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秘密 is a curious word because both characters are pronounced mì yet they are different from each other. Given that there are so many homophonous characters in Chinese, I'm curious if there's any other combinations of them into words, and if not why did 秘密 become the exception?

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    How about something like: 实时? 屈曲?
    – Mou某
    Feb 25, 2021 at 16:32
  • I don't think I've learned that one yet, but it is another example yes :) Feb 25, 2021 at 16:44
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    Recently I encountered 全权 in a book I'm reading. A lot of names are like this, e.g. I have a friend 岳悦.
    – Becky 李蓓
    Feb 25, 2021 at 18:49
  • It is homophonous because of the 必 component, which makes certain characters sound like “bi” and certain characters sound like “mi”.
    – Soroush
    Feb 26, 2021 at 11:26
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    Also more than one yìyì!
    – Olle Linge
    Feb 26, 2021 at 13:07

1 Answer 1

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I've come across words like this a couple of times.
逝世 shìshì /to pass away/to die/
世事 shìshì /affairs of life/things of the world/
致志* zhìzhì /concentrate one's energies on/

Alliteration (双声) seems to be quite common in Putonghua, and this is an extreme form of alliteration.

It's interesting how all these examples use the fourth tone.

There are more words like this but they tend to be less commonly used or literary words (书面语). Eg: 幽忧* yōuyōu /distressed/laden with grief/
In this answer I've added a (*) to such words.

Edit: Mou某 gave two other good examples:

  • 屈曲 qūqū /crooked/;
  • 实时 shíshí /(in) real time/instantaneous/.

And these aren't fourth tone, which is nice.

Edit 2: 全权 quánquán /full powers/total authority/plenipotentiary powers/
(from Becky 李蓓 's comment)

Edit 3:

  • 意义 yìyì /sense/meaning/significance/importance/;
  • 意译 yìyì /meaning (of foreign expression)/translation of the meaning (as opposed to literal translation 直譯|直译)/paraphrase/free translation/;
  • 异议 yìyì /objection/dissent/
    (from Olle Linge's comment)

Edit 4: Not a two-character word, but a chengyu that starts with two homonyms: 屋乌推爱* wūwūtuīài - it's a variant of the much more well-known chengyu 爱屋及乌 àiwūjíwū /lit. love the house and its crow (idiom); involvement with sb and everyone connected/Love me, love my dog./
Both versions feature the homonyms 屋 / 乌. It would be interesting to focus on other similar chengyu - perhaps this a topic for a separate question here later on. (2022-06-15)

Edit 5:

  • 陆路 lùlù = /land route/to go by surface transport/
  • 行刑 xíngxíng = /to carry out a (death) sentence/execution/.
    (2022-07-27, more examples contributed by Becky 李蓓)
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    時事、時勢、實事、事實、是事、石室。
    – joehua
    Feb 26, 2021 at 3:47
  • @joehua apart from 是事, none of these are what the OP was asking about, because they all have two different tones. As for 是事, I can't see it in my dictionaries Feb 26, 2021 at 10:56
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    Tone is an important part of pronunciation, of course I meant the two characters ought to have the same tone. Feb 27, 2021 at 13:13
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    I encountered 授受 in my studies, as part of 男女授受不亲.
    – Becky 李蓓
    Mar 17, 2021 at 0:34
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    I encountered 陆路 = "land route". Oh, and 行刑 = "execution".
    – Becky 李蓓
    Jul 18 at 7:49

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