Popular Online Chinese Slang: Phrases and Words You Need to Know
Think all you need you know about Chinese is reading up on books and newspapers?
Part of learning a new language is all about understanding its culture, and Chinese is no exception. So it’s pretty obvious that understanding Chinese slang is essential to understanding the language as a whole. It can also help deepen your knowledge of characters and their meanings. Plus, like we mentioned before, it’s quite fun.
We’re going to make an assumption here and say you spend the majority of your time online. If you’re navigating through Weibo or Wechat for example, not knowing even some Chinese slang can get you very lost. Words and phrases are changing fast just because some things go viral that fast.
Since we don’t want you scratching your head in confusion, we’ve compiled a list of more popular Chinese slang for you. As always, if you come across any new ones not listed, please let us know!
圣母 (shèng mǔ)
Literally meaning “holy mother” (referring to the Virgin Mary), online it refers to people as “saints”. Basically, it means people who can come across as being holier-than-thou, usually criticizing others for things such as their jokes, insensitive or inappropriate comments. You typically use 圣母 to talk about people who ruin all the fun, like a party pooper.
我爸是李刚 (wǒ bà shì Lǐ Gāng)
Translated, it means “My dad is Li Gang.” The phrase refers to an incident back in October 2010 where Li Qiming was driving his girlfriend while drunk. He hit two rollerskating girls while driving through Hebei University, and one of them died later. Li was stopped by witnesses as he was trying to leave the campus. He challenged people to sue him by saying “我爸是李刚!”
People use this phrase online as a joke to say they don’t need to adhere to any laws because they have government connections.
女汉子(nǚ hàn zi)
女汉子 often describes a manly woman who has some or all of the following traits: tough, independent, informal, open, forthright, fiery, less feminine, rude, the ability to take responsibility and does not care what she looks like. The closest phrase you might be familiar with is “tomboy” or “manly woman”.
If you look online, there is a lot of evidence that shows many women are proud to wear the 女汉子label.
喷子 (pēn zi)
Meaning “sprayer”, used a slang it talks about people who are “flamers”, people who constantly complain, bash or hate on others online.
白富美 (bái fù měi)
Literally meaning “white, rich, and beautiful”, it has become a popular internet meme which talks about an ideal woman. People usually refer to a woman’s complexion, overall appearance and wealth when describing the ideal girlfriend or wife. The male equivalent is “tall, rich and handsome” (高富帅).
高富帅 (gāo fù shuài)
Literally meaning “tall, rich, and handsome”, it has become a popular internet meme which refers to an ideal boyfriend or husband The opposite phrase is “short, ugly, and poor“ (高富帅).
矮丑穷 (ǎi chǒu qióng)
Another popular meme meaning “short, ugly, and poor.” It refers to a man who is not an ideal boyfriend or husband in Chinese society. In other words, someone who is not “tall, handsome, and rich“ (高富帅).
Literally meaning “’leftover warriors”, the expression is used to refer to single ladies, who have not been able to find a husband yet.
男神 is used to describe a man who is charming and attractive, but usually unattainable. It can also be used to describe the “perfect man”. There’s now a criteria online featuring 50 ideal traits for a man to have. If your man matches 30 of the 50, he’s definitely husband material!
干爹 (gān diē)
Literally meaning “godfather”, if you use it as slang it means a sugar daddy.
心塞 (xīn sāi)
The full phrase is 心肌梗塞 (xīn jī gěng sè), but many people use shortened version 心塞. This phrase literally means heart attack, and is often used to describe an extremely painful or negative feeling.The character 塞 has two meanings and two pronunciations. The first meaning that can be seen in 心肌梗塞 (heart attack) is ‘to stop up’ and uses the pinyin ‘sè’. When the original 心肌梗塞 is shorted to 心塞, the pronunciation of 塞 becomes sāi. Doing so makes the phrase less serious.
山寨 (Shān zhài)
If you like to shop online (or anywhere else actually), pay attention to this phrase. While it really means “mountain village”, it is now commonly used to refer to cheap, copied or fake merchandise.
灌水 (guàn shuǐ)
This phrase literally means to “pour water” Online, it refers to someone who constantly talks or posts internet replies. Basically, someone who can’t keep anything in their mouth, it keeps coming out.
This term has been used for a long time, which historically refers to powerful people, or known as a “local tyrant”. It resurfaced in 2013 meaning the nouveau riche, basically people who love to flaunt their money. “Local tyrant” was first used online to describe the release of the gold Apple iPhone 5s as ““土豪金” (“local tyrant gold”), suggesting that it would appeal to wealthy people who want to show off. Now people use it to refer to people who have money, but lack taste, meaning they are showy and even arrogant because of their new found wealth.
Hopefully this list is helpful as an introduction to Chinese slang. Again, this list just touches upon a tiny fraction of all the slang floating around on the internet. Keep checking back though, because we will add to this list from time to time.
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