Today in Chengdu I wanted to buy a replacement permanent marker pen for writing on cardboard.

I don't like nonpermanent markers because the ink can sometimes wipe off and stain your clothes. I find that in English the nonpermanent ones seem to be called whiteboard markers most often, and indeed that was written on most of the markers I could find in stores today.

But permanent markers were not easy to find and I found myself wanting to say something like "I want one of these but this is a whiteboard marker and I want a permanent marker".

These terms might not be considered basic enough vocabulary to be in most dictionaries. Google Translate translates them but I don't know if I can trust it.

  • 1
    "Whiteboard marker" is 白板笔. "Permanent marker" is 马克笔. But if you want to buy one in a store, I strongly suggest that you ask specifically for one that can('t) be erased. Example: 您好,我要一只白板笔,要擦得掉的那种.
    – arax
    Nov 17, 2013 at 16:16
  • I'm such a beginner at Chinese that I don't have a hope of uttering such a sentence, but I'm less of a beginner at Han characters so I could write the terms. But I also ask just out of curiosity of these possibly "hard to look-up" terms. By the way Google Translate gives just "marker" for "马克笔". In English "marker" covers both types, is it really true that "马克笔" means permanant markers only? Nov 17, 2013 at 16:25
  • 2
    Google is right, 马克笔 means marker(actually 马克 is the phonic transcription of marker), so when you ask for a 马克笔, it's possible that you end up with a whiteboard marker. It's safer to specify the type. The dictionary word for permanent markers is actually 油性马克笔, but I'm afraid most Chinese(including me) can't recognize this term. If someone ask a 油性马克笔 from me, I'd probably think: he might be asking for a permanent marker, but it's better to make sure. I'm not so used to express myself in English xD
    – arax
    Nov 17, 2013 at 16:39
  • 3
    I would say 记号笔 for permanent markers. This is just a matter of personal preference, I think. If someone says 马克笔 I would understand it as permanent markers without additional information.
    – user58955
    Nov 17, 2013 at 18:27
  • 1
    To me 记号笔 is the kind of markers that you use on your books, those with vivid colors. You see, the term for markers is a bit messed up in Chinese. I (along with most people that I know) will call permanent markers 马克笔, whiteboard markers 白板笔, colorful markers 记号笔, but in a different city or even a different neighborhood, the names might vary.
    – arax
    Nov 18, 2013 at 6:40

4 Answers 4


As others have mentioned, when you are using borrowed words you can sometimes get stuck with misunderstandings especially if you go to a market or book store to buy this item rather than going to a stationary or art store.

My suggestion is to take a glossy piece of cardboard and then ask for a 马克笔 (mǎkè bǐ).

If you are provided with what appears to be a whiteboard marker I would politely test it on the cardboard and if it is a white board marker I would say 我要擦不掉的那种. I think this should get you what you are after.

我要擦不掉的那种 (wǒ yào cā bú diào de nà zhǒng) = "I want the kind that cannot be wiped off"

我要 = I want

擦不掉 = cannot be wiped off

的那种 = the kind

This might also help if they show you a thin marker pen:

我要粗一点的 (wǒ yào cū yīdiǎn de) = I want a thicker one


Honestly, before I came to the UK, I don't know the difference between permanent and nonpermanent markers. Usually, we call those we use to write on a whiteboard 白板笔. I think we can call those pens that cannot be easily washed off 油性笔 as opposed to those that can be easily be washed off which we call 水性笔.

  • The definition of 水性笔 in Baidu-pedia says it is a kind of gel pen. And I haven't heard anyone would call a whiteboard marker "水性笔" before.
    – Stan
    Nov 19, 2013 at 7:10

They're called 油(yóu)性(xìnɡ)记(jì)号(hào)笔(bǐ) in Chinese.

Or you can just say “擦(cā)不(bù)掉(diào)的(de)记(jì)号(hào)笔(bǐ)”, which means “those markers that can’t be erased.”


I would say 白板笔 for "Whiteboard marker" and 油性笔 for "Permanent marker". You see, I omit the "马克" in 油性"马克"笔.

In place where there are people who speak dialects other than Mandarin, “马克” does not necessarily sound like "marker". I am a Cantonese and I tend to avoid the phonetic transcriptions that only exist in Mandarin.

  • Yes when I first found this term (I think via Google Translate) I did not spot that it was a transliteration. I only realized that part way through this thread. Nov 23, 2013 at 17:07

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