I saw in the translation of a set of Chinese lyrics that 斷腸 was translated into 'heartbroken' or 'broken heart'.

This is a curious case where there is already a common expression for heart broken - 心碎, but in the lyrics the words 斷腸 was used.

Just wondering what the difference or nuances are with using 心碎 rather than 斷腸, or if this is even an accurate translation?

  • Not to be rude but evidently 心碎 wouldn't fit the rhyme/rhythm like 斷腸 does Nov 11, 2019 at 21:12
  • But it is also possible to write the lyrics so that it would rhyme with 心碎 rather than 斷腸, so I assume that it isn't necessarily just for convenience and that there could be other reasons for the word choice. Nov 11, 2019 at 22:42
  • they are same, only difference is rhyme, and only used in writing Chinese, Chinese people don't use these words in daily life. Nov 15, 2019 at 5:16

3 Answers 3


When it comes to lyrics, I think it's more related to rhythms. For example:

你的眼泪 让我心碎 (泪 & 碎)

让我醉 别让我心碎 (醉 & 碎)

不愿别的男人见识你的妩媚 你该知道这样会让我心碎 (媚 & 碎)


All these lyrics couldn't be replaced with 断肠 because it is not the right rhythm.

With 断肠, you can't replace with 心碎 either. e.g.

想你想断肠 泪汪汪 心也茫茫 (肠 & 汪 & 茫)


I think 斷腸 should be translated as "gut wrenching (pain/sadness)" but "heart broken" is also correct because 斷腸 and 碎心 basically have the same metaphorical meaning -- "extreme emotional pain"

  • 斷腸 (gut wrenching): an intense sadness/ emotional pain like one's intestine is being twisted apart

  • 心碎 (heart broken): an intense sadness/ emotional pain like one's heart is being broke to pieces

心碎 is more common than 斷腸 when it come to describe emotional pain because "心" also represent "emotion/mind", therefore,"心碎" expresses "emotional damage" in a more literally way, while 斷腸 is completely metaphorical

Another difference between 斷腸 and 心碎 is 斷腸 can be used as an adjective directly, for example: 斷腸人(heart broken one); 斷腸夢 (gut wrenching dream); 斷腸痛楚 (gut wrenching pain)

But we only say "碎心人" (heart broken one), not 心碎人

  • 1
    I feel like 碎心人 is not a common usage in north.
    – 魏小淇
    Nov 11, 2019 at 16:06

断肠 is mainly used in poem. https://sou-yun.cn/ suggests it may mean:

  1. 割开或切断肠子 (cut intestine)
  2. (典故)断肠猿
  3. 形容极度思念或悲痛 (miss, grief)
  4. 秋海棠花 (Begonia flower)

Here, it should be the 3rd meaning.

But 心碎 is described as: 形容悲伤至极 (extremely sad). It cannot cover the meaning of 思念、想念 "miss; think of; long for".

  • 1
    Just to be careful that it's the other way around - 秋海棠花 (Begonia flower) has a nickname as 斷腸花. 斷腸 does not means 秋海棠花
    – Alex
    Nov 12, 2019 at 16:38
  • @Alex I just looked up the meaning from sou-yun.cn . and it suggests some article may abbreviate 断肠花 into 断肠. I've no idea if this abbreviation is common or not.
    – tsh
    Nov 14, 2019 at 10:01
  • I will say it is incorrect as an abbreviation because it is simply not. 斷腸花 is sort of materializing / symbolizing the feeling of 斷腸, but not as a meaning. Like A implies B and B implies C, but not A = B = C.
    – Alex
    Nov 14, 2019 at 16:35

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