Seen this phrase written by a Chinese person:

[ài lǎo​hǔ yóu]

What does it mean? Failed to find it in dictionaries.
Is it some slang or 白话?

3 Answers 3


The meaning is: 我爱你.I love you. 爱(ài, love) sounds like the English "I"; 老虎(lǎohǔ, tiger) sounds like "love"; 油(yoú, oil) sounds like "you".

It originally comes from the movie 狮王争霸. In the movie 十三姨 teaches 黄飞鸿 (played by 李连杰 (Jet Li)) how to say I love you. 黄飞鸿 pronounces it as 爱老虎油. Afterwards 黄飞鸿's father overhears it and asks what it means. 黄飞鸿 says it means 问好 (to send one's regards, to say hello to). The father later in the movie also uses this phrase (but of course in the wrong meaning), ... .

After the movie came out, the sentence became quite popular and is often used online (for example on sites such as 微博 (weibo) and QQ).


Whether you could consider it as slang is depending on how you define slang (there is a lot of discussion about that). If you follow this definition of Slang by Bethany K. Dumas and Jonathan Lighter (wiki link)

  • It lowers, if temporarily, "the dignity of formal or serious speech or writing"; in other words, it's likely to be considered in those contexts a "glaring misuse of register."
  • Its use implies that the user is familiar with whatever is referred to, or with a group of people who are familiar with it and use the term.
  • "It's a taboo term in ordinary discourse with people of a higher social status or greater responsibility."
  • It replaces "a well-known conventional synonym". This is done primarily to avoid discomfort caused by conventional phrases or by further elaboration.

I would say it has become slang (the 4 bullets are all fulfilled).

  • 1
    +1 for judging by the definition of slang rather than personal feeling.
    – NS.X.
    Commented Oct 5, 2012 at 18:09
  • I wonder how it was said in the movie of Cantonese edition.
    – Zhang
    Commented Sep 11, 2020 at 3:48
  • 我小时候看这个片的时候总感觉"老虎"和"love"一点儿也不像,感觉像 辣捂,怀疑是不是原电影说的粤语导致的(毕竟故事背景一开始在广东)。长大了发现love和老虎还真有点像(虎轻读)
    – Zhang
    Commented Sep 11, 2020 at 7:28

It is not a slang.

This is the way some Chinese learn to pronounce

I (爱)

love (老虎)

you (油)

because they can't speak English.

  • I partially agree. It is not a "slang" per se initially. It started off as gross mispronunciation of a common standard English phrase, ("I love you") However, over time and universal repetition, it may have taken on some "slangish" flavor as the members of "particular in-groups favor it over the common vocabulary of a standard language in order to establish group identity, exclude outsiders, or both" It therefore arguably morphed into a slang or at least treated as such. Commented Sep 6, 2020 at 7:47
  • @WayneCheah It is not a slang. It is a meme. A movie made fun of the Chinese-accented English "I love you", and then it spread as a meme.
    – Victor
    Commented Jan 16, 2021 at 23:49

Just a joke. It is a homo phonic joke between English and Chinese.

  • 2
    Hi Yuan, thanks for your answer. Can you please improve this answer by explaining what you mean in further detail. Short answers that provide limited detail could be removed from the site.
    – going
    Commented Oct 9, 2012 at 4:20

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