Google translate translates "好高骛远" into ambitious. I was wondering if you agree with that? I don't think ambitious carries the meaning of lacking capability.

  • "To hitch one's wagon to a star" is a very close idiom in English -- just unfortunately, 好高骛远 is derogatory but this one is not. – Stan Oct 30 '13 at 0:10
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    Though this is not necessarily an idiom, "flying too close to the sun" is sometimes said in English and is an allusion to the story of Icarus, in which Icarus plummets to his death after ignoring his father's advice not to fly too high. This saying does have negative connotations about over ambition. – Claw Oct 30 '13 at 1:18

From Bai Du Zhi Dao:

好高骛远 (Hào gāo wù yuǎn) means:

比喻不切实际地追求过高过远的目标 (Bǐyù bù qiè shíjì dì zhuī qiú guò gāo guò yuǎn de mùbiāo.) : you unrealistically pursue goals that are too high and far.

To break down the phrase: 好高骛远

好 (Hào- 4th tone = likes/wants), so... 好高 (Hào gāo): likes/wants (things that are) high

骛 (wù): Greedy

远 (yuǎn): Far, Distant (So, 骛远 = over ambitious/over greedy)

To break that guy's response down:

不切实际 (bù qiè shíjì): Phrase to indicate impracticality of something

地 (dì): usually means "ground"... but here it follows an adverb. For example, 他慢慢地走过去 (he slowly walked over there). So, 慢慢 would be modifying the verb 追求 (zhuī qiú), so you use 地 (dì) between the adverb and the verb。 Like he "impractically pursued x": 他不切实际**追求x

追求 (zhuī qiú): to pursue something stubbornly.

过高过远 (guò gāo guò yuǎn): 过 just means "pass over, too much, pass": so 过高 and 过远 just means too high and too far.

目标 (mùbiāo): Goal

  • What will people say for the same meaning in English? – Newbie Oct 29 '13 at 20:42
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    tone 4 好 (hào) means like (喜欢) – congusbongus Oct 29 '13 at 22:33
  • @T... "Over ambitious" would be an adequate English meaning. It has the connotation that capability may be lacking. – Claw Oct 29 '13 at 23:31
  • @congusbongus are you saying that my usage above- 好高 (Hào gāo): quite high- is incorrect? – Growler Oct 30 '13 at 13:05
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    Yes; 好高 would be closer to "likes/wants (things that are) high", where "high" means things like "high status", "high achievement" etc. – congusbongus Oct 30 '13 at 13:09

I think, 好高骛远 means: reach for what is beyond one's grasp

Here is some example translate:

I'm not prone to extravagant fancies.

A high flier may have an impossible hope for the future.

Hew not too high lest the chips fall in thine eye.

People should be down-to-earth, instead of being over-ambitious.

Tom has taken five courses this semester, including French. I think he is bitting offchew. 汤姆这个学期选修了五门课, 还包括法语, 我想他是有些好高骛远了.

==== I think "over-ambitious" will do the trick. Google is kinda right.


"好" has two pronunciation.

好(hǎo) is an adjective or an adverb, which means "good", "well", "queit" or "very".

好(hào) is a verb, which means "like to do something".

好高 should be read as "hào gāo", so it means "like to be high" literally, similar to "aim high" in English, but in a derogatory way.


骛(wù) stands for "seek" or "look for".

远 stands for "far away".

鹜远 stands for "seek something far away" ("far away" means that it is impossible, so the unspoken word is that it is stupid to aim so high )


好高骛远 is a derogatory idiom, which means "ambitious in an arrogant way".

  • 好 has three pronunciations, not just two: hǎo, hào, and hāo (as in 好好儿 hǎohāor). – Janus Bahs Jacquet Dec 8 '13 at 16:21
  • @JanusBahsJacquet The pronunciation hāo is regarded as the 懒音 of hǎo. Just like native English speaker may pronounce different like difrent (omit e sound) and pronounce What's up? like Wazzup? – Victor Dec 31 '13 at 17:41
  • Do you have any sources to back that up? Productive reduplication normally produces a 懒音 that is a neutral tone, also with 好 (好好先生, for example, is hǎohaoxiānshēng, not hǎohāoxiānshēng; and 好好端端 is hǎohaoduānduan, not hǎohāoduānduān). The word 好好(儿) is irregular in this respect, and the fact that it has a change in tone, rather than a reduction, to me speaks quite firmly against it being a 懒音. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Dec 31 '13 at 18:38
  • @JanusBahsJacquet In fact the 好好儿 should be mark as hǎo haor in Pinyin. For example, 桔子, mark as jú zi and 椅子 mark as yǐ zi, although the former zi sound like the weak sound of and the latter zi sound like the weak sound of . – Victor Jan 1 '14 at 12:29
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    That is exactly why it is not simply a 懒音, because 好好(儿) is not hǎohao(r). The reduplication is a clear, distinct first tone in Standard Mandarin, not a neutral tone. Both 子 examples are completely irrelevant, since they are perfectly regular neutral tones, taking over their tonal contour from the preceding tone that they are enclitic to. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Jan 1 '14 at 12:43

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