Chinese Slang: Speak Like A Native
Most spoken Chinese slang comes from different dialects. Depending on where you’re learning Chinese, your accent will most probably change to use the local slang if you’re speaking and hanging out with the locals.
However, one common thing Chinese slang has in common throughout the great middle kingdom is the use of Chinese slang on the internet.
If you’re using Chinese social media websites (which by the way is a great way to immerse yourself into Chinese culture, get Chinese friends and learn Chinese) such as Weibo, Douyin or QQ, then you may be a bit confused initially by the amount of colloquialisms used.
The amount of numbers that float around with apparently no meaning in comments is clear from the beginning. Also, you will see a large amount of random capital letters amongst the Chinese Characters that also appear to have no meaning.
Actually, all of these colloquial expressions of numbers and letters all have a very specific meaning and all have a (somewhat) logical origin.
Chinese Slang: Using Numbers
Many Chinese numbers sound very similar to how another character may sound, therefore mimicking the meaning. Chinese people can be very creative in this way when they create new colloquial expressions, especially in the form of internet slang!
Probably the most common phrase found in the internet slang world in China, the colloquialism 666 (pinyin: liuliuliu) comes from 牛牛牛 (pinyin: niuniuniu) meaning awesome, excellent, great etc.
It definitely doesn’t have anything to do with the English meaning of this slang term which is often related to the Devil.
When using colloquial Chinese slang, you will also hear younger people using street slang saying this.
This can also be represented by holding your hand up to represent the number 6 in Chinese counting number language and waving it around.
Probably the second most common phrase you will see on internet slang or hear as street slang, especially around the date 5/20. (20th May). This date is Chinese internet Valentine’s Day.
This is due to the fact that 520 (pinyin: wǔ’èrlíng) represents 我爱你 which sounds like the pinyin – (pinyin: wǒ ài nǐ).
995 (pinyin: jiǔ jiǔ wǔ) stands for 救救我 (pinyin: jiù jiù wǒ) meaning ‘Help me!’
Not sure why you would need to use this one on internet slang or street slang, but it a common colloquial expression used in Chinese slang – perhaps sometimes used in an amusing or ironic way.
This in pinyin is qīsìbā. This represents 去死吧 (pinyin: qùsǐba). Which, pretty much, is “Go to hell“, “Get lost”, or, more literally “Go die!”.
“Bye bye” in Chinese also means the same as in English, goodbye. 88 (pinyin: bābā) sounds like the same Chinese equivalent for ‘Bye Bye’. So, when ending that conversation impress your mates with saying ’88’.
233 represents the sound of laughter. The pinyin is èr sān sān which is similar to the 哈哈哈 (used as ‘lol’) which sounds like ‘hā hā hā.
484, or ‘sibasi’ is similar to the 是不是 (shibushi) meaning yes or no.
Chinese Slang: Using Letters
There are much more Chinese slang uses and colloquial terms using numbers in Chinese. One colloquial expression you may see a lot, however, is the following:
他妈的 – (Pinyin: tā mā dē). This expression should not be thrown around and is probably best used amongst friends only… It’s basically used as a way to express extreme annoyance, similar to saying ‘F*ck you’ in English.
Chinese Slang About Contemporary Society
These words and phrases will help you learn more about what is going on in China and what Chinese people are talking about.
We’ve chosen our top favourite five slang words and topics to share with you:
1. Left-Over Women 剩女 (shèngnǚ)
剩 (shèng) – to be left over
女(nǚ) – female
This word relates to the issue that Chinese girls don’t get married as young as they did before. But the preconceptions still hold.
So if they aren’t married by around the age of 28, people call them ‘the left-over girls’.
This is a derogatory term for the girls who are usually very focused on their careers.
2. Left-Behind Children – 留守儿童 (Liúshǒu értóng)
留守 (Liúshǒu) – to stay behind to take care of things儿童 (értóng) – children
This word relates to the issue that many poor village people migrate to the factory towns far away from home and when they do that, they leave their children behind with grandparents or even on their own.
The problem is widely discussed in Chinese society, because many of high suicide rates among these children.
3. Naked Marriage – 裸婚 (Luǒhūn)
裸 (Luǒ) – naked
婚 (hūn) – marriage
This is an interesting term because it originated from a girl who once said on social media that she would rather be crying in an expensive car than be happy on the back of a bike.
What she meant by this is that she was more concerned about the financial part of her future marriage than the actual love part. Since then the Chinese people have often discussed which one is more important.
Some people go for a naked marriage, which means that the boy hadn’t yet bought an apartment or car – which are usually the requirements for marriage in China.
The naked marriage is more about love and less about materialistic goods.
4. Geek/Nerd/Gamer 宅男／宅女 (Zháinán/ Zháinǚ)
宅 (Zhái) – house
男 (nán) – male
女 (nǚ) – female
China has turned into an internet-addicted society and there is Wi-Fi wherever you go. Chinese people are online most of the time and of course this comes with problems as well.
Internet-addiction is a huge issue (if you search it online, you’ll find articles discussing how Chinese parents send their children to internet rehab camps – military style).
The term 宅男／宅女 literally means a person who spends all day and night at home watching TV shows, playing video games etc.
5. Singles Day – 光棍节 (Guānggùn jié)
光棍 (Guānggùn) – bachelor/single (or literally, bare stick)
节 (jié) – Festival
In contemporary China it is all about finding the one and only, being in a relationship, getting married and being safe and sound for the rest of your life.
Singles day is on the 11th of November every year because the date looks like four single people standing beside each other (11.11).
This day has become the biggest shopping event of the year – the Chinese go crazy on Taobao (Chinese EBay) and all the other shopping apps out there. There are a ton in China!
In the West it’s some kind of equivalent to crying and eating chocolate on Valentine’s Day and Black Friday Sales.
And speaking of that…
6. Eat Dirt – 吃土 (Chī Tǔ)
吃 (chī): to eat
土 (tǔ): dirt/soil
This final offering comes directly from Singles Day and mainly at Chinese who spent their whole months/years wages on 11/11.
After the biggest shopping day in the world is complete many Chiense are left with empty pockets and bank accounts.
So what are they left to eat?
Nothing, they can’t afford it after all!
This is where the phrase to 吃土 了 comes from.
It’s to make light of those who spent all their money, and is all they can afford until the next payday, is to eat dirt!
We could keep going on and on with these slang words and hot topics in contemporary Chinese society but for now, we’ll just let you have a look more into these five interesting topics. Check them out and you’ll learn so much more about what is going on in China at the moment!
Feel free to post your favourite Chinese slang words in the comments below.
Chinese Slang – FAQ’s
Is it indeed a positive number used widely on social media in China. 666 (pinyin: liu liu liu) comes from 牛牛牛 (pinyin: niu niu niu) meaning awesome, excellent, great etc.
Yes it is. If you say the number 250 to someone you are inadvertently calling them an idiot. You will notice the number 250 is avoided in supermarkets and shops as a price for this very reason.
Chinese use the number 233 as LOL. 233 represents the sound of laughter in Chinese slang.
Chinese use 520 to say I Love You in Chinese due to the fact the numbers 520 sounding similar to the words for I Love You in Chinese 我爱你 – Wǒ ài nǐ.
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