How many loanwords in Chinese have Chinese equivalents?

Example: 三文鱼 is a loanword, borrowed from English, meaning salmon, but Chinese also has the word 鲑鱼 meaning salmon.

Are there a lot of these kinds of word-sets?

  • Yes there are!(But don't expect me to list all of them) Jun 27, 2014 at 18:10
  • Bob, you're so zealous.
    – Mou某
    Jun 28, 2014 at 1:56
  • Is that a good thing or a bad thing? Jun 28, 2014 at 1:57

5 Answers 5


I'm not sure where you could get an accurate count for how many there are. Considering that loanwords have been coming into Chinese for thousands of years, it definitely won't be a trivial task.

There is certainly quite a few, however, not all of which is current/widespread/universal. I'll list some here, and edit more in if I think of any later:

  • Angel: 安琪兒 = 天使
  • Bacon: 培根 = 煙肉
  • Blog: 博客 / 部落格 = 網誌
  • Boycott: 杯葛 = 抵制
  • Bus: 巴士 = 公共汽車
  • Bye-Bye: 掰掰 = 再見
  • Camera: 開麥拉 / 卡麥拉 = 照相機
  • Cheese: 芝士 / 起司 / 起士 = 奶酪 / 乳酪
  • Cream: 克林姆 = 奶油
  • Copy: 拷貝 = 複製
  • Daddy: 爹地 = 爸爸
  • E-mail: 伊媚兒 / 依妹兒 = 電子郵件
  • Engine: 引擎 = 發動機 / 動力機 / 機
  • Fillet: 菲力 =
  • Gas: 瓦斯 = 天然氣
  • (House) Party: 轟趴 = 聚會
  • Index: 引得 = 索引 / 檢目 / 總檢
  • Laser: 雷射 = 激光
  • Logic: 邏輯 = 理則
  • Mommy: 媽咪 = 媽媽
  • Motel: 摩鐵 = 汽車旅館
  • Mini: 迷你 =
  • Party: 派對 = 舞會 / 聚會 / 聯歡會
  • Polish: 泡立水 = 蟲膠清漆 / 酒精清漆
  • Rifle: 來福槍 = 步槍
  • Romantic: 羅曼蒂克 = 浪漫
  • Sardine: 沙丁魚 = 鰛 / 鰯
  • Sauce: 沙司 =
  • Sauna: 桑拿 = 蒸氣浴
  • Scooter: 速可達 = 輕機車
  • Shampoo: 香波 = 洗髮精
  • Shopping: 血拼 = 逛街購物
  • Show: = 節目
  • Tank: 坦克 = 戰車
  • Taxi: 的士 = 計程車 / 出租車
  • Tobacco: 淡巴菰 = 菸草
  • Typhoon: 颱風 = 颶風
  • Quduq: 胡同 / 衚衕 = 小巷
  • おばさん: 歐巴桑 = 老太婆
  • おじさん: 歐吉桑 = 老頭子
  • パチンコ: 柏青哥 / 扒金宫 = 彈珠機
  • たたみ: 塌塌米 = 疊蓆
  • 5
    Note some of the loanwords in this list seem exclusively used in Taiwan (such as the Japanese loanwords) while some others are from old Shanghai pidgin English and is widely used across China today.
    – NS.X.
    Jun 27, 2014 at 18:54
  • Hmm, I thought 歐巴桑/歐吉桑 has some currency on the mainland (or at least in Hong Kong), and that pachinko and 塌塌米 are fairly standard. Is that not the case?
    – Semaphore
    Jun 27, 2014 at 19:04
  • 1
    I can't speak for Hong Kong or even Southern China, but in Beijing, 欧巴桑/欧吉桑 are only known to fans of Taiwan TV shows and ACG (Anime, Cartoon, Games) community, even within which very few people know the word 柏青哥. Some loanwords are hardly understood and almost never used such as 開麥拉, 克林姆 and 沙司.
    – NS.X.
    Jun 27, 2014 at 20:04
  • You listed typhoon here. Are you claiming 台风 is a transliteration? AFAIK, the origins of both "Typhoon" and "台风" are disputed, but it doesn't seem likely that the Chinese is from the English. Jun 28, 2014 at 0:33
  • 3
    胡同 is a Mongolian loan too - for I guess what Chinese would call 小巷
    – Mou某
    Jun 28, 2014 at 10:23

Adding to the previous list:

Bowling: 保龄球 bao ling qiu 滾木球
Buffet: 蒲飞 pu fei 自助餐
Calorie: 卡路里 ka lu li 热量单位
Cartoon: 卡通 ka tong 漫画
Motor: 摩托 mo tuo 电动机
Sundae: 新低 xin di 水果奶油,冰淇淋
T-Shirt: T-血 T-xue 短袖汗衫, 短袖圆领衫
Toast: 多士,吐司 duo shi, tu si 烤面包
Vitamin: 维他命 wei ta ming 维生素

  • Isn't 漫画 also a Japanese loanword?
    – Colin
    Jul 18, 2016 at 17:06

During the May Fourth Movement, many terms were "imported" from Japan to enrich the Chinese vocabulary for translation of Western idea. Not to mention that China, Hong Kong and Taiwan have been different translation for the same English word, for example:

Cheese = 芝士 (HK) / 起司 (Taiwan) / 奶酪 (China)

Toast = 多士 (HK) / 吐司 (Taiwan) / 烤面包 (China)

Hence, it is very difficult to come up with a definite answer to your question.


If I read it right, @user3306356's question is whether there are a lot of word-sets comprising a word that has long existed in Chinese and another word that is a loanword from another language representing the same concept.

In this sense, I will say there are not a lot of these kinds of word-sets. Anyway, if there is already a native Chinese word for a certain concept, why bother borrowing a new one from another language?

To elaborate on this question, I think we need to distinguish between loanword, calque, free translation, and phono-semantic matching.

A loanword is a word adopted from one language (the donor language) and incorporated into a different, recipient language without translation. That is, only the pronunciation of the word is somewhat reserved, and you can't reason about its meaning from the Chinese characters makeing up the word. Sofa = 沙发 is of this kind.

A calque or loan translation is a word or phrase borrowed from another language by literal, word-for-word, or root-for-root translation. E-mail = 电子邮件 and skyscraper = 摩天楼 are of this kind.

Chinese seldom borrow new words from other languages for something already existed in Chinese. There are a few word-sets of this kind, and the loanwords are used just because they sound fancy or have an exotic feeling. Bacon: 培根 = 煙肉, Daddy: 爹地 = 爸爸, Cheese: 芝士 / 起司 / 起士 = 奶酪 / 乳酪 are of this kind. The Chinese words before the equals sign are loanwords (phonetic translation).

When new concepts are introduced to China, it's most common for Chinese to use existing Chinese morphemes to coin new words for the concepts. Chinese love free translation and phono-semantic matching much more than phonetic translation. Anyway, a word made up of native Chinese morphemes is much more comprehensible than a word made up of some characters having nothing to do with its meaning. At first, a phonetic translation and a free translation or phono-semantic matching may exist at the same time and compete with each other, and usually the free translation or phono-semantic version will beat the phonetic translation at last.

Many word-sets listed by @Semaphore are just different Chinese translations of the same new concept imported from other languages, not word-sets made up of a loanword and a native Chinese word for a certain concept that has long existed in Chinese.

Take Laser: 雷射 = 激光 as an example. Laser is invented in the USA, so it's a new concept from English. Only the concept of laser was borrowed, not the word itself. 雷射 is a phono-semantic matching of laser, 激光 is a free translation of the same word. But neither the word 雷射 nor 激光 existed in Chinese before laser was invented. So this word-set doesn't conform to @user3306356's standard.

Taxi: 的士 = 計程車 / 出租車 is similar to Laser: 雷射 = 激光. 的士 is a phonetic translation of taxi and is mostly used in Hong Kong. 計程車 is a free translation of taxi and is used in Taiwan. 出租車 is another free translation of taxi and is used in mainland China. The concept of taxi is imported from western world. 的士, 計程車, 出租車 are just different translations of taxi, none of these words existed in Chinese language before the concept of taxi was introduced to China. So this word-set doesn't conform to @user3306356's standard either.


Again, I couldn't comment due to not enough reputation so I'm posting an answer here.

Romantic: 羅曼蒂克 = 浪漫 is incorrect. they are both translated by sound. It is said a Japanese (actually a very famous one), Shouseki Natsume (夏目漱石), created the Sino-Japanese word 浪漫(ロマン) from the first moras of romantic(ロマンチック). While who did it is still debated, it is certain this is a loan word that is translated by its sound then clipped. In Japanese, ロマン is pronounced almost identical to Chinese 罗曼.

I must also comment: This question is asking for an endless list. What's the point? Can I create a question that ask for every Chinese characters ever existed?

  • Not true. 浪漫 is a Chinese phrase attested since the Song Dynasty 【宋·蘇軾·與孟震同遊常州僧舍】年來轉覺此生浮 又作三吳浪漫遊. Though the meaning was different, by the Qing Dynasty one could glimpse its modern usage 【清·生花夢】魏紫姚黃 玉樓金帶 真個錦蔚霞蒸 十分浪漫. The clipped loanword is actually just 羅曼 (attested here and here). You could argue it influenced the modern meaning of 浪漫, but that does not make the latter a loan word.
    – Semaphore
    Jun 29, 2014 at 10:21
  • I'll use Chinese since it's already off topic and this is easier for me. For all English reading people should know, I acknowledge his statements and take my argument back.我查了一下生花梦的上下文,感觉和现今所用的含义相似,但我不会用equivalent一词形容。我视日语汉字为单独的书写系统,同样的汉字,借用的意思在我看来是借词。虽然这个跟“以上主义”之于“民主主义”(另一个我不赞同是源自汉语的例子)相比差别小一些,但既然1673年离明治大正还是有一段距离,我想在找到其他出处之前暂时保留自己的主张。
    – Zuoanqh
    Jul 2, 2014 at 14:42
  • 嗯。我并不是想说生花梦中的浪漫,与现代的浪漫相同,但看来有其相似之处。四百年间有如此变化应算合理,当然这个变化大概也受romance影响。我想表达的意思,只是浪漫乃中文中既有的语词,而非从日本引进的和制汉语。反之民主一词本非汉语所有,见于古文中的民主皆为民之主之意。相较之下我想前者不能算是借词。
    – Semaphore
    Jul 3, 2014 at 4:05

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.