Which word should I use for "spoon", as a noun or as a measure.

  • They're just two names of the same object. It's just a matter of regional usage and individual preference.
    – user58955
    Mar 23, 2014 at 12:01
  • 2
    To me (from Southern China) however, 勺子 means something larger than 调羹 (actually my vocab is 瓢羹), that is, suppose you have a big pot of soup, and you use a 勺子 (such as a ladle, called 瓢 in my hometown vocab) to distribute the soup into small bowls for everyone at the table, and then each person uses a 调羹 (tablespoon) to pass the soup into his mouth.
    – user58955
    Mar 23, 2014 at 12:05
  • 1
    To be safe, say 汤匙 for tablespoon but it sounds a bit formal; widely used in recipes though, a tablespoon of sugar = 一汤匙糖
    – user58955
    Mar 23, 2014 at 12:09
  • 1
    I've also heard 汤勺 get used for spoon ...
    – Ming
    Mar 24, 2014 at 0:22
  • I would say 调羹 for china spoon and 汤匙 for both china and metal tablespoon.
    – Yafufu
    Mar 24, 2014 at 10:43

3 Answers 3


form the function point of view, 勺子, 瓢 and 调羹 are the same, they are a sort of object used to get water.

from the use cases point of view, 瓢 is used to get water only and not suitable to be appear on a table since it's too large, and 勺子 is used to get soup, 调羹 is used to get whatever food in your bowl. so typically in size 瓢 > 勺子 > 调羹, BUT, there's no limitation that you must use 勺子 to get soup, it's just the table manner.

BTW, 瓢 originally stands for an tool made of very old calabash which is used to get water. when a calabash gets old, it will be very hard, so people cut it in the middle and a calabash becomes two 瓢.


It should be 勺子 (or just 勺 as a measure).

调羹 has similar meaning with 勺子, but is partial to the spoon used for eat soup.
And 调羹 usually used in southern dialect.


Beijing dialect:

勺儿 sháo er

勺子 sháo zi4

You can both use it as the name of a tableware or other instruments resembling the shape of a spoon.

You can also use it as the a measure.

Formal Chinese

勺 sháo

匙 chí

You can also use these two in the scenarios you mentioned. However, they are more formal, and normally used in written or in a setting formal oral language are required (e.g. TV program).

Mandarine spoken in southern and mid China:

勺子 sháo zi3

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