On RFI Chinese Radio, they often have a topic about what I got to understand is Brexit, a current issue in England. They often use at different time the terms 退欧 and 脱欧 to talk about the issue. From what I understand, it's about separation of England from the European Union, but I can't get hold of the difference between these two expressions. Does anyone have an idea ?


First, thanks to @水巷孑蠻 for the answer which seems accurate. I accepted that answer but now @Tang Ho's answer bothers me. What I find is that 退欧 and 脱欧 could be interchangeable. But now, it is implied that it could be depending on how the organization of England vs Europe is viewed by narrator. Both answers seem valid. How to choose ?

  • bkrs:脱欧 выход из ЕС Russian for exit from EU (European Union) also see zh.wikipedia.org/zh/… confirming that this is the standard Chinese form of Brexit
    – user6065
    Jul 26, 2016 at 4:33
  • Don't worry they are interchangeable here whatsoever. But as TangHo said, in other cases 退 and 脱 are not equal. That's the same as "US general election" and "US presidential election". The two terms are completely interchangeable, but you can't change "UK general election" to "UK presidential election"
    – jf328
    Aug 3, 2016 at 15:56
  • like the difference from quit and exit
    – xenophōn
    Jun 15, 2017 at 2:21

5 Answers 5


Those two terms can be interpreted in this way. 退歐 refers to the intention of exiting (hence ‘Brexit’) or withdrawing from EU. This process involves a referendum and is now completed. 脫歐 would involve some physical action of breaking away from or severing connections with EU. This process has not yet started. But people are, no doubt, using those two terms interchangeably.

  • Thanks for your point it seems like the most concise comparison between the two expressions. So they have specific meaning if we want to talk about the referendum (退欧), or the impact (measures taken) after to put the decision in place (脱欧).
    – cram2208
    Jul 27, 2016 at 3:33

they are just translation of brexit.

"退歐" is 退出 + 歐盟 (eu)

"脫歐" is 脫離 + 歐盟 (eu).

"退歐" & "脫歐" like coke & pepsi, imo, they taste similar, it's hard to say which one is better :)

  • 谢谢你! It's exactly what I was looking for.
    – cram2208
    Jul 26, 2016 at 12:45
  • So I can use both expressions interchangeably? If I can submit a sample with both expressions being used, do you think you could be able to tell them apart?
    – cram2208
    Jul 26, 2016 at 12:48
  • i guess these 2 are interchangeable. there're examples from 中時電子報, that the news heading is "脫歐", but in the body it's "退歐": chinatimes.com/newspapers/20160618000720-260301 chinatimes.com/newspapers/20160630000294-260208 Jul 26, 2016 at 13:19
  • You can say 美國脫離英國統冶 (America broke away from British rule), but cannot say 美國退出英國統治(America withdrew from British rule),how is that 脫離 and 退出 be interchangeable?
    – Tang Ho
    Jul 26, 2016 at 16:57
  • interchangeable are the terms "退歐" & "脫歐", which are used in the question. Jul 26, 2016 at 17:24

退歐 stand for 退出歐盟 ( withdraw from EU) ** it imply EU is just a loose alliance. Much like the Common Market before it. Members are free to withdraw their memberships at any time.

脫歐 stand for 脫離歐盟 ( break away from EU) ** it imply EU members are legally bonded to each others, much like a federation. Leaving EU is akin to a state of America proclaims independent.

** which one to use, is based on what the narrator consider EU is.

  • Please note that some narrators I have heard on RFI will use both 退欧 and 脱欧 interchangeably ... 怎么样?
    – cram2208
    Jul 26, 2016 at 17:12
  • My comments from the post above : You can say 美國脫離英國統冶 (America broke away from British rule), but cannot say 美國退出英國統治(America withdrew from British rule),how is that 脫離 and 退出 be interchangeable? 退歐 and 脫歐 are used in the same body of text as if they are interchangeable, but the fact remains-- they aren't. You should use one or the other, but not both.
    – Tang Ho
    Jul 26, 2016 at 18:53

I believe when a Chinese (me included) writes 脱欧 or 退欧,they most likely mean the same thing, that is, the UK leaving the EU and no longer being a member of it. 脱 and 退 are different of course, but I think an expression of idea sometimes does not go that far, unless perhaps the writer or speaker is discussing something in-depth about the nature of the EU.

  • Good point I agree with you that they are understandable the same way in common speech, but I want to know the specifics of each expression.
    – cram2208
    Jul 27, 2016 at 3:37
  • From the news apps in my phone, I find 脱欧 is used more than 退欧 (based on my own experience only!) The one I am reading now is from a stock app talking about the index of A-shares. It says 脱欧公投 (Brexit referendum). As mentioned by others, 脱 means breakway, actively leaving. I guess the news writer agrees that the EU is powerful that you need to break away, not just withdraw from it, quit it, or exit from it.
    – Victor
    Jul 28, 2016 at 3:48

I think in this case both have the same meaning, because EU is like an organization, and UK is part of Europe.

But in other situations, there may be difference.

Take Japan 脫亞入歐 as an example. If one says 退亞入歐, then it's misleading as it seems to mean Japan is a member of an organization of Asian countries like EU.

So we say Japan 脫亞 instead of 退亞.

However, for non-asian countries (e.g. US), one'd better say 退亞 as a short form of 退出亞洲, instead of 脫亞(脫離亞洲).

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