The primary meaning of 板 is 'board'. So why does 老板 or 'old board' mean 'boss, chief'?

  • search online: 老板是怎么来源的 zhidao.baidu.com/question/243262442.html one explanation:旧时有人在将Chairman of the board(董事长)翻译成中文时便戏称其为“板”,按中国人说话的习惯,在称谓前再加一个“老”字,于是便成了“老板”。经长期流传使用,“老板”一词早已经由最初的戏称演变为一般称呼。
    – user6065
    Aug 12, 2017 at 8:58
  • 闆 is made up with 門 and 品. 門 represents the door, 品 represents the counter or reception of a store, a restaurant, a hotel, etc.
    – xenophōn
    Aug 14, 2017 at 2:41
  • @user6065 老板字的同音替代,和 board 的翻译无关。
    – xenophōn
    Aug 14, 2017 at 2:47
  • So it means originally the shopkeeper? Aug 15, 2017 at 8:39
  • @ChristopherLord 老闆 means shopkeeper at first, but now the meaning expands wide. The top leaders of a company or coreration are also called 老板. 板 in simplified Chinese is the hmophonic substitution for 闆 in traditional Chinese.
    – xenophōn
    Aug 17, 2017 at 11:53

1 Answer 1


Good question. In Traditional Chinese, boss is called "老闆" instead of "老板". "闆" is simplified into "板" but they have different meaning, that is, they are two totally different words. Therefore, "闆" doesn't mean "board". "闆", reads pàn here, means spy through the door. See http://www.zdic.net/z/27/js/95C6.htm.

According to MOE Dictionary of Taiwan, the word "老板" is also used nowadays. See http://dict.revised.moe.edu.tw/cgi-bin/cbdic/gsweb.cgi?o=dcbdic&searchid=Z00000060086.

As for this question, it seems that there are different opinions and you shouldn't trust them blindly.

  • 1
    This answer brings up a good general point that many words in modern Chinese use particular characters just for sound value.
    – haksayng
    Aug 12, 2017 at 20:12

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