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CC-CEDICT: 呻吟 (shēn​yín​) to moan / to groan

In English the word "moan" can be used in both painful and pleasurable situations. In Chinese, I've seen examples of 呻吟 being used in painful situations, but I'm not sure about other cases. Googling gives me a bunch of adults-only examples, but it could still be referring to pained sounds.

Question: Can 呻吟 be used to describe sounds resulting from pleasure?

2 Answers 2

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Normally, no.

《现代汉语词典》:

指人因痛苦而发出声音

《重編國語辭典修訂本》:

因病痛或哀傷所發出的聲音

So this word literally means making sounds because of pain.

Nonetheless, all words can be used in rhetorical ways, so some people may use this word to describe pleasant moans, especially when describing sex (like your googling results suggest). But again, sex is often a mixture of pain and pleasure, so it's possible that the word is still used in the sense of "painful moan", or as a deliberate oxymoron like "愉快地呻吟". Since such an expression is often seen in porn, I would not recommend a learner to use it this way, unless you are sure you won't cause any misunderstandings and embarrassment.

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Yes, moans can be from pain or pleasure. It is the same in Chinese.

痛苦地呻吟 - moaning in pain

愉悅地呻吟 - moan happily

When a stimulation is too strong (pain or pleasure), some people might not be able to control themselves but moan, for example, during a body massage

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