There are one-character words for "old", "love," "book," and many more important concepts. Why is 青年 the way to say "young" and not a one-word character?

  • distinguish between attributive and predicative use, but even in the predicative case "young" can correspond to single character word: 很老了 be very old, 还很小 be still very young, see jukuu for "old,young" in many different situations
    – user6065
    Commented Jul 24, 2017 at 20:28
  • Someone has already pointed out that this isn't true. However, even if it were the case, why would it matter? Commented Jul 24, 2017 at 22:29
  • @StumpyJoePete is curiosity not the foundation for learning?
    – Crashalot
    Commented Jul 24, 2017 at 22:54
  • @user6065 so 小 is the right way to say "young" not 青年?
    – Crashalot
    Commented Jul 24, 2017 at 22:56
  • 1
    青年 means "(a) youth". 年轻 means "young". 小 or 少 can also mean "young", but if you want to be unambiguous and use the word on its own, then use 年轻. In terms of "curiosity", I'm asking why one would care about how many morphemes are in a particular word. Knowing the answer will not reveal any deep truths about Chinese culture or thought, if that's what you're looking for. Commented Jul 24, 2017 at 23:21

1 Answer 1


It does. 少 means young. See 少不更事

There are also 幼 for children and 老 for old( you already know). 孟子 said: 老吾老以及人之老,幼吾幼以及人之幼

  • thanks for the answer! 青年 is not the right way to say "young"?
    – Crashalot
    Commented Jul 24, 2017 at 22:57
  • Of course it is! 青年 is more widely used nowadays while 少 as a single character form of young were used in the past. Nowadays 少 is more seen as part of 少年 which also means young. But to be more precise 少年 is a little younger than 青年. Commented Jul 25, 2017 at 4:53
  • thanks for the clarification. any clues why the language evolved toward 青年 and away from 少?
    – Crashalot
    Commented Jul 25, 2017 at 5:34
  • 1
    Actually, 青年refers to teenagers and young people.
    – hsiaoyang
    Commented Jul 25, 2017 at 7:56
  • 1
    @Crashalot you are asking an interesting question, it's actually related to how Chinese language evolves from monosyllabic to disyllabic over time. As a native speaker who loves ancient classic literature , I'm also interested in this topic, there is a great answer here at stackexchange already, please refer to this one: chinese.stackexchange.com/questions/3820/… Commented Jul 25, 2017 at 15:59

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