Both 呆在 and 待在 are acceptable ways of writing dai1 zai4 meaning "stay at/in". For instance, a couple sentences from iciba:

我们因天气寒冷呆在家里。 Because of the cold weather, we stayed at home.

他们整天和朋友们待在外边。 They stay out(side) all day with their friends.

So, which one of these came first? Where did the alternative come from? Was it originally a 错别字 which gained acceptance?

[I would like to emphasize that I'm not asking which you think is correct. They're both widely used; they're both pronounced the same; and there's no stable difference in usage (subjective impressions != usage).]


6 Answers 6


Reference Materials about the differences between / origins of the 2 confusing words:

  1. from online newspaper - 光明网

    • conclusion in translation:

      • one should use "待在" to express "to stay"
  2. from research materials - 中国知网

initial answer:

"待在" is more acceptable than "呆在".

to judge by logic:

  1. 待 has another meaning "to wait", which is closer to "to stay", because the two actions usually happens at the same time.
  2. 呆 has another meaning "stupid, idle", if you use "呆在", one may imagine somebody "to stay without doing anything actively", which usually connects to a negative impression.

to judge by reference sites:

  1. in taiwan, education resource like this 国语小字典 doesn't contain "to stay" as a meaning for "呆".
  2. you can also check the two words on 中文.com to verify.

So, it will be more widely(both mainland and tw) accepted if you use "待在" to express "to stay".

  • -1: This is explicitly not what the OP asked for.
    – Alf
    Commented Sep 4, 2012 at 13:27
  • 1
    +1 because he pointed out the subtle differences which the OP may not be aware of. In this case, 呆 refers to idling, while 待 refers to hanging out. 呆 cannot be applied to many scenarios where 待 is applicable. Sentences such as 他们整天和朋友们呆在外面 is not acceptable when you are trying to convey a message that they spend the whole day hanging out with friends (playing games, etc).
    – 杨以轩
    Commented Sep 4, 2012 at 14:41
  • 1
    abridged text in translation: the 2 Chinese characters are different in meaning, it's not until ming/qing dynasty, did "待" have the meaning of "to stay". it's not until modern/contemporary times, did "呆" have the meaning of "to stay"
    – pimgeek
    Commented Sep 5, 2012 at 4:05
  • 1
    These materials look really promising; I'll look over them and get back to you. Commented Sep 5, 2012 at 5:13
  • 1
    Okay, awesome. I accepted it. Commented Sep 6, 2012 at 1:29

They both mean to "stay in." But one has better connotations than the other.

"待" means "to serve" or to "wait on." As such, it connotes a certain level of alertness. To "待在" in cold weather is a smart, alert, thing to do.

"呆" means "stupid" or "idle." To "呆在" suggests that you are hanging or "idling" around, because you have nothing better to do, not because (as in the previous paragraph) it is the "right" thing to do. It's more of a homonym or pun on "待在" than anything else.

  1. 一般来说中文里会用“待在”而不是“呆在”,“待在”强调的是“stay”这种状态,强调的是身体,而“呆”强调的是“mind is empty”,强调的是思维停滞。

  2. 不要过分相信iciba之类的网络翻译工具,有条件的话还是买一本纸质字典会更有权威

  3. 还有什么疑问欢迎继续留言共同探讨

  1. Generally speaking, you can use 待在 or 呆在 in Chinese. 待在 emphasizes "staying" in the current state, while 呆在 emphasizes "emptying the mind".

  2. Don't put too much faith in iciba and similar online translation services. Sometimes you just need to buy an authoritative dictionary.

  3. If you still have questions, please leave a comment so we can search together.

  • 1
    1. 你误会了。我是问“待”和“呆”的混用情况的来源是什么。其实,我写得很清楚:"I'm not asking which you think is correct". 2. 我引用了iciba之所以是因为我要证明真的有人用“呆”表达这个意思。3. 你自己没有查字典吗?汉语大字典:呆-dai1-停留;居住 4. PIM Geek已经回答我的问题. Commented Sep 11, 2012 at 16:50
  • 我认为 @ZhenchaoJia 的回答中有两点值得称赞的地方: 1. 不满足于"单一的网络信息渠道" 2. "愿意继续探讨" 为何没有给出合宜的答案? 究其原因, 问题看起来简单, 实则需要仔细分析才能理解问题的意思. 我之所以 upvote 这个问题, 是因为它能刺激人思考"为何我以前一直没发现这两个字起源上的区别".
    – pimgeek
    Commented Sep 12, 2012 at 14:53
  • To @ZhenchaoJia : please try to use English to revise your answer. Your intellectual effort is recognized: 1. "do not rely too much on a single online resource." 2. "will go on discussing with others." keep your word, my pal. :)
    – pimgeek
    Commented Sep 12, 2012 at 16:40
  • 我不是生 @ZhenchaoJia 的气。只是有几个人没看清楚我的问题,就回答。 Commented Sep 12, 2012 at 18:21

“呆在” is definitely incorrect for your context. You may say "一听到这个消息,他就呆在了那里,好久都没有动一下" to emphasize that he has been shocked by the news.

  • Where are you from? In mainland dictionaries, has an entry for the meaning "to stay" (although as evidenced by PIMGeek's answer, that meaning is more recently acquired). Commented Sep 16, 2012 at 21:58


“呆在” is a grammatical error, simply a very common one. However, everyone understands it. (Period.)


I was just about to ask a similar question - but all of the answers here seem to baffle me a bit. When looking through some dictionaries I came across the entry for in 现代汉语词典 which says:

同“呆”③。 现在一般写作“呆”。


停留; 逗留

So apart from referencing as the definition to they also claim that is the new 'norm' for "to stay". 现代汉语词典 is based on the mainland though - so perhaps it's just a mainland thing...but I still find this whole thing quite confusing myself.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.