I recently encountered 打不死 as the title of a column in a US Chinese language newspaper. Asking my Chinese language teacher, she gave the literal translation of "beaten but not dead", meaning something like immortal or resilient. She wasn't clear about this being a common phrase (she's from Shanghai if it's relevant) so I would like to know about that and in what context it may be used.
打不死 is of a fine, common idiomatic structure Ｘ不Ｙ, where Ｘ is some verb that cannot be completed, e.g.:
- 吃不完 (implying that there is too much food to be finished)
- 做不動 (implying that you are unable to finish doing a difficult task)
- 找不到 (implying that some object is too hard to find)
Immortal or resilient are the correct implied meanings of 打不死, but beaten but not dead is problematic, as the word beaten carries two slightly different nuances:
- Struck or been hit, which is the literal translation of「打」;
- Been defeated (e.g. "I've beaten you at this game")
When I hear the phrase beaten but not dead, it sounds like someone's been in a fight and was defeated in the fight, but managed to escape with their life. 打不死 does not carry any notion that one side was defeated in a fight - rather, it carries the notion that one side is extremely resilient to being attacked.
It's often used as an adjectival phrase (打不死的xxx) as in 打不死的小强, meaning someone who can not be defeated or killed. 小强 roughly means newbie.
When it's used as a verbal phrase, it means: one can not be killed by means of beating. For example, 你打不死他: you can not beat and kill him.
For a real-life context, to quote a line from the lyric of Hong Kong rock band Beyond's 不再犹豫 (Hesitate No More):
which roughly translates to I believe I will live all my life in the spirit of 打不死.
打不死 literally means "can't be beaten to death"
Simple translation would be "invulnerable" ( incapable of being wounded, hurt, or damaged)
'打不死' mainly describe a tough, resilience and often combative character
James bond in 007 movies and John McClane in Die Hard are typical '打不死' hero characters
Unlike 不败 or 無敵 (invincible), a 打不死 doesn't necessary to be an overpowering character