My context is an old, untranslated flashcard I've found. My guess it means "like a feather", referring to low weight and/or susceptibility to outside force.

What are meaningful contexts and according translations for 飘然而至?

  • Better have the whole sentence.....
    – Henry HO
    Commented Aug 12, 2014 at 2:44

3 Answers 3


It means "to breeze (in)".

To examine this in more detail, the phrase 飘然而至 simply means "to arrive" in a 飘然 manner", and 飘然 has a couple of interconnected meanings:

  1. very quickly
  2. unrestrained, unencumbered; carefree
  3. flowing loosely

A good overall translation would be "to breeze (in)". However, the precise translation can be adjusted depending on the context. For example:

  • 这寒冷的冬季飘然而至 -> "The cold winter arrived swiftly."
  • 凤凰涅槃, 飘然而至 -> "A phoenix flies over nimbly."
  • 绝世美少女飘然而至 -> "A peerless beauty breezes in."
  • 飘然而至的感伤 -> "Sentimental sadness sweeps over (me)." (inspired by @TommieC.'s answer)

A search of my iPhone idioms app (Wise Talk) shows a very closely related phrase. I have noticed that many idioms have regional variations (expressions of similar ideas). and y Your phrase sounds as if it has a similar meaning is one of the idiomatic variants with the same meaning.


Meaning: Arising involuntarily, spontaneous, to spring up unbidden (of emotion).


Revised to reflect Semaphore's comment:

... 油然而生 is primarily about emotions, while 飘然而至 can be emotions or motions or events ...

BTW - I have noticed a great many idiomatic phrases that are dissimilar by only one or sometimes two characters. I had wondered why for quite some time and I had chalked this up to simply regional differences but Semaphore's comment has made me realize the need to examine the differences between such similar phrases in more detail as the subtle implications can change when one is used in different contexts.

  • It's not actually a regional variation, its just a different phrase that overlaps a little; 油然而生 is primarily about emotions, while 飘然而至 can be emotions or motions or events. As far as emotions/feelings are concerned, you are probably arguably correct about them being synonyms.
    – Semaphore
    Commented Aug 11, 2014 at 14:06
  • 1
    @Semaphore - Thanks for making that point. It's really made me realize the need to examine those idioms (which have closely related alternatives) for appropriate context. See edit.
    – Tommie C.
    Commented Aug 11, 2014 at 14:22
  • No worries. If it helps, you can somewhat gleam at the meaning by examining the roots: 油然, meaning "naturally", and , meaning "to happen/create". Also, +1 for a more accurate answer after the edit.
    – Semaphore
    Commented Aug 11, 2014 at 14:29

It means coming (to you) like by slow flying, flying in the way like feather, snow, or butterfly.

It's not an idiom, usually used in literature:

  • 至 means come
  • 飘然 means “like flying”.
  • 而 is a linking word.

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