I've heard this phrase;


But I'm looking for some clarification as to what it means? I've tried to break it down and parse it myself but I come up with something that seems quite unnatural.

If I had to guess, I think it could mean something like "in name only" ? Or "just as a formality".

4 Answers 4


其 is a possesive pronoun. The subject in the phrase is not mentioned.

空有= have only; 名头= title/name

空有名头 means "in name only" (either 'in a position that have no real power' or 'enjoy a reputation that is undeserved')

“其空有名头” = "his/her 'in name only'"

We need more context to decide which meaning we are talking about.

Are you sure it wasn't '空有其名?' because '空有其名'(only has it's name/ in name only) is a common phrase along with '虛有其表' (only has it's appearance/ in appearance only)


It means someone only has a title, but doesn't have the actual power. Or, someone is known to be good at something, but actually is not.


其 a personal pronoun. Here refers to 他/它.

空 here can be interpreted as 'merely'

有 here is the verb in the sentence, meaning 'have'

名头 roughly means 'one's fame or one's title'

Overall, 其空有名头 means 'He( or it ) merely has his fame/title'. Implies one doesn't have the ability as one is known as, or is not as capable as one is thought.

As for parsing it: 其(subject) 空(adverb modifying 有) 有(verb) 名头(object).


I get: 浪得虚名: have an unearned reputation for 空有名头

I parse 其空有名头 as

其 she/he/it/they 空 for no reason 有 have 名头 reputation/(good) name

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