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?


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).

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  • +1 for judging by the definition of slang rather than personal feeling. – NS.X. Oct 5 '12 at 18:09

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.

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

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  • 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 Oct 9 '12 at 4:20

It can't even be called a slang. Someone wrote some characters together, and as a whole, its pronunciation is a little similar to the sentence "I love you". It's not a Chinese phrase, but it is not hard to know what it means if you know the pronunciation of the characters.

Unfortunately, these irregular expressions make Chinese extremely difficult to be understood by beginners.

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