In ancient China, among males there was the polite appellation 兄台。 Was there an equivalent term for women, or did it not develop due to 男女授受不親?

  • it seems like you're implying 男女授受不親 means gender inequality. If that's the case, it's incorrectly used as it actually refers to the etiquette between the two genders
    – Alex
    May 19, 2017 at 16:57
  • As far as I know, it meant contact among the two sexes was to be restricted.
    – Ludi
    May 23, 2017 at 12:40

4 Answers 4


Among the time when boys call each other 兄台, which should be around 唐宋年间, you can call girls 娘子/姑娘 in the same conversation context.

Another term similar is to call girls 小姐, which refers to young girls who usually have been properly educated and have a decent family. However, the corresponding word for 小姐 for males is 公子.

  • Before Ming/Qing dynasty, 小姐 implies a prostitute more than a unmarried woman. Reference:daily.zhihu.com/story/…
    – Kevman
    May 18, 2017 at 6:23
  • @Kevman No way. Open any 戲曲 you shall see any daughter of a well-to-do family called 小姐. In modern sense, 小姐 is a prostitute in some dialects, but in Taiwan it is equivalent to miss. I suggest foreigners not use this word unless he or she is sure. May 19, 2017 at 8:23
  • @Aminopterin If you read thoroughly my reference, you would know why I would say that. And the author specifically gives a reason for 戲曲 scenario. BTW, 戲曲 became popular at Qing dynasty.
    – Kevman
    May 19, 2017 at 14:54
  • 1
    @Aminopterin Please make your judgment before you clearly understand other people's word. I put a certain time period "Before Ming/Qing" in my original comment. From a more official reference: "「小姐」一詞自古有之,宋代有「小姐」的稱呼,但是指妓女。。。。一般官員或有錢人家的女兒稱小娘子或女娘子。。元代時「小姐」則是指閨女,元劇中開始頻繁使用「小姐」一詞。。。“wiki "小姐"
    – Kevman
    May 19, 2017 at 15:02
  • @Aminopterin For the Taiwan part, "在臺灣中的發展,最早期時候[4]「小姐」是意指千金小姐....原稱為「妓女」的情色行業女子與皮條客(仲介性交易的人)為了掩飾其不法行業,刻意以「小姐」稱呼,意圖以「小姐」的通用尊稱閃避“. What I could say is Nothing New Under The Sun.
    – Kevman
    May 19, 2017 at 15:24

In ancient, females don't have formal society contact with others, they are limited to places near their home. Mostly they can contact with neighbors & relatives, so that no special/formal words for them, in their life, they only need titles like sister / brother in oral, no formal words in write/works.


If you are referring to your friend with a third person, just call her 闺蜜, but rarely you call each other 闺蜜 face to face.

我和我兄台去吃饭了 我和我闺蜜去吃饭了

  • Can males also use 閨蜜?
    – Ludi
    Jun 11, 2017 at 11:57
  • 1
    No, but in recent time, girls start to call good male friends as 男闺蜜
    – Shukai Ni
    Jun 11, 2017 at 11:58
  • Also in rural tradition, girl might call each other 阿姊, 大姐, 妹子 depending on geolocation
    – Shukai Ni
    Jun 11, 2017 at 12:03

兄台 is used to address one's peers respectfully. To address a lady of the same age respectfully, one should use 大姐 or 大姐姐.

Nowadays in China, 大姐 is almost only used to address elder ladies.

To address other person's young sister, one should use 贤妹 or 令妹.

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