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, 2019 at 5:53
  • Maybe, 废除(对于)火车的发明?
    – dan
    Mar 14, 2019 at 11:25

2 Answers 2


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)

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.