Take a look at this character


It has 3 meanings and has a different tone

enter image description here

If it's true that one character can represent other words, please show me other samples.

  • 2
    Haven't you just answered your own question?
    – L. F.
    Apr 26, 2020 at 12:18
  • I don't believe it's true. There must be something wrong. If so please show me other samples
    – user4951
    Apr 26, 2020 at 12:20
  • 1
    This phenomenon is very common in Chinese. Pick a random character from a Chinese dictionary, and there's a decent chance of it having multiple meanings. Just like how set has dozens of meanings
    – L. F.
    Apr 26, 2020 at 12:27
  • 1
    It's true, because (as you've already seen) there are phonetic loan usages for characters. Also, this shouldn't be tagged simplified-chinese - Chinese, from the beginning of its written history, has used characters for multiple meanings. That's why many of them became more complex in the first place - to distinguish between different words from an overloaded base character.
    – dROOOze
    Apr 26, 2020 at 12:27
  • 1
    This happens with some super common characters, like 了 and 得 Apr 26, 2020 at 21:27

2 Answers 2



also has two different readings:




with many different meanings.

chǔ for instance means:

to reside / to live / to dwell / to be in / to be situated at / to stay / to get along with / to be in a position of / to deal with / to discipline / to punish

while chù means:

place / location / spot / point / office / department / bureau / respect / classifier for locations or items of damage: spot, point

This is not uncommon, especially with simplified characters as sometimes multiple traditional characters get simplified into the same singular character, you just need to know when what means what.


Can one chinese character represent many different words?

Most Chinese characters only pertain to something, akin to prefixes or suffixes in English, and ordinarily not used alone. When someone asks what does this character mean? the answer typically varies with what word it's contained in.

For example (flat) would not ordinarily be used by itself (although occasionally it is); it'd usually belong to a word such as 平衡 (balance), 和平 (peace), 平安 (safety), 公平 (fair), 平凡 (ordinary), etc.

With that in mind, single-character words are relatively few, but they can have multiple distinct meanings. Here are some examples which arise in early Chinese studies:

  • (mǐ) means both "a meter" (一百 = 100 meters) and "rice" (两斤 = 1kg rice)
  • (shēng) means both "to give birth" (我宝宝了 = I gave birth) and "raw" (那个肉是的 = that meat is raw).
  • (zhàn) means both "to stand" (我在这儿 = I stand here) and "station" (这是哪个? = what station is this?)
  • (děng) means both "to wait" (我你 = I wait for you) and "etc." (房子、汽车 = house, car, etc.)
  • (jiǎo) means both "corner" (三角形有三个 = triangles have three corners) and "0.1 yuan" (一元等于十 = one yuan equals 10 jiao)
  • (dú) means both "to study" (科学 = study science) and "to read" (书 = read a book)
  • (guì) means both "expensive" (太了 = too expensive) and "precious" (很的宝宝 = precious baby)

Sometimes they also have different pronunciations:

  • means both "still" [pronounced hái] (你爱我吗? = do you still love me?) and "to return" [pronounced huán] (我了车 = I returned the car)
  • means "only" [pronounced zhǐ] (我是一个人) and is a measure word for certain animals [pronounced zhī] (一鸟 = a bird)

Some of the above examples have additional meanings.

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