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Questions tagged [meaning]

Questions about understanding the meaning of words, phrases, etc. For in-context meaning, use [meaning-in-context].

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2 answers
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Why use 非 and 亚 for continent names?

Why was 非 chosen for 非洲 (Africa) and 亚 chosen for 亚洲 (Asia)? I can't find a particular reason to use these characters.
going's user avatar
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27 votes
14 answers
53k views

How offensive is 他妈的?

How offensive is the expression 他妈的? What is an English expression with a similar degree of offensiveness? In what situations is this expression appropriate / not appropriate?
jsj's user avatar
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26 votes
10 answers
37k views

What is the difference between 哈哈, 呵呵, 嘻嘻, and 嘿嘿?

I always see 哈哈, 呵呵, 嘻嘻, and 嘿嘿 in WeChat, QQ, etc, but I don't really understand the subtle differences between them and when to use them appropriately, especially 呵呵. I use 呵呵 myself now, but I'm ...
Suragch's user avatar
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24 votes
12 answers
6k views

Why do native speakers often say a character has "no meaning"?

Many times I will know all the characters in a name but one & I'll ask what that one character means. 9 times out of 10 the response is, "That character has no meaning". While it might be true ...
aelephant's user avatar
  • 1,160
24 votes
5 answers
54k views

What is the exact meaning of 吃豆腐, and where does the expression come from?

I'm not talking about eating tofu, but the expression that means something more like taking advantage of someone. What exactly does 吃豆腐 mean, and where does this expression come from?
Ciaocibai's user avatar
  • 4,636
20 votes
8 answers
10k views

What's the difference between 星期X and 周X?

When accepting an answer, I noticed that the example used the word 周三 for Wednesday, but in my grammar, the days of the week are 星期一, 星期二, etc... They seem both correct but, what's the difference? ...
Alenanno's user avatar
  • 6,495
19 votes
3 answers
6k views

Is there a literal meaning of 对不起?

对不起 is one of the first phrases any student learns. We learn it as a set phrase, and don't question why it has this meaning. But we also learn the phrases; 听得懂 - "hear and understand" 听不懂 - "...
Matthew Rudy 马泰's user avatar
17 votes
8 answers
3k views

Sheep or goat? 一只羊跑过来

In the sentence: 一只羊跑过来 Would a Chinese person typically assume this is a goat or a sheep?
going's user avatar
  • 10.2k
17 votes
9 answers
13k views

Is Sunday 星期天 or 星期日?

I am using the ChineseSkill app to learn Chinese and I learned that 'Sunday' in Chinese is 星期天 (xīngqītiān). However, sometimes on the internet I see 星期日 (xīngqīrì). Are both correct? Why is there ...
Leonel.L's user avatar
  • 173
17 votes
4 answers
7k views

Are 明白 and 懂 synonymous?

Are 明白 and 懂 synonymous? If not, could anyone please elaborate on the difference along with some examples of usage?
Icarus's user avatar
  • 315
16 votes
3 answers
1k views

Why is 月 used when speaking about anatomy?

One thing I've been curious about while learning Chinese is the use of 月 in many 汉字 representing anatomical features (for example, 脸, 腰, or 腿). What is the etymology of the use of 月 as a radical?
八带永's user avatar
  • 555
15 votes
14 answers
62k views

Does 危机 really mean both crisis and opportunity?

A lot of people, mostly those who haven't studied Chinese, like to claim something along the lines of "In Chinese, the word for crisis 危机, also bears the meaning of opportunity." This is usually ...
Lars Andren's user avatar
  • 1,438
15 votes
11 answers
98k views

Special meanings applied to numbers 0 - 10

From what I understand: 4 or 四 means death 8 is similar to 发 as in 发财 9 is somehow related to the emporer or is the emporer's number Can someone please provide the meanings (if they exist) for each ...
going's user avatar
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15 votes
7 answers
2k views

Why do people say 慢点儿阿("man dianer a") when you leave their shop?

When you leave a shop, you often hear the shopkeeper saying something like "man dianer a", which sounds like 慢点儿阿 (something parents say to their kids to get them to walk more slowly [even if they ...
Becky 李蓓's user avatar
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15 votes
2 answers
209k views

Very frequently used word in Mandarin that sounds like "nica" or "nigah"

I work in a group where I am the only person that does not speak Chinese, thus I hear Chinese conversations all day every day. I've noticed that there's a word which is used extremely frequently, in ...
Hack-R's user avatar
  • 261
14 votes
4 answers
1k views

Difference between 对 and 双

For a pair of rabbits there is: 一对兔 yī duì tù And for a pair of shoes there is: 一双鞋 yī shuāng xié And for twins there is: 双胞胎 shuāngbāotāi How can I be sure when to use 对 and when to use 双?...
going's user avatar
  • 10.2k
13 votes
4 answers
24k views

Why 干菜类 was mistakenly translated to Fuck Vegetables?

In the following famous sign which appeared in some supermarket in China: why 干菜类 was mistakenly translated to Fuck Vegetables instead of Dried Vegetables? Is there any hidden meaning in it? Source: ...
kenorb's user avatar
  • 233
13 votes
9 answers
678 views

自习 vs 自学: what's the difference?

What's the difference among: 自习 (zì xí) 自学 (zì xué) They should be something like "to study by oneself", "to study on one’s own", but still, I don't get the difference.
Starnuto di topo's user avatar
13 votes
6 answers
33k views

What's the meaning of 缘分 in English?

I asked a similar question on English Language & Usage site, but no one seems to come up with a good answer for me. I have decided to give our Chinese site a try. Bonus: how will you describe the ...
Terry Li's user avatar
  • 1,814
13 votes
4 answers
19k views

Differences between 咱们 and 我们?

我们 [wǒmen] and 咱们 [zánmen] both means: we, but when I should use 咱们, 我们? What is the difference?
Erick Asto Oblitas's user avatar
13 votes
8 answers
8k views

What is the difference between 通常,经常,and 常常?

What is the difference between 通常,经常,and 常常? I hear them a lot in conversational Chinese, but I can't pick out the difference in meaning. The dictionaries I've checked don't seem to agree on their ...
Kurtz's user avatar
  • 389
12 votes
4 answers
6k views

Differences between 饭,菜, 食 and 餐

What are the differences between 饭,菜, 食 and 餐?Basically all mean food. But I know they are sometimes used in different curcimstances. What is then the most common word for food: 菜 or 食 ? 我吃过四川菜。Also ...
user3491's user avatar
  • 189
12 votes
7 answers
2k views

How gender specific in writing is the character 他

A couple of years ago I wrote this comment below an answer: On mainland China 他 is used for both male and female. I've only seen 她 used as a stylistic thing for advertising and some old formal ...
going's user avatar
  • 10.2k
12 votes
5 answers
3k views

Why does 有机 as in 有机食品 mean organic?

有 and 机 are some of the first characters we learn in Chinese, but only recently did I find out that they mean "organic" when put together. Can anyone explain why this is?
Ciaocibai's user avatar
  • 4,636
12 votes
2 answers
994 views

How was 辣 used before the Columbian Exchange?

I'm assuming the character (and word/morpheme) 辣 is not a recent creation and goes back far in history. These days it means "chili/chilli", "pepper", "spicy". But chili peppers only came to China ...
hippietrail's user avatar
  • 4,045
12 votes
1 answer
703 views

How come 東/东 has a second meaning 'owner/master' or 'host'?

Examples include 房东 or 财东 and 东道, respectively. What is the etymology behind this additional meaning?
imrek's user avatar
  • 7,188
12 votes
3 answers
341 views

Is 了 a pictogram (象形字)?

當我看 Hinen 的答案時,看到近代書將「了」分為象形字。 大概是因為《說文解字》曾提及「象形」二字如下: 了,尦也。从子,無臂。象形。 作者許慎的意思應該是將「了」判為象形字。 《說文解字》的序文有象形字的定義: 象形者,畫成其物,隨體詰詘,日月是也。 象形字是依物體的彎曲樣子將它的形狀畫出來,譬如,日和月。 也就是說,象形字是直接描繪該物體。 但是,段玉裁的《說文解字注》...
user16115's user avatar
  • 1,599
11 votes
19 answers
5k views

Why does 我是长头发 mean "I have long hair" and not "I am long hair"?

I was just chatting with a teacher here at LTL Mandarin, and she said: 我是长头发。 I have long hair. (Not: I am long hair.) This is perplexing for me, since it's inconsistent with e.g. 我是人。 I am human. ...
Becky 李蓓's user avatar
  • 16.6k
11 votes
10 answers
2k views

Does 「你的中文是在哪里学的?」mean "How did you study Chinese?" or "Where did you study Chinese?"

Recently I left the following post on social media: 中国人:你的中文是在哪里学的? 我:在北京语言大学学的。 Just to clarify, I wrote both those sentences to express a regular conversation that I have with Chinese people. There ...
Kantura's user avatar
  • 2,146
11 votes
4 answers
3k views

What does the expression "孤男寡女" mean?

What does the expression "孤男寡女" (gū nán guǎ nǚ) mean, exactly? Does it have inherently negative connotations? As an aside, why does Google translate it as "Needing"?
Orion's user avatar
  • 1,841
11 votes
5 answers
2k views

What is the correct meaning of "孩子帶財"?

Many people interpret the Chinese proverb, 孩子帶財 as that children can bring the wealth to the family and improve the family economy. Therefore, many people do not agree with it. Because, the economy ...
user-487's user avatar
  • 1,974
11 votes
6 answers
2k views

Using 老头 / 老头子 when speaking to others

I'm trying to get some clarification on whether or not it is impolite to use 老头 / 老头子 when speaking outside a group of friends when referring to a third party. From my understanding 老头 is quite ...
going's user avatar
  • 10.2k
11 votes
5 answers
9k views

Why does the word 萌 mean "cute"?

A friend of mine said in a photo of me, my eyes looked very 萌(meng2). 你的眼睛很萌 My dictionary defines 萌 as; 萌 méng (动) sprout; bud; germinate But apparently in this context it means "...
Matthew Rudy 马泰's user avatar
11 votes
7 answers
7k views

Two terms for "According to" - What are the differences between 根据 and 按照?

根据 and 按照 can both function as a preposition that can be translated as according to. I imagine that the translation does not capture the individual character of each term. What nuances do the two ...
Bjorn's user avatar
  • 1,386
11 votes
4 answers
1k views

中东 - "Middle East" or "Eastern China"?

The dictionary lists both Middle East and Eastern China for 中东. Is one of these meanings more common? What would be a native speaker's first impression of the word? Does the meaning vary from mainland,...
jsj's user avatar
  • 3,455
11 votes
1 answer
706 views

Why does 息 mean news?

Why does 息 mean news? The chraracter's etymology suggest it means "rest" - "From nose indicating breath and also phonetic 自 and heart or chest 心. Meaning to rest." Source: http://chineseetymology....
coobit's user avatar
  • 2,073
11 votes
3 answers
691 views

Should 屋 and 居 use radical 户 instead of 尸?

户 means home. So these examples are not suprising: 房 fáng (house), 扁 biǎn (flat), 扇 shàn (fan [mostly used indoor]), 扉 fēi (door) 尸 means corpse, and it looks like it refers to tail or something ...
foobar's user avatar
  • 111
11 votes
3 answers
11k views

哪儿 vs. 哪里, Difference in Meaning?

Is there any difference in meaning between 哪儿 and 哪里? If not, then how did the two different words come to be employed? Does 儿 have a meaning, or is it just a sound? I know that there are many '...
user avatar
11 votes
3 answers
789 views

How to translate "很不起眼儿" in English

What's the best (传神) translation of "很不起眼儿" in English? 例句: 不认识他的人觉得他很不起眼儿,认识他的人觉得他很优秀。 辨析: A more formal term that related to "很不起眼儿" is "其貌不扬", but "其貌不扬" will normally be "很不起眼儿", yet "很不起眼儿" ...
xpt's user avatar
  • 295
11 votes
2 answers
2k views

Specifics of the idiom "四海一家"

There are several sayings and idioms similar to 四海一家 which reference "四海". Does the 四海 actually refer to 4 specific oceans such as the Indian, Pacific etc. or is it more of a metaphor for all of the ...
going's user avatar
  • 10.2k
11 votes
1 answer
10k views

Difference between 觉得 and 认为

I know both 觉得 and 认为 can be used to mean "to think", like: 你认为这篇文章怎么样? 你觉得这篇文章怎么样? But most people would translate 觉得 to "to feel". Does 觉得 express more of what someone thinks ...
Question Marks's user avatar
11 votes
2 answers
11k views

Who exactly is a 干妈

This dictionary translates 干妈 as "Godmother", and my pocket dictionary also gives "nominal mother". In English, "Godmother" and "Godfather" are very specific titles - Your Godparents are the people ...
jsj's user avatar
  • 3,455
11 votes
4 answers
3k views

What is the difference between 國語 and 普通話?

I am still a beginner, but after 1 year I'm still not sure about the difference. I've been talking with some citizens from China mainland on the Internet, when I mentioned that I'm learning 國語, I ...
Henry Kingston's user avatar
11 votes
2 answers
3k views

What is the difference between 有名,著名 and 闻名?

We know 名 means name or famous, but what is the subtle difference between 有名,著名 and 闻名?
Chinese.Tutor.Frank's user avatar
11 votes
3 answers
3k views

也 和 并 与 及 跟 而 同 difference? [closed]

I have read about connectives 也 和 并 与 及 and asked some questions about them but still I'm somewhat not satisfied with my understanding. Let me summarize my knowledge: 1. 与 connects: nouns only (...
coobit's user avatar
  • 2,073
10 votes
5 answers
4k views

A Complex Chinese Character (Characters Identified: 招財進寶)

I randomly saw this character on the blog a while ago and saved a image of it as shown below. Is this even a character? If so, what does it mean? When is it used? What was the origin of it? How do ...
Thomas Hsieh's user avatar
  • 3,297
10 votes
11 answers
4k views

What is the difference between 王 and 皇?

If I understand correctly, 王 means "king", "monarch" or "sovereign." I also see that 皇 means "emperor", "sovereign" or "ruler." So is 皇 higher than 王? Also, in the case of female monarchs (...
Flux's user avatar
  • 801
10 votes
6 answers
1k views

A unified theory of 就 meaning

就 always bothered me. I couldn't (and maybe still can't) get a hold of its meaning. By looking at many examples of the usage I came to realization that 就 marks a process of becoming a subject to or ...
coobit's user avatar
  • 2,073
10 votes
6 answers
1k views

犬子: who's the dog?

犬子 (literally, dog + son) is an archaic, self-depreciatory term to refer to your son (occasionally it's used to insult other people's sons). This answer raises a question though; who is the dog ...
congusbongus's user avatar
  • 8,612
10 votes
7 answers
2k views

早已 and 早就: what's the difference?

To my understanding, both hold the meaning of "already happened long ago". What are the nuances though? Are they interchangeable? Examples: 他早已打定主意了。 (He made up his mind long ago.) 他早就搬走了。 (He ...
Yoav Vollansky's user avatar

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