I was reading this article in The Guardian recently when I came across this sentence:

By the time I have finished typing, Chris could have lost a battle of wits with the A358, or de-invented trains.

I was wondering how de-invented trains would be translated into Chinese.

21st Century English-Chinese Dictionary gives the following for -de




I really don't think any speaker of Chinese is going to understand 非创造, in general, let alone as decreation.

非发明 -or- 反发明 is certainly not going to be a good translation of de-invent(ed).

But I'm not sure how it would be expressed at all.

Any ideas?

  • De-Sinicisation is translated as「去」中國化, so the prefix「去」is another translation. – droooze Mar 14 at 5:53
  • Maybe, 废除(对于)火车的发明? – dan Mar 14 at 11:25

This is one of those cases where the flexibility of English to simply invent words that are intelligible makes the translation job a lot harder. Thus, there's probably no good answer because it will be a case-by-case basis.

Because de- has a plethora of meanings, there will be a plethora of translations. For de- in the sense of "removal," like "de-caffinated," 去 will likely be used (去咖啡因). In the sense of separation or division,like delamination,you might see 分 (分层). Because de- is a latin suffix, it shows up more frequently in scientific or technical words that might have their own way to be expressed in Chinese, such as de-emphasize = 淡化.


It is a tricky one "de-invented trains" here literally means "erased the invention of trains" and figuratively means "reverse the progression of science and technology"

I would translate "de-invented trains." figuratively as "逆轉科技的進步" (reverse the progression of technology) or closer to the original quote: "把科技逆轉到火車發明前的水平" (reverse technology back to the level of before trains was invented)

The literal translation would be "抹去/删除了火车的发明" (erased the invention of trains)

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