In Australia it is quite common to talk about Aboriginal people as they feature quite often when talking about sports, Olympics or politics.

The word that is used to describe Aboriginal people by native Chinese speakers is 土著人. I have had someone tell me (and I can't remember if it was a native Chinese person or not) that the word wasn't very flattering.

What does 土著 mean, why was it chosen to mean an Aboriginal person and does it have negative connotations?


Here are some definitions for "土著":




In classical Chinese, "土", when used as an adjective, means "local" or "original" (source):


"著" has the meaning of "resident" or "stay" (source):


So basically, "土著" means the original residents of some area. It does not have negative connotations. We use this word in daily conversations when referring to aboriginal people. However, in written articles, people may sometimes use "原住民" alternatively.

  • 1
    Just for your reference. 土 sometimes has the implication of "undeveloped" or "uncivilized". People use 原住民 instead of 土著 sometimes because of the political correctness.
    – Lifu Tang
    Mar 12 '15 at 0:39

Adding one point to nfang's answer. Though both 土著(人) and 原住民 in general mean original residents of any area, people tends to use 土著(人) for Australian and New Zealand aborigines; use 原住民 for Taiwanese aborigines; and use more specific names for other areas (e.g. 印第安人 for Native Americans).

  • I was going to as about Native Taiwanese, but you answered it. Thanks. Sep 22 '12 at 1:45

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