I’ve been looking into the word “pest”, and the dictionary showed me 害虫, but 虫 means insects, so I wonder whether the word 害虫 only means harmful insects or it also can be used to refer to other pests like snakes or rats?

3 Answers 3


害虫 and 益虫 can only refer to insects, animals like snakes or rats can be called 有害动物。

But nowadays terms like 害虫 or 有害动物 are getting less and less use.

  • snake eats rat, it is not a pest
    – Tang Ho
    Jun 28, 2019 at 21:10
  • @TangHo You are right, thanks.
    – zyy
    Jun 29, 2019 at 2:49
  1. 虫 means the insect. one kind of it is 害虫, pest in English
  2. In Chinese, especially in some dialects, 虫 also was extended to other animals, for example, 长虫==蛇(snake), 大虫==老虎(tiger). These extension cases are few.
  3. sometimes 害虫 also refers to some bad persons who harm the society
  • typically refers to a worm, rather than an insect. 昆虫 means insects.
    – Victor
    Jun 29, 2019 at 15:36
  • 虫是动物界中无脊椎动物的节肢动物门昆虫纲的动物,所有生物中种类及数量最多的一群,是世界上最繁盛的动物,已发现100多万种。其基本特点是体躯三段头、胸、腹,2对翅膀三对足;1对触角头上生,骨骼包在体外部;一生形态多变化,遍布全球旺家族。
    – cauckf
    Jun 30, 2019 at 1:46
  • “虫”与“昆虫”(insect)是不同的。狭义的“虫”,即口语中说的“小虫子”,通常是指毛毛虫之类的东西,类似于英文的worm而不是insect。如果要说广义的“虫”,那范围远远大于“昆虫”,应该可以指一切软体动物和节肢动物,在文言文中甚至指一切小动物。
    – Victor
    Jun 30, 2019 at 1:58
  • If the archaic usage does help understand the morden usage, I would prefer to ignore the former.
    – cauckf
    Jun 30, 2019 at 12:18

昆虫 means insects. 虫 does not mean insects.

虫 means worms, and the meaning is roughly extended to creepy-crawlies, and is sometimes even extended to small animals, including insects, snakes, crabs, shrimps, tadpoles, frogs, clams, etc.

In ancient China, all the animals were classified into four categories, namely 虫鱼鸟兽, where small animals except fishes and birds were in the 虫 category.

Four categories of animals according to classical Chinese classification

  • Why the downvote? This answer has a good point. 虫 does not translate to insect. If you say 虫 to a Chinese speaker, the image conjured up is most likely a worm, which is definitely not an insect. While I do not agree that it extends to mean all small animals, 虫 is more than just insects. It encompasses all "creepy crawlies".
    – monalisa
    Jun 29, 2019 at 13:35
  • @monalisa Maybe you are right. Modern Chinese does narrow the meaning of 虫 to creepy-crawlies. However, in ancient times, the classical Chinese classification of animals is just 虫鱼鸟兽, where 虫 means small animals except birds and fishes, 鱼 means fishes, 鸟 means birds, and 兽 means big animals except birds and fishes.
    – Victor
    Jun 29, 2019 at 15:27

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