I know that daughter in Chinese is 女儿, and son is 儿子. A little side-question: Why isn't "son" 男儿?

My main question is this one though: apart from son and daughter stated above, what are the corresponding words (specifically or in common, please make sure to explain this) for these terms? And are there rules worth to be mentioned about their use?

  • Man;
  • Woman;
  • Male;
  • Female;
  • I am not sure what your question is. Are you just asking for a translation to those terms?
    – Orion
    Dec 29, 2011 at 20:54
  • 1
    Why isn't "son" 男儿? A Chinese speaker might as well ask: 'I know that daughter in Italian is "figlia", and son is "figlio". Why isn't woman "uoma" if man is "uomo"'?
    – Orion
    Dec 29, 2011 at 20:56
  • @NullUserException They can ask that in the Italian SE when it enters Beta eheheh :D Of course my "why" is a referment to possible etymology information and not to be taken as "Why are you doing that?"
    – Alenanno
    Dec 29, 2011 at 21:17
  • @NullUserException: it seems to me that you are replying this as if you were insulted by the question. Of course you can ask why it's Donna and not Uoma, I actually would like to hear about that :D. I guess an answer to both questions is that languages are not Boolean logic, they are languages. But nevertheless you can ask it.
    – Petruza
    Dec 29, 2011 at 22:19
  • @拳拳恳 Not all, I was just think it's one of those questions which has an answer that's lost in time.
    – Orion
    Dec 29, 2011 at 22:53

3 Answers 3

  • Man 男人
  • Woman 女人
  • Male 男(性)
  • Female 女(性)
  • Son 儿子
  • Daughter 女儿

Male and Female when used alone to refer to people, may be translated to 男性 and 女性. 男 and 女 are not often used alone, except in some forms. 男 and 女 can be used (in form of supplementary description) to form other word as "male teacher" "男教师".

  • I've seen the 教,师 characters in Jiaoshou and Laoshi, but never together. Does it have a particular meaning or just teacher in general?
    – Petruza
    Dec 29, 2011 at 22:21
  • 2
    @拳拳恳 It does not have special meaning. This is a common word widely used china, more formal the 老师. We have a holiday for teachers (September 10th) call 教师节. It is not used with a surname though: x王教师 x李教师 are not correct, only 王老师 李老师
    – fefe
    Dec 30, 2011 at 1:28
  • 1
    @拳拳恳 Both 教师 and 老师 mean teacher, but when you call someone that is a teacher, you would not say 教师, but 老师. For example, you are a student, and you greet teacher Li in the morning. You would say 李老师,早上好. It's wrong to say 李教师,早上好.
    – Huang
    Dec 30, 2011 at 1:30
  • It's also important to note 男子漢 can be used to refer to the male gender in general (I'm not sure if 女子漢 is applicable in the same context). It should also be worth mentioning that 男孩(儿) and 女孩(儿) refers (young) boy and (young) girl, respectively.
    – Krazer
    Jan 2, 2012 at 6:11
  • @Krazer : Well, 男子汉 is not used to refer to the male gender in general. It is used to only refer to people (male) who is capable to take responsibilities (sorry this may be not precise). There no "女子汉" in Chinese language, but there is "女强人". (I'm not sure if they can form a pair). He only asked four terms, the addition two in my answer are from his original (before his edit) question. If to add more, I don't know to what extent I should answer.
    – fefe
    Jan 2, 2012 at 6:34

It's hard for average Chinese to answer the etymology of the words, I think. Why isn't "son" 男儿? For me, I would say because "男儿" has another meaning in both classic and modern Chinese.

男儿 young man, vital man.

男儿何不带吴钩,收取关山五十州. By the poet 李贺 in 唐 Dynasty

nán ér hé bù dài wú gōu ,shōu qŭ guān shān wŭ shí zhōu.

As a man, why not I take the sharp swords to retrieve the lost lands?

In classic Chinese,

子 infant, child

儿 teenager, son

女 daughter, female(gender)

In modern chinese(actually, in vernacular Chinese from 宋 dynasty), 子 and 儿 are common suffix words. I believe this is how 女儿 and 儿子 evovle.


On the subject of 子 and 儿, they both have the meaning of "son".

Sons were the shit! Old China was a male oriented society, just like most other societies older than 80 years. Sons were the privileged kind of children, and really the only children that mattered. So if you have limited resources, these will be spent on the sons, as an investment for the future. Sons could study, make money, carry on the name of the family etc. A blessing to newly weds is 早生贵子(or 族), which is hoping for the birth of a son.

So a 女儿 originally means a "female son". A few generations back, some families didnt even bother with naming their daughters properly (as can be read in Wild Swans).

  • Yeah, I believe this is a case of markedness. Jun 20, 2012 at 17:24

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