What is the correct terms for both a roadside gutter and a gutter on a roof?

For the sake of making me look bad, my guess would be 水沟 but I've seen that applied to a large canal so I'm not sure if it is the right choice.

4 Answers 4


I don't know this word, so I consult it on the online dictionary and I found 排水沟 for the gutter at the roadsides and 檐沟 or 天沟 for the gutter at the roof.

Actually,it's the first time for me to see 檐沟 or 天沟. After understanding what they mean,I think I would use 排水沟 for both cases.排水沟 means "a ditch to drain out the water".

  • 1
    I googled (image search) for 檐沟 and 天沟; the results show that these words indeed refer to a gutter. An image search for 排水沟 returns all manner of storm drains (also the ones lining streets), which seems to be exactly what the OP is after.
    – Bjorn
    Jan 11, 2012 at 12:14
  • I also came across 地沟. Do you know how 地沟 differs from 排水沟? Do they mean the same thing or are there subtle differences between the two?
    – Bjorn
    Jan 11, 2012 at 12:24
  • 1
    @Bjorn As the name implies,排水沟(排水 means to drain water) is a ditch to drain out water. 地 means ground, so 地沟 means a ditch underground, it could be used to drain water, in this case, it's a 排水沟,but underground;it could also be used to hold the cables or tubes underground,in this case, it's not a 排水沟
    – Huang
    Jan 11, 2012 at 12:34
  • Thanks Huang, that perfectly clears up the nuances between the two terms.
    – Bjorn
    Jan 11, 2012 at 12:46

For a gutter on a roof, I'm sure 屋檐 (wu yan) is correct, or at least one correct option.

On the footpath however, I'm really not sure, and none of my Chinese friends seem to have a good answer either. As far as I know 排水沟 is more like a drain where the water goes down from on the street (with a grate on top of it - I'm sure you know what I mean), and perhaps 阴沟 is the best answer for gutter on the street. I'm not very confident about that though.

  • After looking up 屋檐 I get the impression this is not what the OP is after. 屋檐 seems to mean "eaves" rather than "gutter". 阴沟 seems to me best translated as "sewer". Just for your information, the grated inlet on a street you referred to (排水沟) can be called a "storm drain" in English.
    – Bjorn
    Jan 11, 2012 at 12:04
  • I've heard Chinese people use 屋檐 before, and just checked with several native speakers who said the same thing, so I'm pretty certain it's one option, although possibly not in use all over China.
    – Ciaocibai
    Jan 12, 2012 at 3:28
  • Regional variation could be an explanation. Perhaps it could also be explained by formal/technical versus colloquial use, where people have come to use 屋檐 as a synonym for 檐沟 in daily speech.
    – Bjorn
    Jan 13, 2012 at 18:54

Professional interpreters often use Google as a way of determining which wording or term is more prevalent. Looking at the gutter question, the first thing to do it link it with another word that one is more or less certain is correct. In this case, I'm using 下水管 (downspout) because that will rule out hits that have to do with street drains and the like.

排水槽(Gutter) and 下水管(Down Spouts): 9230 hits
檐沟 (gutter, [yáNGŌU]) and 下水管: 15700 hits

Note that I'm searching only on the Chinese terms, with each individual term in quotes. Otherwise the results won't mean much. (Even searching in that way, it's only a guideline, not an absolute; you have to consider where the pages come from, though searching for Chinese usage it usually is not much of a problem. If you're trying to confirm an English term starting from Chinese, it's more difficult because there are a lot of non-native speakers posting Web pages in English and their wrong usage can skew results.)

On Alibaba (a site for export products) there is: 天沟外转角90°,檐沟,落水管,下水管,排水槽 which would suggest that both terms are used. The discrepancy in the Google results isn't that great, so most likely either one would be fine.

If I were in the booth doing a job where people were talking about gutters, I'd probably use yáNGŌU based on this. But I'd listen during the coffee break to hear what people were saying when they commented on the morning's session.

  • Professionals shouldn't use google counts: meta.japanese.stackexchange.com/questions/522/… as for Chinese terms I would use baidu or sogou (see also meta.english.stackexchange.com/questions/397/…)
    – 龚元程
    Jan 11, 2012 at 14:52
  • Are you a professional translator? Because I've been one for 25 years. We do use Google as an indication of what is the most common term, but we use specific search techniques, not simply putting in the Chinese word and seeing how many times it appears. If you do not understand how to do such a search, it would seem unreliable to you as a layperson. Jan 17, 2012 at 3:19
  • I've done some remunerated translation and interpret jobs (and I studied translation) but I cannot call myself a professional translator. However if you read the links above, you'll get advice from other professionals. You're free to follow them or not.
    – 龚元程
    Jan 21, 2012 at 3:29

iciba.com gives:

  1. (路边) 排水沟, 阴沟

阴沟 doesn't look very apt since it literally means 'closed gutter' (i.e. 'sewer').

  1. (屋顶的) 天沟, 檐槽, 檐沟

This is the same as answers given by others, except that it adds 檐槽, which looks like a good option as 槽 means something like 'trough'.

英汉大词典 (paper dictionary) gives:

  1. (道路的) 排水边沟,街沟,明沟

明沟 is an open gutter, which is what we want.

  1. 天沟,檐槽

I'd also like to point out that Chinese is a great language for having several alternative names for the same thing. Of course it can happen in any language, but for some reason (the vast area over which its spoken? the flexible way that vocabulary is created by combining words together?) it seems to be particularly common in Chinese.

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