14, 2012 at 15:58
  • @BertR, I noticed that you use 《现代汉语规范词典》 as the ultimate source for many things. May I ask why? My middle school (in Beijing) and college (Peking Univ) both use 《新华字典》 and 《现代汉语词典》 as the authoritative source and told us all the other sources (including 《现代汉语规范词典》) are unreliable. I don't mean to question you but try to understand if there is a regional or education system-wise difference.
    – NS.X.
    Commented Aug 14, 2012 at 20:27
  • 2
    @BertR, I see. For this one no matter which dictionary says what, it's prescriptive and artificial. We all know how it is pronounced in real life:)
    – NS.X.
    Commented Aug 15, 2012 at 8:12

This is a difficult one. Just by looking at the meanings of the characters, I would say the 4th tone is slightly better.

I also checked some dictionaries for 下载 as a word and as you already mentioed, they don't agree on this one (and online resources also don't).

Some examples from reference works for xiàzǎi and xiàzài:

  1. xiàzǎi

    • 《现代汉语规范词典》 has this definition:

    下载 [xiàzǎi]

    1. 动 将互联网或其他电子计算机上的信息资料复制到本台计算机上
    • Collins Chinese-English Dictionary
  2. xiàzài

    • 汉办 has an official list of what you need to know for the new HSK (with Pinyin), and there it is xiàzài
    • Comprehensive Chinese-English Dictionary

When I'm in doubt I normally rely on 《现代汉语规范词典》 and 汉办 but here they are in disagreement. I think in this case there is no right answer and both pronunciations are acceptable.

  • It's about how it's said in reality. In reality, I personally have never heard anyone use xiàzài. Chinese dictionaries have a tendency to be prescriptive. Commented Aug 14, 2012 at 23:27
  • Yes, I also have never heard a fourth tone. I also asked some friends and they all said the same thing.
    – BertR
    Commented Aug 15, 2012 at 7:30

就算正确读法是 xia4 zai4 ,在中国大陆还是读 xia4 zai3合适,因为大家都这么读,除非你在台湾。

Even though the correct pronunciation is xia4 zai4, in mainland China it's still pronounced xia4 zai3, because everyone pronounces it this way, except in Taiwan.

  • 君之蘭,欢迎你。 I did my best to translate this answer to English, anyone else want to improve my translation?
    – Don Kirkby
    Commented Aug 18, 2012 at 17:18
  • @君之蘭, can you give us an idea that in Taiwan, the ratio of people who pronounce it in 3rd tone vs. in 4th tone, like 9:1 or 6:4 or even 10:0?
    – NS.X.
    Commented Aug 18, 2012 at 19:59

there is a rule when you meet 2 same tone, that's the second one should be declined.

In you case "下载", both of their tone are fourth, so it should be pronounced as "xià zǎi".

While in another case of "载人", it should be "zài ren".

In one word, "载" has two tones and which tone should be used depend on the context, remember the rule.

  • to whoever vited it down - it is nice to comment your action so other would know why you think it is wrong
    – Juliusz
    Commented Aug 31, 2012 at 15:03
  • There are lots of words with two fourth tones in a row. Where did you come up with this "rule"? (P.S. I'm not the downvoter, I just think this answer is not right.) Commented Sep 12, 2012 at 1:52
  • Hey guy, except that the character one (一) appears at the beginning of a word, or multiple characters of 3rd tones appears together, it is not necessary to change the tone. Though the reading tones are changed, the standard tone is always fixed. While the character 载 is originally a polyphone, but there is not any rule to change the tone for this character, also no need to consider the context.
    – xenophōn
    Commented Aug 26, 2019 at 12:32

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