I'm working on a lexicon for the main Chinese characters, and I only have a few words to give a meaning. I stumble on this particular character used in the first tone, and the least I can say is that it does not make consensus in the dictionaries available online. What would be the main meanings used in modern Chinese ?
My Wenlin dictionary gives :
verb: ①undertake; accept ②be just as ③should
coverb: at a given time or place
bound form: ①at a given time or place ②equal to, appropriate

I have to choose among these uses, who has an idea of their frequency of use?

  • This page will help you to better understand the word 当, and its many uses and meanings. zdic.net/hans/%E5%BD%93
    – r13
    Commented Feb 3, 2023 at 19:06
  • 充任,担任:充~。担(dān )~。~之无愧。 掌管,主持:~家。~权。~政。 正在那时候或那地方:~时。~代。~初。~今。~即(立即)。~年。~街。~院。 面对着:~面。~机立断。首~其冲。 相称,相配:旗鼓相~。~量(liáng)。 应该:应~。理~。老~益壮。 抵敌:万夫不~之勇。 判罪,意为处以相当的刑罚:该~何罪。 顶端,头:瓦~。 象声词,金属撞击的声音。 This page is not more helpful than Wenlin => no idea about the frequencies of uses for meanings. Just we can guess the first is the most commonly used ?
    – faure
    Commented Feb 4, 2023 at 6:14
  • 1
    I can't say which has been used the most, but the following are more or less having an equal appearance: ~家。~权。~政。~时。~代。~初。~今。~年。~面。应~。理~。
    – r13
    Commented Feb 4, 2023 at 16:09

1 Answer 1


Honestly, many of the definitions have a frequency of use thats quite high. 当 is usually pronounced in first tone so that doesn't change much. Usually, additional characters are added to create vocab that clarifies which definition of a character to use-- of sometimes a dozen definitions to choose from.

Even of 当 definitions that are frequently used solo multiple are common. If you have to choose one, just to choose one, you could choose "work as/serve as/act as/etc". This definition was very ceremoniously chosen as the first one in the dictionary entry. Since it is frequently used alone, seems a great choice.

Some examples of this use (also from pleco) if needed:

...当组长 ...act as group leader

...当飞行员 ...work as a pilot

...当一名宇航员...be an astronaut

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