I've seen a curious Chinese word 身体. At first, I have discovered that it means 'body' and is a word with a broader meaning in comparison to 身材 or 体格. But I never understood why it means 'body' or, yet another meaning, 'health'. There is a question 《 你身体好吗?》which literally means 'How is your health?'. While trying to seek for etymology, I turned out to be stuck because searching engines gave me no proper result about it.

Thanks for any help in finding the answer.

  • 1
    The concepts of one's body and one's health seem very closely related to me.
    – Olle Linge
    Commented Jan 12, 2021 at 12:56

1 Answer 1


身体 doesn't mean health, it just means 'body'.

身体好吗? (is your body fine) = how is your body.

If your body is fine (身体很好), then you are healthy

If your body is not fine (身体不好), then you are not healthy

We have a word for health and it is 健康

How is your health = 你的健康如何?

Are you healthy? = 你健康吗?

Is your body healthy? = 你的身体健康吗?

体格 means 'physique' (the form, size, and development of a person's body) = The condition of one's body, e.g. 体格強建, 体格孱弱 (Strong physique, weak physique)

体格不佳, (one's physique is not great) doesn't mean 身体不好 (one's body is not fine/ not healthy), it just means one's physique is weak e.g. too short, too thin, lack strength, and so on


身体健康 (the body's health) doesn't include mental health, which is called 精神健康.

For the health of both body and mind, it is 身心健康 (the health of the mind and body)

Since 健康 can be an adjective or noun 身体健康 can mean 'the body's health' or 'one's body is healthy'

  • "If your body is fine (身体很好), then you are healthy". This doesn't include mental health, does it?
    – joehua
    Commented Jan 13, 2021 at 0:17
  • See my edit at the bottom
    – Tang Ho
    Commented Jan 13, 2021 at 1:43

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