I see Chinese-Chinese definitions which re-use the characters of the word. For example, 领导 defined as 动:带领并引导大家开展工作. If I already knew 带领 and 引导 then I probably could guess 领导, so it's not very helpful. In English, the "rule" is that you never use the word in the definition. Are there any rules or features of Chinese-Chinese dictionaries that can help me in situations like these? Should I be looking up the individual characters?

  • Look up 'in' in an English dictionary. See if it is defined without using a word containing 'in'. Look up 'big'. See if it is defined without using a word which means 'big'. The cause of your ire is not a Chinese monopoly!
    – Pedroski
    Commented Apr 5, 2019 at 22:29
  • 1
    This circular referencing is actually something that has plagued Chinese dictionaries for millenia. Welcome to the world of Chinese!!
    – dROOOze
    Commented Apr 11, 2019 at 10:50

1 Answer 1


带(lead) + 领(lead) = 带领: to lead

引(guide) + 导(guide) = 引导: " to guide"

领(lead)+ 导(guide) = 领导: "to lead and guide"

领导 contains the meanings of both 带领 and 引导, I don't see anything wrong with the definition using 带领 and 引导. Yes, both 带领 and 引导 repeated one character from 领导, but they are unique compound words on their own.

It is ok. as long as the dictionary doesn't use the exact compound word in the definition like 领导(v): 领导

It is unavoidable for many different compound words to have a common character among them, you have to look at the whole compound word instead of looking at the two characters individually

The examples below all contain '正' (correct, positive, straight, upright....) but each compound word containing '正' would have very different meaning to each others

  • 正直 = honest

  • 正確 = correct

  • 正常 = normal

One more thing:


The definition should just be: "带领并引导" (to lead and guide)

领导大家开展工作 would be a good example sentence

  • Tang Ho, I think you mean guide, not guild.
    – Pedroski
    Commented Apr 5, 2019 at 22:31
  • opp, used the noun instead
    – Tang Ho
    Commented Apr 5, 2019 at 22:32

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