I know the rough difference between a 成语 (4-character proverb)and a 俗语 (8-character or so saying), but what is a 谚语, and how does it differ from these?

I am also interested in 熟语。 How does this differ from these three?

  • You might mean 成语?
    – user4072
    Aug 18 '16 at 15:51
  • I have updated my post to take a fourth word into account. Can you please explain? Aug 22 '16 at 20:56

成語 and 諺語 are well established common expressions , well known by the whole population. 俗語 is more often, limited to regional use.

  • 成語 mostly refer to Chinese idiom.
  • 諺語 can be from different countries.
  • Chinese 成語 are uniformly four characters phrases.
  • For 俗語 and 諺語, number of character are flexible, some come in two parts.


俗語 : "有便宜唔好使頸" (Cantonese) : "If there's benefit to be have, don't be stubborn."

諺語: "神要毀滅某人,必先使其瘋狂" (western): " "Those whom the gods wish to destroy they first make mad."

  • 諺語 (proverb) include "common sense" and "words of wisdom". from known or unknown origins.
  • 俗語 (folk saying) include "situation description", "common sense" and "words of wisdom".
  • 成語 (idiom) include "situation description" , "common sense", and "words of wisdom". Mostly came from known historical references, like poems, classical literature or famous quotes by historic figures .


熟语 (Well known phrases) include:

惯用语(common phrase), usually contain three characters, for example: "打秋風","拍馬屁" , 成語, 諺語, 俗語, 歇后语(two-part allegorical saying), for example: "和尚打傘,無法無天" and 格言(motto), usually from famous people, for example: "We have nothing to fear but fear itself." by Franklin D. Roosevelt.

  • Thank you for your descriptive answer. I would be happy to invite your post, if you could do me the favor of including your description of 熟语. This is from the front of a book. Aug 22 '16 at 21:00
  • "front of a book"? cover/封面? title page/书名页/扉页? There exists "汉语熟语小词典"containing 成语、惯用语 and 歇后语 bkrs:[a two-part allegorical saying; sequel]通常只说前一部分, 后一部分不言而喻 e。g。十五个吊桶(打水)──七上八下
    – user6065
    Aug 22 '16 at 22:43
  • famous example of 谚语:闰七不闰八,闰八过刀杀 (see web) mentioned in 《饥饿的女儿》,作者:虹影 author writes 我正是能随口念叨这些谚语的孩子中的一个
    – user6065
    Aug 24 '16 at 15:12
  • 格言 bkrs:(含有教育意义的成语) maxim; motto; aphorism; an established maxim:e。g。“规范的调查是犯罪学的道德基础。”"Uniform codes of investigation are the moral foundation of criminology." baiyun.net/detective/wccs07.html
    – user6065
    Aug 29 '16 at 20:03
  • 语录 quotation,e。g。 毛主席语录 e。g。教育必须为无产阶级政治服务,必须同生产劳动相结合。为什么语言要学,并且要用很大的气力去学呢?因为语言这东西,不是随便可以学好的,非下苦动不可。
    – user6065
    Aug 29 '16 at 20:40

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