Underdog has a lot of mediocre translations

ABC English-Chinese gives:


Oxford has:


which is okay and:


which don't really match the meaning of underdog to begin with.

New Century English gives:


Except for 弱者, the rest are quite wordy. While 弱者 itself is alright it's a bit ambiguous without the proper context.

Are there no better colloquial translations of underdog?

7 Answers 7


Mined from an opinion post (http://blog.sciencenet.cn/blog-39731-510338.html):

  • 劣勢者
  • 弱勢者
  • 新[入/行/進]者
  • 後來者

I personally prefer the first one as the best translation; 弱勢 is a bit broader in meaning as it can mean weak in general rather than in comparison to something. The other ones just mean newcomer, so the disadvantage of being an underdog is only implied rather than explicitly stated.

You may also want to check out 弱旅 (opposite: 勁旅).


Another term, colloquially, in some specific areas like games, is 菜鸟. For example, 他就是一个菜鸟 means he is an underdog. You can also say 这只球队 太菜了/是菜鸟,meaning that team sucks. A fascinating term is 虐菜, like 我最喜欢虐菜了!

  • Isn't 菜鸟 more like n00b? Underdog doesn't usually carry the idea of newbie.
    – Mou某
    Jun 21, 2018 at 3:18
  • @user3306356 菜鸟 isn't necessarily be a newbie. You could have played a game for a quite long time, but you could still be a 菜鸟.
    – dan
    Jun 21, 2018 at 3:24
  • @user3306356 saying one is 菜 doesn't mean he is new, but he sucks.
    – dan
    Jun 21, 2018 at 3:27
  • @user3306356 we usually use 新手 to describe a newbie. For example, 新手上路, we don't say 菜鸟上路, which sounds silly and funny.
    – dan
    Jun 21, 2018 at 5:03
  • There is literally a book called《菜鸟上路》item.jd.com/11654546.html to inform newbie drivers about road safety & it was published in 2015, it clearly is not a new concept. Just saying. Perhaps it's a regional thing -or- a generational thing then, idk. The answer I posted below has an excerpt from Wikipedia which does, similarly, give 鸟队, so I will suppose 菜鸟 is probably acceptable as well.
    – Mou某
    Jun 21, 2018 at 5:40

underdog, i would consider "下駟", thought dog is not horse (馬) 😼


no-one remembers 田忌's strategy?

  • 1
    田忌's story is famous but 下駟 is an obscure allusion (and would sound weird in the context of modern Chinese).
    – Stan
    Jun 20, 2018 at 16:07
  • 1
    weird? yes, i agree with you. another evidence that i'm 古老石山, cause i'm only interested in literatures of yore. maybe, when someone need to quote the classic (引經據典), 下駟 would be appropriate :) Jun 20, 2018 at 16:34

Wikipedia lists a bunch of terms under its 鱼腩部队 entry which links to and from the English page for underdog. Here's the explanation of 鱼腩部队:




Terms used in the excerpt:

  • 鱼腩部队
  • 鱼腩
  • 送分童子
  • 陪榜
  • 弱队
  • 鸟队

As a native Chinese speaker, my choice is


From Underdog Wiki page

An underdog is a person or group in a competition, usually in sports and creative works, who is popularly expected to lose …

From Baidu

黑马 dark horse

冷门 an unexpected winner; dark horse

  • 冷门 is everywhere atm, I never thought to put it together with underdog. Nice one!
    – Mou某
    Jun 22, 2018 at 14:57
  • @user3306356 Both 黑马 and 冷门 are terminologies in gambling. I personally prefer 黑马 because the question is about underdog (both are animals). But, if your question was to ask how to describe the Iceland football team, I would answer 冷门.
    – Nobody
    Jun 23, 2018 at 5:02
  • My only aversion to 黑马 is that there is a similar word in English: dark horse. A dark horse is exactly an underdog though so probably I’m just overthinking it.
    – Mou某
    Jun 23, 2018 at 9:07

Why aren't you happy with what you find?

underdog is a word attested since 1887 from dog fights for entertainment.

"the beaten dog in a fight," 1887, from under + dog (n.). Compare top dog "dominant person in a situation or hierarchy" (see top (adj.)).

As such, ‘underdog’ refers to the dog which lost, or, because weak, is less likely to win.

Used metaphorically, it refers to the weaker party, who may, however, win unexpectedly. Very topical at this time of the World Cup.

I think '劣势群体 = inferior group' translates underdog nicely.


There's no single word to translate underdog. This is the beauty of languages. Often you can't simply translate a single word. You have to consider the whole sentence and rephrase it in ways more commonly expressed in the target language. As a result, when asking for translation

处于劣势的一方 and 居于下风者 are the better translation if picking among those.

弱者 means someone who's weak or inferior. 失敗者, 失敗的一方 means loser or someone who's defeated. These are wrong translations with different meaning.

The underdog team scored two surprise goals.


This is from a dictionary. But it's more common to say [Name of the team]隊出人意料地進了兩球。 Because 'underdog' is sort of implied in '出人意料地'。

As for what @scaaahu suggested, 黑馬 could be used as the translation, BUT only if the team has won. And it'll only be used in sentences like: 他/某某隊是這次比賽的黑馬。 黑馬 is of the contest or competition. The underdog team cannot be translated to 黑馬隊, which sounds weird.

I think 黑馬 means the same as dark horse in English. From oxford dictionary,

dark horse: a candidate or competitor about whom little is known but who unexpectedly wins or succeeds

and from 教育部國語辭典,


Notice dark horse and 黑馬 don't have the meaning about the little chance of winning that underdog conveys. 黑馬 may implied it, but not necessarily.

菜鳥 means exactly newbie. But when using just 菜 as an adjective, it can mean bad at something and/or describing a newbie.

As a native Chinese speaker, I've never heard of 魚腩部隊, and I'd say it's not just me. Don't use that. People probably won't understand.

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