Looking up chopstick and chop-chop (meaning 'quickly' in English), I find: the original word for 筷子 is 著 pronounced the same as 住, which has a meaning of stop. This was considered unlucky, so 著 was, at some stage, changed to 快 and later 竹 was added.

Cantonese for 急 is gap1, I believe. Maybe in Cantonese it sounds a bit like chop. Foreigner traders and sailors took 筷子 and made the partial translation chopstick in English.

Do people say 急急 gapgap in Cantonese? Is 急, gap1, really the origin of chopstick and chop-chop?

  • 急 is pronounced gup. I'm not sure about the numbers, I just know because I'm Cantonese.
    – Xetrov
    Commented Jan 9, 2018 at 23:29
  • Is it possible that some people pronounce it 'jap' as in Japan? Or is it always 'gup' with a g as in 'go'?
    – Pedroski
    Commented Jan 9, 2018 at 23:44
  • 1
    @Pedroski The /g/ in Cantonese is actually an unaspirated /k/, or an unvoiced /g/, not related to the soft /g/ in English at all.
    – monalisa
    Commented Jan 10, 2018 at 0:21
  • 急 is indeed gap1, pronounced with a hard g (voiceless), nowhere near chop. 筷子 is faai3 zi2, also quite different from the Mandarin version. Velars + /u/ are usually spirantized to /f/. 花 faa1, 歡 fun1, etc…
    – dda
    Commented Jan 10, 2018 at 4:19
  • @monalisa: that's where I got 急 from, etymonline.com said chop comes from Cantonese kap. If it were pronounced jap like JAPan, 2 times JAPJAP said fast sounds a lot like chopchop to me. Heyho, grasping straws!
    – Pedroski
    Commented Jan 10, 2018 at 8:50

2 Answers 2


The original character is actually , not . The latter is a derivative character of the former, and the former is not used anymore in Mandarin Chinese as a word for 'chopsticks', but is still used in some other Chinese languages.

According to this, chop-chop comes from 速速 (Cantonese cuk1 cuk1), but it's been too long since that word was invented, and since its earliest usage was probably among pidgin communities in Southeast Asia, which is a melting pot of cultures and languages, its true origin is very unlikely to be convincingly determined.

  • "箸" is not obsolete. It is alive and well in the Min language group in Southern China. Southern dialects or languages preserve many older, classical Chinese terms, and "箸" is one of them.
    – monalisa
    Commented Jan 9, 2018 at 22:40
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    @monalisa thanks for informing me of this. I'll update the answer accordingly.
    – dROOOze
    Commented Jan 9, 2018 at 22:42

Do people say 急急 gapgap in Cantonese?

急急 means "hurriedly" (adv) In Cantonese. It has nothing to do with chopstick

Is 急, gap1, really the origin of chopstick and chop-chop?

No, the English term 'chopstick' most likely came from the description of set of 筷子. (筷子 always come set in pair, and a set of chopsticks is like one stick chopped in half in the middle)

'Chop chop' (quickly) either came from '速速' in Cantonese, as in "速速磅" /cuk1 cuk1 bong6/ (hand over the money quickly!) or came from the 'chop chop' sound that people made when cutting food quickly on a cutting board. In either case, it has nothing to do with chopsticks.

  • cantonese.sheik.co.uk/dictionary/characters/364/#jyutpinginfo [1] quick
    – Pedroski
    Commented Jan 9, 2018 at 20:25
  • 1
    '急急' is not '急' ; 速速 is not '速'. 急 and 速 can be adjective or adverb or noun, but 急急 is always adverb for 'hurriedly'
    – Tang Ho
    Commented Jan 9, 2018 at 20:35
  • Even in English, when we want someone to move fast, we might say 'quick quick'.
    – Pedroski
    Commented Jan 9, 2018 at 23:47

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