Is there any attested etymology for this word or can anyone otherwise attempt to break down its compositional logic for me please?

On the face of it, 是指 looks structurally similar to 是说. However, the 是 in 是指 lacks any emphatic or contrastive or concessive sense; in fact, 是指 is frequently used in the most declarative of contexts, such as dictionary definitions and the like.

My intuition tells me this word must have resulted from the lexicalisation of a longer construction: something like X+是+指(=针对)Y+的意思 turning into X+是指+Y.

I would be grateful for any other suggestion.

2 Answers 2


是指 (is pointing to) means "refers to" or "means" in English


廣東俗語「𡁻完鬆(v)」 是指「逃避責任,一走了之」的行徑

The Cantonese proverb "chowed down and then slip away" is referred to the behavior of "evading responsibility and walking away"

通常「𡁻完鬆(n)」是指 跟女人睡過之後就跑的人

Usually "𡁻完鬆"(n) refers to a person who runs away after sleeping with a woman

Another Example:

他說明年就不用還債了 是指 他時日無多,活不過明年了

He said he won't have to pay the debt next year referring to his time running out and he will not live past next year.

  • Thanks for your usage examples. In the question above, I'm specifically looking for any clues as to how the word came to be, that is to say, why it took the form of 是 + 指.
    – Sanchuan
    Commented Jan 16, 2023 at 13:49
  • For instance, you say that 是指 = "is + pointing to". That means you think 是指 is not a word, but a monosyllabic verb with an optional aspectual prefix in front of it. But I don't think 是 is optional here and I also don't think 是 is ever used as an aspectual prefix to mean "is V-ing". So there must be another logic to 是+指.
    – Sanchuan
    Commented Jan 16, 2023 at 14:04
  • When you "指 (point to) something" that something is singled out as an explanation. That's how 指 acquired the meaning of 'refer to
    – Tang Ho
    Commented Jan 16, 2023 at 14:07
  • 俄總統口中的叛國者, 指的是反對戰爭的平民 (you don't need 是 here)
    – Tang Ho
    Commented Jan 16, 2023 at 14:11
  • That's true. But then what requires us to put 是 in front of 指 in other cases? What does 是 mean in those contexts? Can you think of any other example of 是 put in front of a single verb, just like in 是指?
    – Sanchuan
    Commented Jan 16, 2023 at 14:18

是指 = 指的是 (refer to)

XXX 是指/指的是 YYY = XXX refers to YYY.

  • 西半球是指/指的是南北美洲。- The Western Hemisphere refers to North and South America.

  • 是指/指的是昨天發生的事件嗎? - Do you refer to the event that occurred yesterday?

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