https://chinese.stackexchange.com/a/38716 spurred this question. 黑鍋 - Wiktionary

  1. (literally) black wok
  2. (figuratively) blame for a crime

How did "black wok" semantically shift to mean definition 2 above? In 2020, Chinese cooking require woks that are usually black, so I can't imagine how it appertains to 'blame for a crime'?

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As a verb, 背 'carry on the back' or 'bear'. Source for picture below. 背黑鍋 - Wiktionary

  1. (idiomatic) to take the blame (for someone else); to be a scapegoat

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  • 2
    Not sure it's the official version, so it appears here as a comment. Anyway the story goes that a thief when looking for something to steal in the kitchen hid behind a big 锅 when the house owner came unexpectedly. While making his escape he carried the 锅 on his back. The house owner saw this and told his neighbors that a thief stole his 锅 Later he realized that the thief only took the container of the 锅 which was still in the kitchen. So the thief was falsely blamed for stealing the 锅 with which he was "seen" carried on his back when making his escape. So, 背黑锅 became being blamed wrongly. Commented Apr 21, 2020 at 8:07
  • @WayneCheah interesting, it might be worth to move this comment to an answer
    – blackgreen
    Commented Jul 12, 2020 at 22:55
  • @blackgreen. Thanks for the comment on my comment It's OK. Perhaps someday, someone somewhere might somehow find a dusty forgotten volume in a library in rural China containing the official version which may contradict my folk version and I may then have to, with tail between my legs, move it back to comment again. :) Commented Jul 13, 2020 at 2:54

3 Answers 3


The Cantonese equivalent of 背黑鍋 is 替人孭鑊

鑊 is a slang for 'incident' e.g. 大鑊 (big wok = big incident). 孭鑊 (to carry the wok) means 'to take the responsibility/ blame (for an incident or mistake)' . "替人孭鑊" = "take blame for someone else" = "背黑鍋" in Mandarin


This meaning comes from a scene: two men went travel, one man want to eat rice on the road, but let the another one to carry the dirty wok which can cook rice.


黑锅 is from 黑过, 过 means 过错, mistakes, it is similar to 王八蛋 which is from 忘八端.

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