The Cantonese term "正斗" means "great" or "of high quality"


an exclamation that sth is "great!"




I can understand why 正(authentic) is used in "正斗" which mean "high quality" (people believe in authentic goods is of high quality) But I don't get the role of "斗" in this phrase. I tried to search the web but most of the results are related to a restaurant called "正斗".

I hate it when a common term is used as a movies title, restaurant name etc. Make it difficult to search the original meaning on the web

Examples of "正斗" in a sentence

呢啲係正斗貨嚟架 (This is high quality goods)

有冇正斗野介紹 (Any suggestion of great stuffs?)

佢女朋友好正斗架 (Her girlfriend is very pretty)

One thing I noticed is 正斗 and 正 basically are interchangeable when it is referring "great" or "high quality"

正斗貨 = 正貨 (high quality goods)

正斗野 = 正野 (great stuff)

My question is, what "斗" refers to in "正斗"?

  • See this explanation, which says it originates from HK TV shows about Qing dynasty secret society qualification rituals. Cannot confirm. – dROOOze Dec 1 '19 at 8:34
  • @droooze You can quote that article as your answer. However, as you cannot confirm, there might be other explanations out there worth considering – Tang Ho Dec 1 '19 at 8:36
  • Will try to find more explanations, see if there's any agreement. – dROOOze Dec 1 '19 at 8:37
  • @droooze I think it is a very plausible answer because it also explained the origin of another Cantonese term 渣斗 (low quality); (weak) – Tang Ho Dec 1 '19 at 8:49
  • Yes, I found 2 other links saying the same thing. Will write this as an answer. BTW check out md.hkgolden.com/… which has explanations behind many Cantonese slang terms. Looks very interesting! – dROOOze Dec 1 '19 at 8:51

The following may be folk etymology. More research is needed - specifically, textual evidence of when「正斗」started being in use among the general public.

「正斗」originated as a term in initiation rituals of Chinese secret societies or criminal underworld groups. The details of the ritual vary from source to source, but the ritual is said to involve a wooden ladle (斗).

The term「正」in「正斗」refers to the meaning orthodoxy, that is, orthodoxy of the rites or the members/leader involved in the rites of the secret society.「正斗」then refers to those who have successfully entered the society through the orthodox initiation ritual, also indicating the meaning proper, dignified. This stands in contrast to non-members or pretenders who did not know the rites (非正斗 or 假斗).

Later on, the term「正斗」permeated general society, and「正斗」gained the meaning of high quality, awesome, etc.


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    in contrast to non-members or pretenders who did not know the rites (非正斗 or 假斗). 假斗 was then misread and became another common Cantonese term "渣斗" (low quality); (weak) – Tang Ho Dec 1 '19 at 9:26
  • @TangHo I remember something similar in Mandarin, don't know if it's connected to the Cantonese term. 豆腐渣工程 means crappy engineering design/job/product. – dROOOze Dec 1 '19 at 9:29
  • 渣 /zaa1/ (waste products) in 豆腐渣 is not related to the 渣 /zaa2/ in 渣斗(假斗) which is a sound-alike word. 豆腐 is already soft, and the 渣 (waste products) of tofu would be even less solid – Tang Ho Dec 1 '19 at 9:32
  • @TangHo I don't know if 渣斗 comes from 假斗 (haven't found any other references backing that explanation up). There doesn't seem to be any reason for 假斗 to be misread as 渣斗, unless they were trying to avoid the secret society term 假斗 by using a sound-alike. – dROOOze Dec 1 '19 at 9:35
  • cantonese.sheik.co.uk/phorum/… Q:"I wonder why there's no definition of " weak / poor quality" on the 渣 character page." A: "Because several editors have been using 鮓 [zaa2] for the “low quality” meaning when adding the relevant word entries. It is also founded that 鮓 is supported by 廣州話正音字典 (p.619), 廣州話方言詞典 (p.270), and 廣州話普通話詞典 (p.455)". It seems to me "鮓" might came from 渣. Or 假 in or 假斗 was replaced by 鮓(wrongly written as 渣) in Cantonese – Tang Ho Dec 1 '19 at 9:51

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