I came across the phrase


on the Internet. Per consensus from native speakers, it appears it can be loosely translated as 'the journey of a thousand miles begins at your feet'.

I'm able to understand what the nouns 千里, 足, as well as what the verb 始, are all doing in this sentence. However, what are the characters 之行 and 于,下 doing? Are they acting as adjectives, prepositions, adverbs, or something else? How does each character modify the preceding characters to arrive at the full meaning?

2 Answers 2


Actually your translation is a pretty verbatim one. I will give the word for word translations for each phrase and let you feel what parts they play.





始=start, begin

于=at, from



Something to comment on: in chinese, “A之B” is somewhat equivalent to "B of A", meaning B is part of A, or B is described by A.

  • Thank you! Pleco was not very useful in helping me figure out what meaning of each word was being employed here. This is great! Commented May 8, 2019 at 16:54

I think 始于足下 is better translated as "Begins from / with one step"

足下 should not be translated literally as "feet under / below"

It is a figure of speech to mean taking steps, to walk, to move as the feet are commonly associated in most languages.

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.