When I looked up the Chinese word for "survive" so far I only came up with "生存"?

But the glosses into English 生存 cover "live", "exist", "subsist".

This seems to be quite different from the common English meaning og getting through dangerous event unscathed.

Is there a better Chinese word that has that meaning?

4 Answers 4


I think it's better to say:"幸存"。That means someone go through some bad things such as disaster or serious illness, and still be alive.

  • My dictionary only lists this as a noun. Does it also work as a verb? Commented Sep 28, 2016 at 5:03
  • 3
    Yes, you can use it also as a verb, but often an intransitive verb: so you can say: 他在地震中幸存下来。 He survived in the earthquake. 他在那次事故中幸存下来。He survived in that accident. but do not say: 他幸存了那次事故/地震。(a literal translate from "He survived the typhoon") Commented Sep 29, 2016 at 2:36
  • I also mostly see a common use of this word as the noun 幸存者 - survivor. Here is a very relevant example: blog.ychsiwo.net/ygsl/4028.html Commented Oct 7, 2016 at 10:06

Major Update:

Since the word "survive" contains more than one meaning, it may be necessary to translate different definition to different Chinese word.


verb (used without object), survived, surviving.

    1. to remain alive after the death of someone, the cessation of something, or the occurrence of some event; continue to live: Few survived after the holocaust.

In definition (1), there is no simple translation for " to remain alive after the death of someone" but for "continue to live" , the translation would be 生還; 存活

Few survived after the holocaust (大屠殺之後很少人生還/存活)

    1. to remain or continue in existence or use: Ancient farming methods still survive in the Middle East.

In definition (2), the translation would be 留存; 保存

    1. to get along or remain healthy, happy, and unaffected in spite of some occurrence: She's surviving after the divorce.

No simple translation for definition (3)

She's surviving after the divorce (離婚後她繼續正常地生活下去)

verb (used with object), survived, surviving.

    1. to continue to live or exist after the death, cessation, or occurrence of: His wife survived him. He survived the operation.

In definition (4), there's no simple translation for the first example sentence. For the second example sentence, the translation would be 挺過

    1. to endure or live through (an affliction, adversity, misery, etc.): She's survived two divorces.

In definition (5), the translation would be 挺過

The sentence in the question "I survived the typhoon” is similar to the example sentence in definition (4): He survived the operation. which means survived should be translated to 挺過了

He survived the operation (他挺過了手術)

I survived the typhoon (我挺過了颱風)


生還 http://www.cantonese.sheik.co.uk/dictionary/words/30546/

脫險 http://www.cantonese.sheik.co.uk/dictionary/words/33659/

存活 http://www.cantonese.sheik.co.uk/dictionary/words/50120/

"I survived the typhoon”




Unlike " to survive" in English, the Chinese verb 生存,生還,脫險 and 存活 do not act on object. You cannot say 我生還了颱風 or 我脫險了颱風

For verb that can act on an object like typhoon (颱風) , you can use "挺過"


*[3] endure


"我挺過了颱風" (I survived/ endured the typhoon)

"這建築物挺過了三次戰爭" (this building survived / endured three wars)

  • 1
    挺過 as in 挺過了這次的颱風 (survived this typhoon) is definitely heard in Taiwan, but it's the first time I heard of 颱風中生還, 颱風中脫險, and 颱風中存活 (I personally don't speak Cantonese). Are these words used to describe surviving a typhoon in China and Hong Kong? No microagression intended, only curious because I live in Taiwan and am curious about the differences between Chinese usage in Mainland China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan. Commented Sep 28, 2016 at 3:48
  • 生還 can be and is often paired with 生還者 to describe a survivor. 颱風天的生還者 -> Survivor of a (day of) typhoon. Commented Sep 28, 2016 at 3:54
  • Why not? the structure of "在颱風中生還", is the same as "於大火中喪生" (preposition)+(object)+(verb)
    – Tang Ho
    Commented Sep 28, 2016 at 4:11
  • 1
    挺過 is a verb means "to endure", for example: "Can this house 挺過(endure/survive) the typhoon?" ; 挺過了 means "have endured" as in: " This house 挺過了(has endured/ has survived ) the typhoon."
    – Tang Ho
    Commented Sep 28, 2016 at 5:56
  • 1
    In "挺過", "挺"( endure) is the main verb; 過( through) is a verb particle. Similar to 通過,with 通(pass) as the main verb, and 過(through) as a verb particle.
    – Tang Ho
    Commented Sep 28, 2016 at 6:50

Thanks for the good question. It's always interesting to see the cultural difference between English speaking countries vs Chinese speaking countries.

Common phrases for surviving a typhoon would be 度過颱風 -> survived a typhoon

It's often combined with 平安 -> peacefully (平安度過颱風), which shows the religious cultural side of Chinese (referencing Taoism & Buddhism). It feels like there is a sense of acknowledgement and respect of nature, like it something can one cannot prevent/stop. In English speaking countries, one would hardly ever describe surviving a typhoon as hoping for a peaceful outcome.

生存 is highly influenced by pop culture like zombies and survival (live or die) type situations. Games like《How to Survive》, are translated as 殭屍生存遊戲.

  • 1
    度過 means " passing through" 平安度過 means " safely passing through"
    – Tang Ho
    Commented Sep 28, 2016 at 4:08
  • @TangHo: My popup dictionary lists these meanings for 度過: to pass; to spend (time); to survive; to get through. I think the perfect idiomatic translations for 平安度過 could well be "to survive unscathed", "to make it through without a scratch". "to get through (something) safe and sound". Commented Sep 28, 2016 at 5:10
  • 1
    Here's a helpful hint for learning how to phrase different words, from the answers given on this site, you can type in the following combinations in google and see the results. "度過 + 颱風". User TangHo also submitted some unique answers, "颱風 + 生還", "颱風 + 脫險", "颱風 + 存活". I believe the results change if you use simplified and traditional chinese, which is why I asked the above questions at @TangHo. Commented Sep 28, 2016 at 5:16

The word '生存' does not imply much details about how much suffering you have experienced and it only gives the information that you are alive.

The word '幸存' means that not only are you alive but also have experienced some difficulties to get through. Besides, it usually indicates that this is a relatively good outcome by the character'幸' in the word.

The word '度过' means that you have just experienced it in contrast to the case in which you have never had such an experience.

The word '挺过' is the stronger form of '度过' in tone, by the use of which you may want to tell people you finally got through it and you were very relieved after it. Some struggling and suffering are included.

The word '存活' is a little emotive compared to '生存' which is quite formal and neutral.

The word '生还' is the written form of '存活' when one refers to the result rather than the process.

I have to point out that almost any of the words in the many posts of others is completely right to use in the view of a Chinese as long as it is grammatical. The difference lies in which Chinese character the word that you use contains. You know, character and word are two different concepts in Chinese and it is the core of Chinese learning at the advanced level.

Finally, there seems no single words with the meaning'get through a disaster unscathed', and if 'survive' also has the meaning of unscathed, I suppose you would have to express it in two words, which could be like this: 在这场台风中,我毫发未损。' or '我毫发无伤地在这场台风中生还下来。'.

  • 毫发未损= "unscathed". Even you survived a disaster, you may not be unscathed. In fact, someone could lose his whole family, his right arm and left leg in an earthquake and he would still be considered a survivor- as long as he is still alive.
    – Tang Ho
    Commented Sep 29, 2016 at 6:25
  • Oh,if we are both chinese,why should we two talk?Er,I find that there are no need to discuss our own language here provided that both of our answer is helpful to the questioner however it is.^_^
    – 蔡立宇
    Commented Sep 29, 2016 at 6:51
  • In English "survived" doesn't imply "unscathed" but the two often go together as a common idiomatic collocation. Commented Sep 29, 2016 at 7:28

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