The other day, I wanted to describe my shock regarding the overwhelming HSK6 vocabulary list (~2500 additional words) to my teacher, so I came up with a self-made idiom 词山词海: taking 人山人海 and replacing 人 with 词. I thought it was apt and quite proud of my creation, by my teacher disagreed.

I can't think of an idiomatic way to express this sense of being overwhelmed by vocabulary when learning a language in Chinese. Sure, I could say 词汇太多了, but it doesn't have the sense of being overwhelmed.

Question: Is there an idiomatic way to express being overwhelmed by vocabulary?

  • 2
    How about 万词淹没, (Wàn cí yān mò) ( a flood of words or drowned in words)? Commented Jun 20, 2020 at 3:48
  • 2
    词山词海 is fine though it's a bit odd. People could see you were trying to do a bit wordplay on the idiom 人山人海. It's easy to understand what you mean by that. It could have a potential to become a meme in my opinion. Language needs creativity.
    – dan
    Commented Jun 21, 2020 at 2:30
  • @WayneCheah Nah, it sounds even a bit weirder than 词山词海.
    – Stan
    Commented Jul 8, 2020 at 7:34
  • I feel a bit vindicated after seeing a shop with the name 鱼山鱼海.
    – Becky 李蓓
    Commented Sep 3, 2022 at 23:13

5 Answers 5


无从说起: 指事情太繁杂,要说的话很多,但不知道该从哪里说起。

Things are too complicated and there are many things to say, but don’t know where to start.


Describe things tortuous and complex, a sentence cannot make it clear.


There are idioms that express shock and dismay, but none are specifically referring to facing too heavy a task, let alone describing a specific task that is to learn a large number of words.

My suggestion is:

看到 HSK6 词汇表上这堆积如山的词汇,登時目瞪口呆

you can replace 堆积如山 with any idiom or idiomatic phrase that describes a huge quantity, e.g. 为数惊​​人,数以百计,密密麻麻,重重叠叠,多不胜数,既多且难... etc.

you can replace 目瞪口呆 with any idiom or idiomatic phrase that expresses your dismay, e.g. 叫苦连天,欲哭无泪,气为之馁,大吃一惊,望而生畏... etc.

you can replace 登时 with 顿时,不禁... etc.

  • 1
    I personally would say 吓尿了, but I don't think your teacher would like it.
    – Tang Ho
    Commented Jun 20, 2020 at 18:45
  • I think the correct spelling is 堆积如山 (or 堆積如山 in traditional). 禾字旁
    – blackgreen
    Commented Jun 20, 2020 at 19:14
  • Perhaps it's also 目瞪口呆 (not 目定口呆).
    – Becky 李蓓
    Commented Jun 20, 2020 at 22:44
  • Cantonese say 目定口呆. I thought Mandarin speaker would understand
    – Tang Ho
    Commented Jun 20, 2020 at 22:46

I like 不知所措 for 'overwhelmed'. (Wonder what 'underwhelmed' might be? 知所措??)

I am overwhelmed by the sheer number of new words.


I don't think there is one expressing this very situation, but you can just phrasing one like ancient scholars do:



How about something like this:





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.