I was searching online and I found out that there are several meanings for the word "prisoner" and I couldn't find the differences or a reason for it, therefore I'd like some help for this.

6 Answers 6


囚犯, this word is the ancient Chinese language, and the usage scenario is usually in ancient China. This word is used to refer to those who have been caught and convicted

囚徒, the word is also an ancient Chinese language, used to refer to people who are caught and imprisoned. These people do not necessarily violate the law, but are imprisoned for certain reasons (for example, these people are suspected of committing crimes) If you are caught, you will become a 囚徒 if you are locked up

犯人, this word appears more in modern Chinese language. This term is used to refer to those who have violated the law and have been sentenced by the court to the penalty.

  1. 囚 can act as an action to express detention, detention, etc. For example, there is a word in Chinese that is "囚禁", which means that detention is held.
  2. 囚 can also be used as nouns to refer to places such as prisons with detention functions. For example, there is a word "囚牢" in Chinese, which means prison, which is a noun.
  3. In addition, 囚 can also be used as adjectives to indicate a restricted state.

犯 means "commit", and it is the same as 犯人. 囚 can mean the prison, prisoner or imprisoning someone. 徒 is similar to 人, just means a person.

犯人 and 囚犯 both emphasize that he or she is guilty, but 囚徒 doesn't. 犯人 does not emphasize he or she is in prison now.

  • Tnx a lot this post fulfil very well with the others' ones Commented Jan 3, 2020 at 12:08

囚: imprison

犯: criminal

徒: person

囚犯 and 囚徒 are mostly interchangeable, 囚徒 is more literary.

犯人 means criminal, not necessarily in prison.

  • Tnx Jason you really helped me out Commented Jan 3, 2020 at 12:03

囚犯 and 囚徒 means prisoner.

犯人 means someone who commit a crime.

囚 means confine people.

  • Thank you, your post was useful and explicative Commented Jan 3, 2020 at 12:04

犯人 is the most used word when you refer to a prisoner, like "John".

囚犯 is the word when you refer to social status, identity, class

囚徒 is a literary word nowadays, usually refer to a good guy, though he may violate laws, if you don't want to use a word with social prejudice, you can choose 囚徒.

for example, the book Convict Conditioning is translated as 囚徒健身

You can also say 我是我自己的囚徒, which could mean you can not get rid of your past bad experience... who knows, something like that


For those who are interested, here's a lovely song which use the word 囚 in the metaphorical sense.



  • I really aprecciate this, it's good i can study as checking the pronounce Commented Jan 3, 2020 at 12:26

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.