Are any of these honorifics still in use today? If not, might they be used and understood (as a joke) by regular Chinese in, say, a period film, much as English speakers would recognize someone using Thine holiness, etc?

For self-deprecating humbleness, commoners or people with lower status
愚   yú  I, the unintelligent
鄙   bǐ  I, the lowly/less educated
敝   bì  I, the unrefined
卑   bēi I, from a lower class
窃   qiè I, who did not give you proper notice
仆   pú  I, your servant (male)
婢   bì  I, your servant (female)
妾   qiè I, your concubine
在下  zàixià  I, who am humbler and lower than you
贱妾  jiànqiè I, who am humbler and lower than you (female)
小人  xiăorén I, the insignificant (male)
小女  xiăonǚ  I, the insignificant (female)
草民  cǎomín  I, the worthless commoner (male)
民女  mínnǚ   I, the worthless commoner (female)
奴才  núcai   I, your slave/servant (male)
奴婢  núbì    I, your slave/servant (female)
奴家  nújiā   I, your wife and servant (female)
  • i've heard 鄙人 (or was it 敝人?) used in real life as a joke. one more for you: 寡人 (said by emperors to refer to themselves with a somewhat self-deprecatory tone). also, 寒舍 (my humble abode) is somewhat relevant.
    – user2251
    Commented Nov 13, 2012 at 10:14

2 Answers 2


Betty's answer is great. Here's some complement: Since almost every Chinese can understand these words, we use them in spoken lang occasionally, usually expressing some kind of mood or feelings.

For example, if someone adopts an arrogant and impolite attitude to you, you can use one of the honorifics to express a scatching satire to strike back.

And sometimes we use 草民 or some other worse words like 屁民 to deliver the helplessness about the status of common people in mainland. (There is even a word made for this: shitizen)

Also, there's something interesting too. We can call the company we working for 敝司, just in order to express our sense of humour. This may not be easy understood by a foreigner.

  • Thank you. When someone uses them, do they say, 我,草民... or just 草民...?
    – rxmnnxfpvg
    Commented Nov 14, 2012 at 0:06
  • 1
    @ash Often used to refer group of the common civilians, in third person. Sometimes first person, 草民 or 草民我.
    – halfelf
    Commented Nov 14, 2012 at 2:40
  • May I add: All these usages about expressing humour or attitude are typically seen on Internet. Such usage in real life is very rare, at least in my experience. And 屁民 is really different. It's a collective noun. It's not used to refer to oneself as a first person pronoun.
    – Betty
    Commented Nov 14, 2012 at 4:07
  • @Betty I say 鄙人,敝司... often, but just with friends. And feel free to add that. It's true they are typically seen on internet.
    – halfelf
    Commented Nov 14, 2012 at 4:11

They are not used in spoken language any more. They are quite common in novels, films and TV shows about ancient times. Most people can understand them without difficulty. Novels, films and TV shows about ancient times are very popular in China.

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