What is the difference between the two characters of 自己? They both seem to mean self, or one/one's self? I don't know where the distinction is, but, I do know that to know self is 知己, is one more the person and the other a different feature like a soul?

  • (online) dictionaries will show that in the meaning "oneself,self" is a bound morpheme,i.e. cannot be used freely (only in certain fixed expressions),find examples at bkrs, bkrs: (bookish)(自己) oneself; one's own; personal: 坚持己见 stand to one's assert; hold on to one's own views 舍己为公 make personal sacrifices for the public good 引为己任 regard as one's (own) duty 各抒己见。 Each airs his own views. 自己 usual word for "oneself" – user6065 Jul 5 '17 at 20:26
  • There is no difference. Both 自 and 己 mean "self". In modern Chinese many vocabularies tend to be two characters with identical meanings combined. – Derek 朕會功夫 Jul 7 '17 at 22:53
up vote 1 down vote accepted

self (adv)


  1. 自動(self move/ automatic)

  2. 自尊(self respect)

  3. 自助(self help)

動(to move), 尊(to respect) 助(to help) are all verbs, therefore 自 has to be an adverb

[1] [pron] oneself; one's own; personal

  1. 視天下事為己任 (see the world's affair as one's own responsibility)

  2. 視為己出 (treat as one's own child)

  3. 己所不欲勿施於人 (do not impose on others what oneself do not wish to be imposed upon)

己 is a pronoun in all three examples above.

自己 oneself; self (i.e. 我自己 = myself)


but I do know that to know self is 知己, is one more the person and the other a different feature like a soul?

知己 (to know oneself)

知己者 (the one who know me/ confidant) often shortened to 知己

A famous quote from 《戰國策‧趙策一》: 士為知己者死 (A dignified man would die for the one who truly know him)

'know' here means 'truly understand'

  • haha it is kind of funny..if i remember, 记者 etc. usually the 者 makes it an -er..so it is kind of sounding like Know Me-er xDD hhh THANKS :)..I do get it, just thought it sounds funny that way :P – Abe Shudug Jul 5 '17 at 20:23

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