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 Standard Mandarin among Chinese people, English words that are based on Mandarin are relatively few.
Some words spread to the West in the following ways:
- via missionaries who lived in China. These have heavy Latin influence due to Portuguese and Spanish missionaries.
- via 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. Heavily influenced by the Amoy dialect in southern seaports.
- via the early immigrants to the US in the gold rush era, e.g. chop suey. Heavily influenced by the Toisan dialect.
- via the multi-national colonization of Shanghai. Influenced by many European countries, as well as Japan.
- via the British colonization of Hong Kong, e.g. cheongsam. Heavily influenced by Cantonese.
- via modern international communication, especially after the 1970s when the People's Republic of China opened its Bamboo Curtain to let its people migrate to various countries, e.g. wushu, feng shui. Heavily influenced by Mandarin.
- via Japanese and (possibly) Korean and Vietnamese. These languages have borrowed large amounts of Chinese vocabulary in the past, written in 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.
|English Word||Origin of Word||Chinese Word||Phonetic transliteration||Description|
|Bok choy||Cantonese||白菜||baak6 coi3||A Chinese cabbage: lit. 'white vegetable'|
|Brainwash||Literal translation||洗腦||xǐnǎo||A calque of Chinese 洗腦 (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.|
|Cha||Cantonese||茶||cha4||Colloquial English word for 'tea'|
|Cha siu||Cantonese||叉燒||cha1 siu1||lit. fork roasted|
|Cheongsam||Cantonese||長衫（旗袍）||cheung4 saam1||lit. long clothes. Popular in the 19th and early 20th centuries.|
|Ch'i or "qi"||Mandarin||氣||qì||Energy of an object or person, literally 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, or chin-chin||Mandarin||請||qǐng||An exclamation used to express good wishes before drinking, lit. "please; to invite". While occasionally used in American English, chin-chin is an informal and outdated British English usage, for instance, the TV sitcom As Time Goes By.|
|China||Mandarin||秦 or 晉||qín||Via Latin Sina, Persian چین Cin, and Sanskrit चीन Chinas; ultimately from the name of the Qin 秦 or Jin 晉|
|Chop chop||Cantonese||速速||chuk1 chuk1||lit. hurry, urgent|
|Chopsticks||Pidgin||筷子||Kuai zi||from Chinese Pidgin English chop chop.|
|Chop suey||Cantonese||雜碎||jaap6 seui3||lit. mixed pieces|
|Chow||Cantonese||炒||chaau2||From "chao" which means cook, perhaps based on Cantonese. Lit. stir fry (cooking)|
|Chow chow||Cantonese||any of a breed of heavy-coated blocky dogs of Chinese origin|
|Chow mein||Cantonese (Taishanese)||炒麵||chau2 mein6||lit. stir fried noodle, when the first Chinese immigrants from Taishan came to the United States.|
|Confucius||Jesuit Latinization||孔夫子||kǒngfūzǐ||Latinized form of 'Master Kong'|
|Cumshaw||Hokkien (Amoy)||感謝||kám siā||feeling gratitude|
|Dim sum and Dim sim||Cantonese||點心||dim2 sam1||lit. touches the heart, generally meaning "desserts"|
|Fan-tan||Cantonese||番攤||faan1 taan1||lit. (take) turns scattering|
|Feng shui||Mandarin||風水||fēngshuǐ||from feng, wind and shui, water; (slang) Denotes an object or scene which is aesthetically balanced (generally used in construction or design)|
|Foo dog||Mandarin||佛||fó||Combination of '佛' (literally 'Buddha') and dog due to the statues resembling dogs. Refers to statues of lions that serve as guardians of Buddhist temples.|
|Ginkgo||Sino-Japanese||銀杏||mistransliteration of ginkyō or ginnan in Japanese|
|Ginseng||Hokkien||人參||jîn sim||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').|
|Go||Sino-Japanese||圍棋||igo||Japanese name (囲碁) of the Chinese board game. Chinese 圍棋, Mandarin: Weiqi.|
|Guanxi||Mandarin||關係||guānxi||Refers to connections or relationships in Chinese culture. It is occasionally a reference to nepotism or cronyism among Chinese businesses and bureaucracies.|
|Gung-ho||Mandarin||工合||gōnghé||Short for 工業合作社|
|Gweilo||Cantonese||鬼佬||gwáilóu||Common Cantonese slur term for Westerners. In the absence of modifiers, it refers to white people and has a history of racially deprecatory and pejorative use, although it has been argued that it has since acquired a more neutral connotation.|
|Gyoza||Sino-Japanese||餃子||gyōza||from Chinese 餃子 (Mandarin: Jiaozi), stuffed dumpling. Gyoza in English refers to the fried dumpling style (as opposed to water boiled).|
|Hanfu||Mandarin||漢服||hànfú||lit. Han clothing. Traditional Chinese clothes; it includes several varieties for both men and women.|
|Har gow||Cantonese||蝦餃||ha1 gaau2||lit. shrimp dumpling|
|Hoisin (sauce)||Cantonese||海鮮||hoi2 sin1||lit. seafood|
|Junzi||Mandarin||君子||chün1tzu3||lit. person of high stature; preferred translation 'respectable person' or just 'gentleman'|
|Kanji||Sino-Japanese||漢字||Japanese name for Chinese characters. Chinese: Hànzì.|
|Kaolin||Mandarin||高嶺||gāolǐng||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.|
|Keemun||Cantonese||祁門||kei4 mun4||tea from Qimen in China|
|Ketchup||Hokkien (Amoy)||茄汁||In the 17th century, the Chinese mixed a concoction of pickled fish and spices and called it (in the Amoy dialect) kôe-chiap or kê-chiap (鮭汁) meaning the brine of pickled fish (鮭, salmon; 汁, juice) or shellfish. By the early 18th century, the sauce had made it to the Malay states (present day Malaysia and Singapore), where it was later discovered by English explorers. That word then gradually evolved into the English word "ketchup", and was taken to the American colonies by English settlers.|
|Koan||Sino-Japanese||公案||kōan||From Chinese 公案 (Mandarin gōng'àn), lit. public record|
|Kowtow||Cantonese||叩頭||kau3 tau4||lit. knock head|
|Kumquat or cumquat||Cantonese||柑橘||gam1 gwat1||Name for tangerines|
|Kung fu||Cantonese||功夫||gung1 fu1||the English term to collectively describe Chinese martial arts, lit. efforts|
|Lo mein||Cantonese||撈麵||lou1 min6||literally scooped noodle|
|Longan||Cantonese||龍眼||lung4 ngaan5||name of the fruit, literally "Dragon's eye"|
|Long time no see||Mandarin||好久不見||Hǎo Jiǔ Bù Jiàn||a common greeting literally translated|
|Loquat||Cantonese||蘆橘||lou4 gwat1||old name of the fruit|
|Lychee||Cantonese||荔枝||lai6 ji1||name of the fruit|
|Mao-tai or moutai||Mandarin||茅台酒||máotái jiǔ||liquor from Maotai (Guizhou province)|
|Mahjong||Cantonese||麻將||ma4 jeung3||lit. the mahjong game|
|Monsoon||Cantonese||滿水||mun5 seoi2||lit. full of water|
|Mu shu||Mandarin||木須||mùxū||lit. wood shredded pork|
|Nankeen||Mandarin||南京||Nán Jīng||Durable cotton, buff-colored cloth originally made in the city Nanjing (Nánjīng, previously romanized as Nanking).|
|No can do||Literal translation||唔可以 (Cantonese); 不可以 (Mandarin)||m4 ho2yi5, or Bù kěyǐ||Literal translation of no  Though more likely a literal translation from mandarin 不能做 bù néng zùo, literally “no can do”.|
|Nunchuk||Hokkien (Taiwan/Fujian)||雙節棍 / 兩節棍||nng-chat-kun||Via Okinawan Japanese, lit. double jointed sticks|
|Oolong||Hokkien (Amoy)||烏龍||oo liong||lit. dark dragon|
|Pai gow||Cantonese||排九||paai4 gau2||a gambling game|
|Paper tiger||Literal translation||纸老虎||zhǐlǎohǔ||"Paper tiger" is a literal English translation of the Chinese phrase zhǐlǎohǔ (纸老虎／紙老虎). The term refers to something or someone that claims or appears to be powerful or threatening, but is actually ineffectual and unable to withstand challenge. The expression became well known internationally as a slogan used by Mao Zedong, leader of the People's Republic of China, against his political opponents, particularly the U.S. government.|
|Pekin||Cantonese||北京||bak1 ging1||Cantonese name for Beijing|
|Pidgin||Mandarin||皮钦语||pí qīn yǔ||a language used for communication between people not sharing a common language, made in an effort to communicate better|
|Pinyin||Mandarin||拼音||pīnyīn||lit. put together sounds; spelled-out sounds|
|Pekoe||Hokkien (Amoy)||白毫||pe̍khô||lit. white downy hair|
|Pongee||Cantonese||本機||lit. our own loom, homespun, and so a kind of thin silk|
|Pu'er or puerh||Mandarin||普洱||pǔ'ěr||Type of tea, named after a city in China|
|Qipao||Mandarin||旗袍||qípáo||lit. Manchurian dress. Manchurian ethnic female clothing|
|Ramen||Sino-Japanese||拉麵||rāmen (lāmiàn)||The word for Japanese noodle (Japanese ラーメン, rāmen) uses the sound from the Chinese pronunciation of the characters, which means pulled noodle. Ramen refers to a particular style flavored to Japanese taste and is somewhat different from Chinese lamian.|
|Rickshaw||Sino-Japanese||人力車||rénlìchē||A Japanese neologism, jinrikisha (c. 1887) composed of Chinese elements 人 (rén/jin) "human," 力 (lì/riki) "power," and 車 (chē/sha) "vehicle."|
|Sampan||Cantonese||舢舨||saan1 baan2||the name of such vessel.|
|Shanghai||Mandarin||上海||shànghǎi||city of Shanghai, used as slang, meaning: 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.|
|Shantung||Mandarin||山東||shāndōng||"shantung" (or sometimes "Shantung") is a wild silk fabric made from the silk of wild silkworms and is usually undyed.|
|Shaolin||Mandarin||少林||shàolín||One of the most important Kungfu clans.|
|Shar Pei||Cantonese||沙皮||sa1 pei4||lit. sand skin.|
|Shih Tzu||Taiwanese Mandarin||獅子狗||shih tzu3 kou3||lit. lion child dog (Chinese lion)|
|Shogun||Sino-Japanese||將軍||lit. general (of) military. The full title in Japanese was Seii Taishōgun (征夷大将軍), "generalissimo who overcomes the barbarians"|
|Siu mai||Cantonese||燒賣||siu1 maai2||pork dumplings, lit. to cook and sell|
|Souchong||Cantonese||小種茶||siu2 jung2 cha4||lit. small kind tea|
|Soy||Sino-Japanese||醬油||Japanese pronunciation of shoyu|
|Struggle Session||Mandarin||批斗大会||pī dòu dà huì||According to Lin Yutang, the expression comes from pīpàn (批判, 'to criticize and judge') and dòuzhēng (鬥爭, 'to fight and contest'), so the whole expression conveys the message of "inciting the spirit of judgment and fighting." Instead of saying the full phrase pīpàn dòuzhēng, it was shortened to pīdòu (批鬥).
The term refers to class struggle; the session is held, ostensibly, to benefit the target, by eliminating all traces of counterrevolutionary, reactionary thinking.
|Tai Chi||Mandarin||太極||tàijí||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."|
|Tai-Pan||Cantonese||大班||daai6 baan1||lit. big rank (similar to big shot)|
|Tangram||Compound word||唐||tang||from Tang + English gram|
|Tao/Dao and Taoism/Daoism||Mandarin||道||dào||Hybrid word from "way; path" and -ism suffix|
|Tea||Hokkien||茶||tê||Most European languages called te/tea where tea came from Amoy port. Many others call it cha the Mandarin pronunciation where tea came via the Silk Road.|
|Tofu||Sino-Japanese||豆腐||The Japanese pronunciation tōfu from Mandarin pronunciation dòufu.|
|Tung oil||Cantonese||桐油||tung4 yau4||oil extracted from nuts of the tong tree|
|Tycoon||Sino-Japanese||大君||lit. great nobleman|
|Typhoon||Hokkien (Taiwanese)  or Cantonese or Mandarin||颱風||thai-hong (usu. hong-thai in Taiwanese now); toi4 fung1 (Cantonese)||lit. The wind that comes from Taiwan. not to be confused with the monster: typhon.|
|Wok||Cantonese||鑊||wok6||lit. boiler or cauldron|
|Wonton||Cantonese||雲吞||wan4 tan1||homophonous word in Cantonese of the original term "餛飩" wan4tan4, húntún |
lit. 'cloud swallow' as a description of its shape
|Wushu||Mandarin||武術||wǔshù||lit. martial arts|
|Wuxia||Mandarin||武俠||wǔxiá||lit. martial arts and chivalrous|
|Yen||Cantonese||癮||yan5||Craving: lit. addiction (to opium)|
|Yen (Japanese currency)||Sino-Japanese||圓||en||from Chinese 圓, lit. round, name of currency unit|
|Yin Yang||Mandarin||陰陽||yīnyáng||'Yin' meaning feminine, dark and 'Yang' meaning masculine and bright|
|Yuanfen||Mandarin or Vietnamese||緣分||lit. fateful coincidence; similar to karma although interactive instead of individual and similar to predestination without the divine implications.|
|Zen||Sino-Japanese||禪||chán||from Chinese 禪, originally from Sanskrit ध्यान Dhyāna / Pali झन jhāna.|
- List of Chinese words of English origin
- List of Spanish words of Chinese origin
- Category:Chinese words and phrases
- Chinese Pidgin English; Chinglish; Singlish
- ^ Harper, Douglas. "brainwashing". Online Etymology Dictionary. Dictionary.com. Retrieved January 15, 2012.
- ^ Oxford British & World English dictionary entry for chin-chin.
- ^ a b c 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) Archived 24 April 2005 at the Wayback Machine
- ^ Andrew F. Smith (1996). Pure Ketchup: A History of America's National Condiment, with Recipes. Univ of South Carolina Press. p. 5.
- ^ Hànyǔ means the spoken language of the Han people and pīnyīn literally means "spell ed-out sounds".Pinyin
- ^ "Meteorology Encyclopedia". Central Weather Bureau, Taiwan (R.O.C.).