From the dictionary, it seems that the word for "dice" in Mandarin is either "骰子", pronounced "tóu zi", or "色子", pronounced "shǎi zi".

In Cantonese, the character for dice is pronounced "sik1" (Jyutping), and apparently written "骰", according to the written Cantonese sources I can find, which is odd because something pronounced as "tóu" in Mandarin would normally be pronounced as "tau4" in Cantonese. Curiously, the character "色" is pronounced as "sik1" in Cantonese, so it would seem to fit better if "sik1" were actually written as "色".

Is there some connection between the Cantonese pronunciation "sik1" and the character "色" and/or the Mandarin pronunciation of "shǎi"? Or is it just some coincidence with no underlying connection?

  • I think it's the case that the same thing is happening in Mandarin (as implied in one of the answers). Some (many?) people seem to be believe that word for "dice" is pronounced shǎizi and written 骰子. Nov 10, 2017 at 1:00

2 Answers 2




jyuping: /sik1/ ; /tau4 /

Pinyin: /tou2 /

Jyutping tau4 is literary reading ; sik1 is colloquial. The latter one is much more common in usage.

As you can see, 骰 in Mandarin has only one reading (tou2)

In Cantonese, the literary (tou2) and colloquial reading (sik1) of 骰 are different.

色(color) and 骰(dice) are just homographs that share the same reading /sik1/

I have never heard any Cantonese read 骰 as /tau4/ in my life.

  • nowadays nobody says tou2 zi5, even official media. And nobody will understand it. Language is developing, I won't be surprised if it's pronunciation changed to shai3 zi5 officially Oct 15, 2017 at 11:47
  • I mean, tau4 is presumably the expected historical pronunciation, even if that's no longer the common reading (see: guangyun). Nov 10, 2017 at 0:53

In mandarin, 骰 can actually pronounce as Shai too, at least in Taiwan, according to the MOE of ROC. https://pedia.cloud.edu.tw/Entry/Detail/?title=骰

Perhaps it was PRC government that decided to drop the pronunciation in recent times?

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