In the English language, the dictionaries are updated yearly to include new words and modifications of current spellings that have been accepted due to common usage. For example, the internet age saw the explosion of words and meaning that have been previously unheard of before. New words can range from a street slang that comes into prominence, or a new spelling to entirely new made-up words.

Is it the same in Chinese? For example, if there is a group of (say, influential) people who mistakenly wrote a word with one stroke less than current standard/correct form. Since they are the influential group and were able to purvey this to the group, is it possible that this 'wrong' word becomes the standard in the future?

As far as some slang words are concerned, they are usually combinations of existing words, or use words with multiple meanings. But is it possible that people have created entirely new characters to denote something? What might be recent/popular examples of these?


5 Answers 5


There is a yearly contest in Japan for creating new kanji. Last year, the winner was a new character for "social distancing" social distancing

A clever play on the character 座, meaning "to sit", where the two 人 "people" are moved apart.

Some other interesting ones: sign language "Sign language", taking the character for "sound" 音 and replacing the 日 with 目, which means "eye".

enter image description here Taking the character 会, which means "meeting" and replacing the bottom part with a Z, to mean "online meeting".

You can see all the entries and their meanings (in Japanese) on their website.


I only comment on the digitalised Chinese, not handwriting, which is not that common anymore, except, maybe, in signing documents.

"People who mistakenly wrote a word with one stroke less". This cannot happen in the digital world of Chinese because there is no way to enter a character with one less stroke.

"But is it possible that people have created entirely new characters to denote something?" Not in the digitalised world of Chinese.

Nowadays, when people type Chinese on a computer, people are picking characters from a character database. Characters with a missing stroke or extra stroke are considered wrong characters and are not, should not be, in the database. Hence, there is no chance to type a wrong character.

Creating new characters are problematic. Granted, there are programs to create new characters but how many people have ever used them? How many people have ever received files with newly created character? Not too many.

With digitalisation of Chinese, one can no longer "write wrong characters/寫錯字", though 別字 are still possible. The problem lies in creating new characters. It's not so convenient to do. So, people either just create words, which lengthen sentences, or reincarnate a dead character and give it a new meaning, which by itself is problematic if one encounters such a character in an old book (e.g. 她 used to mean 母, mother, not she as it is now.)

From what I see, digitalisation is the beginning of the death of Chinese.

  • Quote:- "From what I see, digitalisation is the beginning of the death of Chinese" Perhaps, but something's lost and something's gain. With digitalisation there comes ease of usage and therefore greater mass dissemination. If everyone were to write in seal script, like the old emperors who had a whole day just to write two folds of bamboo strips, then who wants to learn? A language that does not evolve along with the march of human evolution itself will die on the wayside of History. Commented Mar 8, 2021 at 7:29

One must remember that in Chinese, a word and a character are two different concepts. New words are coined all the time, by combining existing characters in new ways. As new things are invented, and new technologies developed, a language needs new words for these previously non-existent things or ideas.

A couple of examples will illustrate how words are coined in Chinese:

飛機 flying + machine = airplane

電腦 electric + brain = computer

黑客 black + guest/outsider = hacker (btw, this is a brilliant transliteration as well)

With the existing characters, there are infinite ways to combine them to make up new words. It's hardly necessary to make up brand new characters for everyday use.

In very specialized fields, however, I understand that new characters have been created. For example, in the field of chemistry, when new elements were discovered, it was sometimes necessary to invent a new character (in this case, the character is also a word), usually a phono-semantic compound, for the new element.


Yes, words are created, and they may not be just slangs that dies off but words that lasts for a pretty long time with a place in the dictionary. For example the translation of beer:

啤酒:‘啤’ was a created word (around 19th century). It was not available as a word with any meaning at that time. It's originally written as 皮 (phonetic translation from 'beer') when it was first introduced in tsingdao, a city in China. Slowly the word spreaded from 皮 > 脾 > 啤 in Tsingdao and then spread to other parts of China.


Like @joehua said, you can't enter characters that are not pre-installed in your computer, so you can't write a character with one stroke less, for example.

However, you can still write the wrong character when another character should be used. For instance: 怼 is a new popular character. Though some argue that the correct character should be 㨃, 怼 is overwhelmingly more popular.

  • There are two types of wrong characters: 錯字 and 別字,collectively called 錯別字。錯字 are those that have extra or missing strokes. 別字, as its name suggests, is the use of another, and incorrect, character. Usually, but not always, a homophone is used. The most common misuse is 再and 在。It is so rampant that more than once I have wondered perhaps I had learnt them wrong in school.
    – joehua
    Commented Mar 29, 2021 at 13:31
  • @joehua You are absolutely right. I totally agree. About the 再/在 confusion, maybe you could avoid the internet for a while and read some good books to let your brain refresh. :)
    – Betty
    Commented Mar 29, 2021 at 14:18

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