I heard this mentioned about someones name recently. Can someone explain the meaning and any connotations of "土" in the sentence:


  • 1
    土 means "local, colloquial, or unrefined" in this context. Jun 27, 2013 at 0:13
  • Reminds me of the English idiom "stick-in-the-mud".
    – 杨以轩
    Jun 27, 2013 at 3:21
  • Here in Nanchang we say 土话 when referring to the local dialect, so it might mean that you have a local name....?!
    – user3083
    Jul 28, 2013 at 4:05

9 Answers 9


土 has serveral meanings, one of which is 不合潮流 (out of the swim, out of fashion, out of step, old-fashioned, etc.).

So in your example, 土 means old-fashioned.

I guess it is because the core meaning of 土 is earth or dirt, which we can't say is fancy.

  • 2
    People often refer to country-ass hicks as being very "土" Jun 27, 2013 at 0:52
  • 1
    @CongXu I'd like to point out that opposition is not always 土 (indigenous) vs 洋 (foreign). Often it's 土 (local) vs 标准 (standard), as is the case when people talk about accents. Jun 27, 2013 at 4:56
  • @StumpyJoePete of course, depending on the exact definition there can be more than one opposite. Jun 27, 2013 at 5:03
  • +1 for "out of fashion", i'm a 土人 Jul 4, 2013 at 7:20

土 has the meaning of "indigenous", as in phrases such as 土生土长, as opposed to 洋. There should be plenty of evidence for this definition; nowadays this definition is usually seen in phrases, such as 土货.

My impression is that the "unrefined" meaning may have appeared in more recent decades, as indigenous culture seemed unsophisticated compared to imported culture. However this is all speculation; I can't find an authoritative etymological source.

You can find much more info on Xinhua Dictionary. It has some interesting translations for 土 in the "unrefined" sense, under the colloquial phrase 土包子: clodhopper;bumpkin;barkwoodsman;boor;dott;yokel.

  • 2
    (continued from below) @CongXu I brought it up because if you're calling someone unrefined, it's probably because you think they're some yokel local country bumpkin, not because you think that foreign things are better than indigenous ones. Jun 27, 2013 at 6:19
  • @StumpyJoePete of course; living languages evolve and that is especially so for terms relating to fashion or trends. For example square isn't nowadays used to describe someone who doesn't like jazz. Jun 27, 2013 at 10:39

In the sentence "这个名字有点土!" , the "土" mean antiquated, no trend, ancient, not fashion. This sentence can also be said "这个名字有点老土!", which is more formal, but also easier to understand.The word "土" 's mean here is not the same with "土包子","土货". In the words "土包子" , the "土" mean someone who have not seen the big world, more formal argument is "乡巴佬". In the words "土货", the "土" mean local product, native produce, more formal argument is "土特产".

  • Yes, 土 here refers to 老土, which means old fashion. This is correct.
    – 杨以轩
    Jun 28, 2013 at 2:12

If people say 土, they are saying that it is like things farmer use or do. In China, farmer is a class, people may regard lower than other classes, although it is not true. They tent to think things from other countries are better and updated/new.


There is a grade in ancient China, 帝王、圣贤、隐士、童仙、文人、武士、、工、商. You see, (farmer) is a lower grade. And '土' is here and there in the country but not in the city, and only farmer relies on '土'(田地) for his living. Thus, 土=农民 who always in bad image and looked down on by others.

  • Then one may argue, why "商" hadn't become a derogatory word?
    – Stan
    Aug 12, 2013 at 14:50
  • 1
    In ancient China, they think 商 values benefits rather than the morality. Since the government govern its people by morality as it advocate, so 商 is derogatory in ancient China. But today, 商 is a high grade in China while 农 becomes the lowest grade. Aug 12, 2013 at 15:03

土 is the soil where plants grow. Therefore 土 is used to describe countryside concepts.

土 also means dust, kind of dull.

However, 土 is a neutral word. It can be used as a positive adjective. It's actual meaning depends on the context and speaker's understanding of the word.


In you sentence, 土 means old-fashioned.

  • 这个名字有点土(zhè gè míng zì yǒu diǎn tǔ )
  • 土(tǔ)has a lot of meanings, so,这个名字有点土 is 不合潮流 unfashionable, out of the swim, unenlightened, etc.
  • dress like a country bumpkin; countrified dress 打扮得真土

In this sentence, the 土(tu) is like mundane, and it is a derogatory term/

  • Just a side note. Mandarin pinyin has tones. If you are unable to type accented characters, then using numbers (tu3) is also an acceptable method. Jul 23, 2013 at 23:33

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