Here are a couple compound words that end with 乎:

热乎, 温乎, 確乎, 玄乎, 忙乎, 晕乎, 近乎, 热乎乎, 傻乎乎.

Is there an understanding of how 乎 became used in these words? Does it have any relation to the classical usage of 乎 as an interrogative marker?

  • Never heard of these "热乎,温乎,確乎,玄乎,忙乎,晕乎". Where do you find those words?
    – 杨以轩
    Jan 19, 2014 at 3:03
  • 1
    Some of those might be rare but I can find entries for most of them on zdic.net. 热乎 at the very least seems to be a fairly common term in spoken Mandarin.
    – HAL
    Jan 19, 2014 at 7:14
  • 1
    @QuestionOverflow Not sure about geographical distribution but I've heard them a lot in Beijing.
    – NS.X.
    Jan 21, 2014 at 23:17

4 Answers 4


In Classical Chinese, the word 乎has several other uses besides as an interrogative marker. In Ch 27 of ‘Classical Chinese, A Basic Reader’ by Yuan, Tang and Geiss, it occurs with an adjective: 巍巍乎若泰山 ‘solemn and majestic like Mount Tai’ (referring to lute playing). They describe 乎 here as ‘an enclitic particle attached to an adjective to intensify or emphasize its meaning.’ (Glossary, p. 110.)

The 漢語大字典 (p. 19) gives a similar example from the 論語: 郁郁乎文哉! ‘What elegant words!’ There might be a link here with another use of 乎 as an exclamatory particle.

Yet another (maybe more prominent) use of 乎 is as a variant of the coverb 於, which marks locative complements and can basically be translated as an English preposition like at, in, to or from, depending on the main verb. (See Pulleyblank, ‘Outline of Classical Chinese Grammar’, p. 53 f.) One modern item on the list seems to work this way. With 近, we find both 近乎 and 近於 with the meaning ‘close to, bordering on’. The FLTRP Chinese-English dictionary gives these examples: 近乎荒謬 ‘bordering on the absurd’ and 近於荒唐 (same gloss).

So, here are two possible classical sources for 乎 as an adjectival suffix. Probably in the majority of cases it is emphatic, but with 近 it functions as the head of a complement clause. In modern Mandarin it may well have taken on additional meanings or connotations.


乎, or 乎乎 are used to emphasize the vivid-ity of a scene. For example, 饭还热乎着呢。---The rice is still (vigorously, with steam forming above it like clouds/冒着热气) hot!

Also we have the noun form of 热乎, which is 热乎劲(儿)

温乎,確乎 i believe these 2 to be only used in classical texts.

玄乎,忙乎,晕乎,近乎 I am not sure how these come from, but since they are sth 不明觉厉, it might just because they are hard to understand so that we use this form.

傻乎乎 not only shows vividuty, but also gives a feeling of being a very honest and cute (= = It is hard to explain what the standard of cute is for Chinese) person.

Note: In the south, we hardly use these words, especially when we speak southern dialects.


According to the explanation given by zdic.net:


here in 热乎,確乎,玄乎,晕乎,近乎,热乎乎,傻乎乎 is used after adjective or adverb. has no meaning here.

I don't know any relation to the usage of interrogative marker. is a kind of 虚词. is used as 语气词、介词.


From Kang Xi Dictionary

乎 hū 〈后缀〉

(1) 单用或叠用在单音或叠音的形容词后面。如:许多新事物,确乎到处可见;我心里热乎乎的;他胖乎乎的

(2) 用在动词或副词后面,构成新的动词或副词。如:他对这点事却不在乎;几乎人人都称赞他

(3) 用在形容词后面,单独不能翻译


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