In the Shanghai dialect dirty is pronounced something like "o co" with the o pronounced like the "o" in cot and the "c" pronounced like the usual c in pinyin (kinda like an 'ts' sound).

Which characters would be used for writing these two?

3 Answers 3


龌龊 wò chuò Meanings: (1) dirty;filthy (2) mean,despicable

It's not Shanghai dialect only. It's used a lot in northern China as well.

  • 1
    Thank you, so good to have some native speakers on this site!
    – going
    Commented Dec 15, 2011 at 10:10
  • No problems! It took me a while to realize it's 龌龊 too. :)
    – StarCub
    Commented Dec 15, 2011 at 10:11
  • 1
    Interesting. I wonder if it's cognate to Cantonese 污糟 wu1 zou1. The tones would suggest not, though.
    – jogloran
    Commented Sep 6, 2012 at 11:41
  • I think mandarin 龌龊 nowadays almost always has a connotation of poverty and even lack of space at home, but the Shanghainese word does not always (like zu zi lo o co e (桌子很脏)).
    – Timothy Gu
    Commented Oct 16, 2014 at 1:07

As answered concisely by StarCub, 齷齪 龌龊 is the Hanzi representation for Shanghainese o co. Yet IMHO to call this word "the Mandarin equivalent" of o co is a bit inappropriate, since

  1. from my understanding you are just asking for a Hanzi representation for a dialectal word, yet not its "equivalent" (or synonym, IMHO). A common mistake is to neglect the fact that any Chinese dialect can be a standalone system, completely represented in Hanzi yet pronounced in a sound system different from Putonghua but still well organized in a way derived from ancient Chinese.
  2. though "dirty, messy" appears as one explanation for 龌龊 in modern Putonghua dictionaries, it's far less frequently used (from my daily experience) than the word's extended meanings "mean, despicable" or "narrow".

To add up, I'd like to mention 腌臢 腌臜 a1 za1 in at least 贛 Gan dialect nga41 tsa is also a high-frequent daily word expressing "dirty". And the phonetic similarity among 腌臢 nga tsa in 赣, 齷齪 o co in 吴, 污糟 wu tsou in 粤 and 肮脏 ang tsang in Putonghua is really a interesting topic for further discussion.

  • +1 for your profound knowledge in the phonetically similar words across different dialects!
    – Dodo
    Commented Oct 4, 2012 at 22:59

髒? zang1, which means 'dirty' or 'filthy'

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