I would like advice on how to properly say phrases like "little kitten", "small cat". While I can say "小猫", as I understand it that either means "kitten", or is ambiguous. And to me saying "小小猫" seems like it could be a little weird (And it also doesn't solve for "small cat")? How are such ambiguities resolved?

An answer that is able to cover not only my specific question about how to say both "small kitten"/"small cat", but also apply to phrases like "big flood" (Because as I understand it "flood" is constructed from "big" + "water", so it would express the same ambiguity), would be very much preferred.

  • 3
    Colloquially, I would say 小奶猫.
    – pjhades
    Commented Mar 23, 2018 at 13:38

3 Answers 3


well, in chinese, there's a character 崽 (u+5d3d) which means "infant animal".

so, "貓崽" is kitten, 狗崽 is puppy.


have fun, tomorrow is caturday  😼

  • 1
    狗崽 has a negative connotation (as in a cursing word). Few people actually use this word to refer to a puppy. Usually "小狗" is fine.
    – Ben Yang
    Commented Mar 27, 2018 at 23:41

Just break the word, for example: "瘦小的猫", "(很)小的猫", or use the word "体型": "体型很小/体型偏小的猫".


For animals like cats, dogs, there is no ambiguity. In 小猫 or 小狗, the "小" here is understood to mean "young", not "small" since there is no Chinese equivalent of "kitten" or "puppy".

I can think of one animal where 小 is not used to mean young and that is 乳猪, (Rǔ zhū), to mean a piglet, though it is perfectly acceptable to say 小猪, but not often.

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