Every dictionary like wiktionary has about 20 different definitions for each pictograph and about ten different meanings(combining reworded synonyms). Are they all recognizably used when or just a few?


1 Answer 1


Wiktionary seems pretty good about marking their definitions.

Take the character for example.

  • Entries 1-4 are marked with the footnote:

Obsolete sense in Modern Standard Chinese - may be preserved in fossilised compounds and expressions or other varieties of Chinese.

  • Entry 5-7 are marked:


  • Entry 8 has no markings.

  • Entry 9 is marked both with an:


tag, and the same footnote from entries 1-4.

  • Entry 10 is marked:

(Chinese chess).

  • Entry 11 also shares the footnote from the first four.

  • Entry 12 is mark-free.

That basically only leaves entries 8 and 12, as possible meanings in Modern Standard Mandarin. While, entry 12 is, itself, a surname - just leaving entry number eight as the only meaning you need to really remember. Other compounds and expressions with the character can just be treated as single entities without needing to worry about a specific characters meaning.

  • How about . Definitions 3,5,8, and 10 are repeated in later alternate pronunciations, but I still count about 15 distinct definitions. Are all these definitions recognizable to a fluent mandarin speaker? Commented Nov 11, 2018 at 16:19
  • @user5389726598465 Yes. But in modern Chinese, most of the definitions are referring to the meaning of 當 forming a word with other characters. Commented Nov 12, 2018 at 7:35
  • @user5389726598465 E.G. “to face” 當面;當機立斷 “to resist” 萬夫莫當 “to equal” 旗鼓相當 “to take charge of, to manage” 當事 …… Commented Nov 12, 2018 at 7:44
  • @user5389726598465 By the way, in a modern Chinese dictionary at hand, entry 當 has 17 definitions, while in a dictionary with ancient and modern meanings it gives 當 nearly 40 definitions. ╮( ̄▽ ̄)╭ Commented Nov 12, 2018 at 7:50

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