Learning this word 怕 which is heart and bright. It means bright and blemishless heart like Brave Heart. Why this is fear heart?

  • Quote:- "Why this is fear heart?" Don't you feel "fear" in your "heart" when you are afraid? Feb 27 at 5:26

This is a phono-semantic compound. The heart radical is the semantic component. It tells us this has a heart (emotion)-related meaning. The righthand side is the phonetic component. In this case, 白 /bai/ which has a similar sound as 怕 /pa/.

This wikipedia article explains the six different categories of Chinese characters. Check the section on phono-semantic compounds for more examples.



「怕」 (Mandarin Pinyin: , Zhengzhang OC: /*pʰraːɡs/, to be afraid) is comprised of two components:

  • 「心・忄」 (heart > emotions), a meaning hint; and
  • 「白」 (Mandarin Pinyin: bái, Zhengzhang OC: /*braːɡ/), a sound hint.

Note that words have both meaning and sound, and you can't write every word with just a bunch of symbols representing meaning - sounds play a major role in determining what a word is.

Here, 「白」 is only a sound hint, not a meaning hint. To emphasise that 「白」 is only a sound hint, people have written the word represented by 「怕」 differently throughout the ages with different sound hints. For example,

  • ⿰忄霸

    Sound hint 「霸」 (Mandarin Pinyin: , Zhengzhang OC: /*praːɡs/)

  • ⿰忄巴

    Sound hint 「巴」 (Mandarin Pinyin: , Zhengzhang OC: /*praː/)


Your heart goes blank. Ancient Chinese believe the feeling is from the heart instead of the head. This character describes the situation you are in danger and don't know what to do.

  • The fear in the heart brings more brighter results compared to non fearing heart? Logical I think
    – user27485
    Mar 2 at 7:04
  • 1
    no, the character '白' is a color, but also means emptiness, blank. '空白'
    – user27594
    Mar 2 at 20:11

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