Yesterday, I celebrated Ramadan with a couple of friends and I was trying to explain what the celebration entailed in my diary. Could I use the term 斋戒 - the translation I found for "to fast" or is 禁食 more appropriate?

For example could I say, "每逢Ramadan大家都要从早上四点斋戒到晚上六点左右“

or would it be "从早上到晚上都要禁食”?

4 Answers 4

  • 禁食 - Forbidden to eat or drink. i.e. fasting.

  • 斋戒 - This word can have a different meaning according to different religions. For example:

    1. Islam - no food or drinks at all
    2. Christianity - no meat from warmblooded (i.e. fish / shrimps are allowed)
    3. Chinese Buddhism - no meat / alcohol and certain types of vegetable

Therefore, it depends on the situation where you will use the words.

  • 2
    Also, 禁食 can be used as say fasting on diet, while 斋戒 is usually a regilious terms.
    – Alex
    Commented Jul 29, 2014 at 21:12

斋戒 zhāijiè 动 ①(禁食荤、酒)abstain from meat, wine, etc. [when offering sacrifices to gods or ancestors] ②(封斋)fast 斋戒节 Ramadan

禁食 jìnshí 动 fast 禁食三日 three-day fast

and 斋戒 is more common to be used in a religious context.


The word you are looking for is 守斋.


to fast

守 = to observe (sth.)

斋 = fast

In verb form this is the most appropriate word for your sentence.


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  • Would anyone like to comment on this? It seems like other users have used both 禁食 and 斋戒 pretty comfortably in this context
    – Stephen
    Commented Aug 1, 2014 at 22:01
  • Here's an example: 斋月,对于穆斯林是一次进行宗教意识锻炼的良机,凡男满17岁、女满15岁的成年穆斯林,每年都要守斋一个月。
    – Mou某
    Commented Aug 1, 2014 at 23:20
  • Where did you find this? It looks super helpful
    – Stephen
    Commented Aug 2, 2014 at 14:11
  • @Stephen I've put five examples - including the one above - up top with links. This is what I've heard people using for 'to fast' when talking about 斋月 with Chinese people myself....
    – Mou某
    Commented Aug 3, 2014 at 11:33

禁食 literally means forbid eating/food, but the word doesn't specify anything about water. Usually when 禁食 is said, water is allowed. To say 'no food no water', you could say 禁食禁水.

斋戒 literally means restrained eating; swear off of (certain food). So as @Alex's answer suggested, it refers to different rules based on the occasion. Could be vegetarian, could be no pork, could be no food at all. This word is usually related to religious eating control; for non-religious courses (e.g. for health/medical concerns) I would use 限制饮食/控制饮食 instead.

Based on that, to answer your questions:

Could I say, "每逢Ramadan大家都要从早上四点斋戒到晚上六点左右“

Yes you could. But you may want to explain what type of food is forbidden in a follow-up sentence.

Or would it be "从早上到晚上都要禁食”?

That would work too, and 'no food at all' is clearly indicated.

  • Hi NSX I would like to check with you on the word 禁食. To my understand it is usually a terms used to refer to no food or drink; to forbid "eating", people will use 禁止進食 in specific. Note that 禁食 is a short form of 禁止進食 but are actually used in different circumstance. 禁水 on the other hand, is often used differently as well, it means "forbid the usage of water (to shower / watering flower / etc).
    – Alex
    Commented Jul 31, 2014 at 14:12
  • @Alex I don't feel the difference between 禁食 and 禁止禁食 like you do. Since not to take water is a much more difficult task than not to eat, in my experience it's made explicit all the time like when the doctor asks you not to drink water before blood test. Of course 禁水 can mean 'forbid to use water' depending on the context but I don't think that usage is exclusive.
    – NS.X.
    Commented Aug 1, 2014 at 0:56
  • NSX maybe it's just where I live that I see the difference, and that 禁水 will seldomly use for forbidden to drink (as it's included in 禁食). But I guess it makes sense to literally say 禁食禁水 = no food no drinks!
    – Alex
    Commented Aug 1, 2014 at 13:37
  • NS X how do you feel about 斋戒 being used as a verb? Does this feel appropriate/natural to you?
    – Stephen
    Commented Aug 1, 2014 at 22:00
  • @Stephen I think generally 斋戒 as a verb is unnatural, but you can make it work with some phrasing tricks, like '他每天早上四点到晚上六点都要斋戒' - this sentence is very acceptable in spoken language, though a simple grammatical analysis would reveal the issue.
    – NS.X.
    Commented Aug 2, 2014 at 0:11

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