List of English words of Chinese origin
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Words of Chinese origin have entered the English language and many European languages. Most of these were loanwords from Chinese itself, a term covering those members of the Chinese branch of the Sino-Tibetan language family. However, Chinese words have also entered indirectly via other languages, particularly Korean, Japanese and Vietnamese, that have all used Chinese characters at some point and contain a large number of Chinese loanwords.
Different sources of loan words
English words with Chinese origin usually have different characteristics depending how the words were spread to the West. Despite the increasingly widespread use of Mandarin among Chinese people, English words that are based on Mandarin are relatively scarce.
Some words spread to the West ...
- via the missionaries who lived in China. These have heavy Latin influence due the Portuguese and Spanish missionaries.
- via the sinologists who lived in China. These have heavy French influence due to the long history of French involvement in Sinology.
- via the maritime trade route, e.g. tea, Amoy, cumshaw etc. These have heavy influence from the Amoy dialect in southern seaports.
- via the early immigrants to the US in the gold rush era, e.g. chop suey. These have heavy influence from the Toisan dialect.
- via the multi-national colonization of Shanghai. These have influence from many European countries, also Japan.
- via the British colonisation of Hong Kong, e.g. cheongsam. These have heavy influence from Cantonese.
- via modern international communication especially after the 1970s when the People's Republic of China opened its Bamboo Curtain to let her people emigrate to various countries, e.g. wushu, feng shui etc. These have heavy influence from Mandarin.
- via Japanese and (possibly) Korean and Vietnamese. These languages have borrowed large amounts of Chinese vocabulary in the past, written in the form of Chinese characters. The pronunciation of such loanwords is not based directly on Chinese, but on the local pronunciation of Chinese loanwords in these languages, known as Sino-Japanese, Sino-Korean, and Sino-Vietnamese. In addition, the individual characters were extensively used as building blocks for local neologisms with no counterpart in the original Chinese, resulting in words whose relationship to the Chinese language is similar to the relationship between new Latinate words (particularly those that form a large part of the international scientific vocabulary) and Latin. Such words are excluded from the list.
Though all these following terms originated from China, the spelling of the English words depends on which dialect the transliterations came from.
- A calque of Chinese 洗腦 xǐ nǎo (where 洗 literally means "wash", while 腦 means "brain", hence brainwash), a term and psychological concept first used by the People's Volunteer Army during the Korean War. It may refer to a forcible indoctrination to induce someone to give up basic political, social, or religious beliefs and attitudes and to accept contrasting regimented ideas; or persuasion by propaganda or salesmanship. The term "brainwashing" came into the mainstream English language after Western media sources first utilized the term to describe the attitudes of POWs returning from the Korean War.
- Bok choy
- (Cantonese) 白菜 (baakchoi), a Chinese cabbage: literally 'white vegetable'
- see Ketchup
- colloquial English word for 'tea', originally from Southern Min 茶 tê (Cantonese/Mandarin chá; Vietnamese trà or chè).
- from Cantonese 長衫 (cheungsaam), lit. long clothes. Popular in the 19th and early 20th centuries.
- or "qi", energy of an object or person, from Chinese Mandarin 氣 (air or spirit). (This word is correctly represented in Wade–Giles romanization by "ch'i," but the rough breathing mark (replaced by an apostrophe in most texts) has disappeared in colloquial English.)
- Chin chin!
- is an expression used more often in Great Britain than in the United States, e.g., in the TV sitcom As Time Goes By. One raises one's hand and says "chin chin" before drinking. In China, a host may encourage guests to eat or drink something newly delivered to table by saying, "請，請!" (lit., "I invite. I invite.") Standard Mandarin pronunciation for 請 is qǐng and the southern Mandarin pronunciation is qǐn. The latter is slightly mispronounced by those not trained in the production of Mandarin sounds, resulting in the pronunciation "chin."
- via Latin Sina, Persian چین Cin, and Sanskrit चीन Chinas; ultimately from the name of the Qin 秦 or Jin 晉
- Chop chop
- from Cantonese chuk chuk 速速, lit. hurry, urgent
- from Chinese Pidgin English chop chop.
- Chop suey
- from Cantonese 雜碎 (tzapseui), lit. mixed pieces
- from Chinese Pidgin English chowchow which means food, perhaps based on Cantonese 炒, lit. stir fry (cooking)
- Chow chow
- any of a breed of heavy-coated blocky dogs of Chinese origin
- Chow mein
- from Taishanese 炒麵 (chau meing), lit. stir fried noodle, when the first Chinese immigrants, from Taishan came to the United States.
- from Confucius, Latinized form of 孔夫子 (kǒng fūzǐ) 'Master Kong'
- from Amoy 感謝, feeling gratitude
- from Cantonese 番攤 (fāntān), lit. (take) turns scattering
- Feng shui
- from feng, wind and shui, water 風水; (slang) Denotes an object or scene is aesthetically balanced (generally used in construction or design)
- Foo dog
- from Mandarin 佛 fó Buddha (from their use as guardians of Buddhist temples)
- mistransliteration of 銀杏 (ginkyō or ginnan) in Japanese
- from Hokkien Chinese 人參 jîn-sim, rendered in Mandarin as renshen, name of the plant. Some say the word came via Japanese (same kanji), although 人参 now means 'carrot' in Japanese; ginseng is 朝鮮人參 ('Korean carrot').
- From the Japanese name igo 囲碁 of the Chinese board game. Chinese 圍棋, Mandarin: Weiqi.
- Guanxi refers to connections or relationships in Chinese culture. It is occasionally a reference to nepotism or cronyism among Chinese businesses and bureaucracies.
- from Mandarin 工合, short for 工業合作社
- Japanese ギョーザ, gairaigo from Chinese 餃子 (Mandarin: Jiaozi), stuffed dumpling. Gyoza in English refers to the fried dumpling style (as opposed to water boiled).
- 汉服/漢服, lit. Han clothing. Traditional Chinese clothes; it includes several varieties for both men and women.
- Har gow
- from Cantonese 蝦餃, lit. shrimp dumpling
- Hoisin (sauce)
- from Cantonese 海鮮 (hoísin), lit. seafood
- Japanese name for Chinese characters: 漢字, lit. Chinese characters. Chinese: Hànzì.
- from 高嶺, lit. high mountain peak, the name of a village or suburb of Jingde Town, in Jiangxi Province, that was the site of a mine from which kaolin clay (高嶺土 gāo lǐng tǔ) was taken to make the fine porcelain produced in Jingde.
- kind of tea, 祁門 Mandarin qímén
- possibly from Cantonese or Amoy 茄汁, lit. tomato sauce/juice
- Japanese 公案 kōan, from Chinese 公案 (Mandarin gōng'àn), lit. public record
- from Cantonese 叩頭 (Mandarin, kòu tóu), lit. knock head
- Kumquat or cumquat
- from Cantonese name of the fruit 柑橘 (Gamgwat)
- Kung fu
- the English term to collectively describe Chinese martial arts; from Cantonese 功夫 (Gongfu), lit. efforts
- Lo mein
- from Cantonese 撈麵 (lòu-mihn), literally scooped noodle
- from Cantonese 龍眼, name of the fruit, literally "Dragon's eye"
- Long time no see
- from 好久不見 (hǎojiǔbujiàn), a common greeting
- from Cantonese 蘆橘, old name of the fruit
- from Cantonese 荔枝 (laitzi), name of the fruit
- Mao-tai or moutai
- from Mandarin 茅台酒 (máotái jiǔ), liquor from Maotai (Guizhou province)
- from Mandarin 麻將 (májiàng), lit. the mahjong game
- Mu shu (pork)
- from Mandarin 木須 (mùxū), lit. wood shredded
- Durable cotton, buff-colored cloth originally made in the city 南京 (Nánjīng, previously romanized as Nanking).
- No can do
- Mandarin Chinese 不可以 (bù kěyǐ)
- Okinawan Japanese, from Min (Taiwan/Fujian) 雙節棍, lit. double jointed sticks
- from Amoy 烏龍, lit. dark dragon
- Pai gow
- from Cantonese 排九, a gambling game
- from southern Mandarin 北京, a patterned silk cloth
- from Mandarin 拼音, lit. put together sounds
- from Amoy 白毫, lit. white downy hair
- from 本機, lit. our own loom, homespun, and so a kind of thin silk
- from Mandarin 氣 (qì), air
- from 旗袍 (qípáo), lit. Manchurian dress. Manchurian ethnic female clothing (male version: cheongsam)
- Japanese ラーメン, gairaigo, from Chinese 拉麵 (Lamian) lit. pulled noodle. Ramen refers to a particular style flavored to Japanese taste and is somewhat different from Chinese lamian.
- from Cantonese 舢舨, the name of such vessel.
- from Chinese city Shanghai, to put someone aboard a ship by trickery or intoxication; to put someone in a bad situation or press someone into work by trickery. From an old practice of using this method to acquire sailors for voyages to Shanghai.
- from Mandarin 山東，"shantung" (or sometimes "Shantung") is a wild silk fabric made from the silk of wild silkworms and is usually undyed.
- from Mandarin 少林, One of the most important Kungfu clans.
- Shar Pei
- from Cantonese 沙皮, lit. sand skin.
- Shih Tzu
- from Mandarin 獅子狗, lit. Chinese lion dog
- Japanese 将軍, from Chinese 將軍, lit. general (of) military. The full title in Japanese was Seii Taishōgun (征夷大将軍), "generalissimo who overcomes the barbarians"
- from Cantonese 燒賣, pork dumplings, lit. to cook and sell
- from Cantonese 師傅, (Mandarin shīfu), master.
- Siu mei
- from Cantonese 燒味, meats roasted over an open fire or oven, lit. roast-flavored
- from Cantonese 小種茶 (siúchúng ch'ā), lit. small kind tea
- From Japanese shoyu 醤油, Chinese 醬油, (Mandarin jiàngyóu).
- Tai Chi
- from Mandarin 太極, T'ai chi "Great Ultimate" or T'ai Chi Ch'üan, usually miswritten as Tai Chi Chuan, a form of physical discipline, from Mandarin 太極拳，lit, "Great Ultimate(fist =) Fighting."
- from Cantonese 大班 (daaibaan), lit. big rank (similar to big shot)
- from Chinese Tang (唐) + English gram
- Tao and Taoism
- (also Dao/Daoism) from Mandarin 道 dào
- from the Amoy dialect for tea 茶, which is pronounced "dey".
- Japanese 豆腐, lit. bean curd, from Chinese 豆腐 (Mandarin dòufu).
- from Cantonese 堂
- tung oil
- from Chinese 桐油 tóng yóu, oil expressed from nuts of the tong tree
- via Japanese 大官, lit. high official; or 大君, lit. great nobleman
- via Arabic طوفان; ultimately from 颱風 not to be confused with the monster typhon.
- from Cantonese 鑊
- Won ton
- from Cantonese 雲吞, lit. 'cloud swallow' as a description of its shape, similar to Mandarin 餛飩
- from Mandarin 武術, lit. martial arts
- from Mandarin 武俠, lit. martial arts and chivalrous
- from Mandarin 衙門, lit. court
- Yen (craving)
- from Cantonese 癮, lit. addiction (to opium)
- Yen (Japanese currency)
- Japanese 円 en, from Chinese 圓 (Mandarin yuán), lit. round, name of currency unit
- Yin Yang
- 陰陽 from Mandarin 'Yin' meaning feminine, dark and 'Yang' meaning masculine and bright
- Japanese 禅, from Chinese 禪 (Mandarin Chán), originally from Sanskrit ध्यान Dhyāna / Pali झन jhāna.
|For a list of words relating to with Chinese language origins, see the Chinese derivations category of words in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.|
- Category:Chinese words and phrases
- List of Spanish words of Chinese origin
- List of Chinese words of English origin
- Harper, Douglas. "brainwashing". Online Etymology Dictionary. Dictionary.com. Retrieved January 15, 2012.
- Partridge, Eric, and Beale, Paul (2002). A Dictionary of Slang and Unconventional English, p. 1386. Routledge. ISBN 0-415-29189-5, ISBN 978-0-415-29189-7.
- (accessed on 10 March 2008)