What is the difference between 玩意 and 名堂? I learnt from other sources that 玩意 is the expression from 北方人 when they are upset about something like 这是什么玩意啊? (equal to 这是什么鬼啊?) (correct me if I'm wrong), but when I only searched 玩意 on 百度汉语, it means 花样 or trick. Similarly, I remember another word that is 名堂 and searched it on 百度汉语, it also means trick.

Are they having different use or any different meaning? And if there are similar words specifically describe these 2 or any examples, please let me know. Thankyou.

8 Answers 8


They all have meaning of "trick", but have different source and also slightly different in tone.

  • 玩意 is from spoken Chinese and source is little known.
  • 名堂 has a clear source.

    is name of author.
    can be the name of study-room or living-room or house name, and ancient literati often treat this name as one of their unique identifier/symbol.

e.g.诗人苏轼,字子瞻,又字和仲,号铁冠道人、东坡居士which means Poet SuShi has 3 names 子瞻 和仲, and 2 symbols/identifiers 铁冠道人 东坡居士东坡 is abbr. of name his house 东坡雪堂).

Ancient literati often has diffenrent names in different age(also live in different places for various reasons), so you can imagine they may have many names and symbols, so when they write down all their names and symbols in signature of one painting or calligraphy, it could be a huge list. It's understandable but unnecessary from the perspective of ordinary people.

  • 名堂多 often used to describe sb. perform unnecessary steps.

  • 搞什么名堂! usually means I think you are doing something unnecessary especially when it may delay business, I'm angry.

  • 这是什么名堂? means I'm not sure what I saw is understandable or just a trick.

  • 这是什么玩意儿?/搞什么玩意儿! means I think what I saw must be a trick, a little contempt in the tone. It's usually used in informal situations, such as jokes with friends.

  • Thankyou, 多感谢您的描述👍 Commented Aug 17, 2023 at 14:06

这是什么玩意(玩艺/玩藝)啊? = 这是什么東西啊? - What is this (thing)? (Note, it indicates contempt toward a person - 你是什么玩意啊? - Who do you think you are?)

你在搞什麼名堂? = 你在玩什麼花樣? - What is the trick you are pulling/attempting? = What are you doing?

Other meanings/uses of 名堂:

  • 搞出點名堂来 = 要搞出點成绩来 - Must to accompolish something = Must to succeed.

  • 問出个名堂来 = 要問出个结果来 - Must question untill concludsion = Must get to the bottom of it.

  • 這里面的名堂还不少呢 = 這里面的花樣还不少呢 - There is a variety of stuffs inside of this = There are lots of trickeries inside of this.


On its own, neither 玩意 (not serious) plaything/play idea = (not serious) thing/ idea, nor 名堂[title/name --> scheme] means "trick"


  • 吸大麻這玩意我不喜歡 I don't like this smoking marijuana thing

  • 名堂的演員才算是明星 Only actors who have titles(fame) can be considered a movies star

When someone 搞 creates/ makeups things or schemes, those things or schemes are likely unconventional or not serious

搞新玩意 = "create new plaything" implies "create unconventional or not serious idea"

搞新名堂 = "create new names" implies "create unconventional scheme"

什麼鬼玩意? = What kind of stupid idea/ thing is that?

什麼怪名堂? = What kind of strange title/ scheme is it?

  • Thankyou sir, 多感谢您的描述👍 Commented Aug 17, 2023 at 14:05

玩意:thingamajig, wotsit, gizmo, gadget, whatnot

This thingamajig is great for opening jars.

名堂:result, achievement

What have you been up to?

What the hell are you doing?

You can't teach and old dog new tricks.

The meaning "trick" is in the sense of acquiring or displaying a new skill or accomplishment.

  • Thankyou, very clear examples👍 Commented Aug 17, 2023 at 14:07

你算什么个玩意!it is bad words,it means "you son of bitch" when you strengthen tone.

  • 1
    Not really. It means "You are not even a trinket," meaning "You are nothing." Commented Aug 14, 2023 at 3:48

玩意 is a slightly derogatory term for "things" or 东西。It implies this thing is either utterly useless, or exceedingly mundane, or shockingly simple. So, by asking "这是什么玩意儿?", not only the speaker asks for the nature of the object (what is it), but also shows that the speaker deprecates it.

Sometimes, it's used to solely express the disapproval of the existence of that thing, because otherwise the speaker would have used 东西 instead. Sometimes, especially for young people, they tend to overuse "玩意" for being cool. Because this belittling attitude implies they are better.

Since its derogatory nature, it is generally offensive to call anything as “玩意” in front of its creator. If you call anybody as 玩意, it is generally equivalent to calling them "不是东西". Except "不是东西" is more often to be a moral judgment, but "玩意" is a criticism of their capability.

Unlike 玩意 and 东西, 名堂 as a word is rarely used alone. Whenever you hear 名堂, it almost always is either a variant of "搞什么名堂" (negative tone) or a variant of "搞出点名堂" (positive tone). It is almost like a part of idiom and most Chinese people do not understand the literal meaning of 名堂.

Whether its positive or negative tone, 名堂 refers to a process or a result of people's activities. This is distinct from 玩意, as 玩意 refers to an object.

Please note, 名堂 in itself is not negative at all. It even has some positive aspect to it because 堂 is mostly related to formality. The negative tone of "你在搞什么名堂" comes from the fact that people only say this to try to interrupt processes they deem inappropriate. Otherwise, they say 加油 to encourage it. People are not always lucky enough to be around to stop inappropriate processes. So you might hear people say "这搞的什么名堂". The added 的 is an emphasis on past tense, indicating 名堂 is a consequence that needs investigation. When used in this way, it only shows the initial disapproval attitude of speaker when he first see to the situation (which is seemingly bad). It does not guarantee the result is actually negative. Thus it is more or less a neutral phrase signalling a potential criticism after investigation. Comparing to "这搞的什么玩意", if 玩意 is used, it means the speaker has committed to criticize.

But because the word 名堂 itself has some positive tone, it should not be hard to understand "搞出点名堂" means making some achievement. It implies that the speaker does not have a plan yet but want some change. Usually when it is used, it implies the speaker is in some hardship who seeks a rapid change of his situation, and it does NOT imply the achievement is morally correct. If a thief said this, he probably means stealing something great to make his name out in gangdom.

An interesting note: People who seeks to "搞出点名堂" almost always end up blowing it all up and become worse off. Because success flavors people who have a plan for their dreams instead of dreaming for a plan

  • Thankyou, detail explanation👍 Commented Aug 17, 2023 at 14:11



玩意 and 名堂 are completely unrelated.

玩意 is a toy or a trinket. 名堂 is name, title or renown.

玩意 is generally netural. For example: 他給自己買個新玩意 He bought himself a new toy.

名堂 is generally positive. For example: 他埋頭鑽研十多年,終於闖出個名堂 He has been working very hard at reseach and finally won himself some small renown.

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