Many dictionaries translate it to "ambiguity",but it looks so indefinitely.

I'm looking for more expressive answer.

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    Please look at Question Overflow's answer and clarify which meaning are you referring to. – NS.X. Oct 28 '13 at 19:34
  • What do you mean by "it looks so indefinitely"? As a native English speaker I'm having trouble parsing this phrase. – hippietrail Nov 5 '13 at 7:38
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    maybe you can adopt the facebook wording "complicated relationship" – wilson Apr 12 '16 at 10:29

Depending on context, 暧昧[pronounced as ài mèi] can take on a few meanings. The following is quoted from Baidu with some explanations in English:

  1. (态度、用意)含糊;不明白。(attitude or intent is unclear or incomprehensible)
  2. (行为)不光明;不可告人。(behavior is dishonorable or secretive, like having an illicit affair)
  3. 男女或同性肉体关系还处于想象段。(at the non-physical stage of a relationship, that is, in between friendship and intimate relationship)
  4. 男女或同性关系还未发展到恋人关系,但是行为举止和恋人关系差不多。(same as 3)

暧昧 is usually used to describe a kind of ambiguous relationship that is neither here nor there. It is not necessarily a negative word.

  • 也有“言辞暧昧”的说法,意思是"语焉不详" – Joseph S WU Dec 21 '13 at 1:25

(someone1) flirt with (someone2). 玩暧昧,玩调情

  • But flirt is a kind of action. 暧昧 is a kind of state between romance relationship and friendship. – Yi Jiang Nov 5 '13 at 1:49
  • Haha, "暧昧" means the relationship is hard to explain clearly, it sometimes means "微妙", sometimes means the feeling of love between two people related to that;) – xqMogvKW Nov 5 '13 at 3:21

暧昧 is a kind of relationship betweenwomen and men, it exists in friendship, but the degree is higher than friendship, it’s almost love but has not become love yet.

I don’t think there is a perfect English word which can perfectly express this meaning, actually we always can’t find a correct word which has exactly the same meaning in another language, so don’t worry about this.


Personally it is a "shady relationship", although I am not a local english speaker.

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    I'd like to use the word 'ambiguous'. Shady has negative connotations. – deutschZuid Oct 29 '13 at 2:13

I'd say its similar to being flirtatious with someone, but it's more Chinese culture related.

Because Chinese culture puts emphasis on being indirect, the relationship between a men and women can be somewhat unclear. 暧昧 describes the relationship of two people between "friendship" and "partnership". Think of two people with mutual affection but haven't told each other their feelings. I know it is also common in western world but I would say it exists more in Chinese couples.


Common ways of 暧昧 use: When you see a guy and a girl are flirting with each other but they denied that they are in a relationship. You call that 暧昧.

It means the relationship of two people that you assume they are feeling affectionate towards each other.

To me, ambiguity is not right word for that.


I would change upon different circumstances. When it's about a state of relationship, I would say amorous ambiguity, but when it's an adjective I would say it's blurred, ambiguous, or unclear.

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