One of Confucius sayings contains the construction 言不及义. It carries the meaning "unable to talk on serious topics", from what a dictionary gave me. However, I was interested in the per-character structure of such meanings, and went to translate these characters individually.

  • 言 - yán - speech
  • 不 - bù - a universal negation
  • 及 - jí - to reach, to catch, to participate, to improve to a certain extent
  • 义 - yì - justice, moral, fact, meaning

So, 'speech not reaching meaning' is the best I can get from this breakdown.

Any help on grasping the meaning is highly appreciated.

  • speech not reaching meaning --> speech never get to any meaningful topic
    – Tang Ho
    Commented Jul 15, 2021 at 10:38
  • 1
    @TangHo Here, 及义 might mean 'to reach meaning'?
    – Rusurano
    Commented Jul 15, 2021 at 10:41
  • Yes,及义 means 'reach meaning' and 'speech not reach meaning' because it never get to anything meaningful
    – Tang Ho
    Commented Jul 15, 2021 at 10:44
  • These days we would say "Idle chit-chat" Commented Jul 15, 2021 at 11:53

1 Answer 1


Your best shot was pretty good.

言不及义 - A person's talk does not touch/reach the true/real meaning of the subject he wanted to deliver. He either does not have a thorough understanding of the subject or is not able to organize his thought in a logical manner.

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