What is the difference between 矮 and 短. Both seem to mean "short," so how can they be differentiated?

  • 矮 is opposite to tall. It can be used to describe a person 矮人, building 矮屋, wall 矮牆, etc.短 usually means short in length such as short letter 短信, short distance 短距離, short hands and legs 手短腳短, short time 短時間. Occasionally, it also refers to height as in 短小 = 矮小.
    – joehua
    Commented Jan 15, 2021 at 23:55

3 Answers 3


矮 short (as opposed to 高 tall) vertically short

For example, a person, a building, a wall can be 高 or 矮.

短 short (as opposed to 長 long) horizontally short

For example, a street, a piece of string can be 長 or 短.

You may wonder, what about things like pants? When they are on someone's body, they are vertical. With articles of clothing, it's always 長 or 短, because the orientation is dependent on the person wearing them. On their own, the pants cannot stay "vertical" and therefore are not considered "vertical" objects.

長 or 短 is also used for abstract things, for instance, a long day, a short engagement, a short wait ... etc.

Are there exceptions? I can't think of any right now, but others may like to chime in. Hope this helps.


矮 usually describes short in "Height" (buildings, trees, tables, people...);

短 is more general (sticks, wires, distance)


If you're looking for a word-to-word or term-to-term translation to phrases that are used in the English language, I would say: 矮 = vertically challenged 短 = insufficiently long, insufficiently far

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