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20 Common Chinese Slang Words

As with all languages, Chinese has an informal set of slang words which can be quite useful to know and can help one communicate better.

Chinese slang usually can’t be learned from formal courses, but you’ll hear it all around you half the time when conversing with native speakers. It’s a crucial element of daily communication, without which you may struggle to understand what those native speakers are talking about. In this article, we will provide you some of the most common slang words you may come across during daily conversations. Below are 20 of the most popular Chinese slang words.

1. 抱大腿 (Bào dàtuǐ)

      
→Literally, it means to “to cling to someone’s lap”.

Colloquially, it means to curry favor or get someone’s influence or power.

e.g.

你这么厉害,我要抱大腿。(Nǐ zhème lìhɑi, wǒ yào bào dàtuǐ.

You are so awesome, and I want to curry favor from you.

2. 颜值(Yánzhí)

      
→The level of one’s appearance

e.g.

你们老师的颜值都很高嘛!(Nǐmen lǎoshī de yánzhí dōu hěn ɡāo mɑ.)

Your teachers’ level of appearance is high.

3. 三观(Sān ɡuān)

      
→The fundamental views or values of a person, a shortened form of the view of the world, or the philosophy of life.

e.g.

我们三观不合,所以分手了。(Wǒmen sānɡuān bù hé, suǒyǐ fēnshǒu le.)

We broke up because we have different fundamental views.

 

这部电视剧简直是毁三观。(Zhèbù diànshìjù jiǎnzhíshìhuǐ sānɡuān.)

This drama is totally destroying our fundamental views.

 

我不想和三观不正的人交朋友。(Wǒ bù xiǎnɡ hé sānɡuān bú zhènɡ de rén jiāo pénɡyou.)

I don’t want to make friends with people who have incorrect fundamental views.

4. 为……打call (Wèi…dǎ call)

      
→Literally, it means to “to call someone”.

Colloquially, it means “to bolster someone” or “to support/boost someone.”

e.g.

抖森太帅了,为抖森打call(Dǒu sēn tài shuài lewèi tā dǎ call.)

Tom Hiddleston is so handsome, he can boost you up.

(抖森is a Chinese nickname for Tom Hiddleston.)

5. 小鲜肉/老腊肉 (Xiǎo xiānròu/Lǎo làròu.)

      
小鲜肉 (Xiǎo xiānròu)

→Literally, it refers to “small fresh meat”.

Colloquially, it means a young and handsome boy.

e.g.

昨天我看到一个小鲜肉,好帅!

(Zuótiān wǒ kàndào yíɡe xiǎo xiānròu, hǎo shuài)

Yesterday, I saw a young handsome boy, and he is so gorgeous!

 

老腊肉 (Lǎo làròu)

→Opposite to “小鲜肉”, literally refers to “tough cured meat”.

Colloquially, it means old, handsome, and experienced man.

e.g.

我就喜欢老腊肉,成熟有魅力。

(Wǒ jiù xǐhuɑn lǎo làròu, chénɡshú yǒu mèilì.)

I really like old, handsome, and experienced men because they are mature and charming.

6. 心灵鸡汤/毒鸡汤 (Xīnlínɡ jītānɡ/Dú jītānɡ)

      

心灵鸡汤 (Xīnlínɡ jītānɡ)

→Literally, it refers to good chicken soup.

Colloquially, it means words, sentences, or articles which are philosophical but with useless content”.

e.g.

行了,别给我灌心灵鸡汤了,我没事。

(Xínɡle, bié ɡěi wǒ ɡuàn xīnlínɡ jītānɡ le, wǒ méi shì.)

Ok, don’t give me philosophical but useless words. I’m fine.

 

毒鸡汤 (Dú jītānɡ)

→Opposite to “心灵鸡汤”, literally refers to “poisonous chicken soup”.

Colloquially, it means that words, sentences or articles are straightforward and sound negative, but they are close to most real-life situations.

This expression came about because of the excessive expansion of “心灵鸡汤”, a case in which people are already fed up with them, and so they go the other way around to create “毒鸡汤” to dismiss the philosophical reality and yet acquire inspiration as well.

e.g.

最近看到个毒鸡汤:等忙完了这阵子,就可以忙下一阵了。

(Zuìjìn kàn dào ɡe “dú jītānɡ”děnɡ mánɡ wán le zhè zhènzi, jiù kěyǐ máng xià yīzhènle

.)

Recently I have read a negative but straightforward word: after this stirring time period, we can move forward to another pragmatic time period.

7. 作死/不作不会死 (Zuō sǐ/Bùzuō bú huì sǐ)

      

作死(Zuō sǐ)

→Literally, it refers “to seek for death”.

Colloquially, it means to seek trouble out.

e.g.

别说了,你这是在作死。(Bié shuō le, nǐzhè shìzài zuō sǐ.)

Stop saying that, you are looking for trouble.

 

不作不会死(Bùzuō bú huì sǐ)

→In Chinglish, this means “No zuo, no die”. Specifically, it means that you will not get into trouble if you do not seek trouble.

e.g.

不作不会死,你别给自己找麻烦了。

(Bù zuō bú huìsǐ, nǐbié ɡěi zìjǐ zhǎo máfɑn le.)

No zuo no die, don’t look for trouble.

8. 吐槽 (Tùcáo)

      

→This means “to make complaints”, or to make comments with a sarcastic tone, to mock.

e.g.

那部电视剧我都不想吐槽了,槽点太多了。

(Nàbù diànshìjù wǒ dōu bù xiǎnɡ tù cáo le, cáodiǎn tài duō le.)

I don’t really want to make complaints about that drama, because there are too many points needing to be addressed.

9. 女汉子 (Nǚ hànzi)

      

→it means “tough girl”, or a woman having characteristics or behavior considered typical of a boy.

e.g.

没看出来,你还是个女汉子,这么重的桌子都搬得动。

(Méi kàn chūlái, nǐ háishì ɡe nǚ hànzi, zhème zhònɡde zhuōzi dōu bān de dònɡ.)

I did not see that you are a tough girl who could move such heavy desk.

10. 你行你上 (Nǐ xíng nǐ shàng)

      

→Chinglish means “you can you up”.

It means that “if you’re so good, you do it!” Or “put up or shut up!”

e.g.

你行你上啊,说这么多干嘛。

(Nǐxínɡ nǐ shànɡ ā, shuō zhème duō ɡàn má.

Put up or shut up.

11. 键盘侠 (Jiànpánxiá)

      

→it means “clicktivist”.

e.g.

别理那些键盘侠的话,没意思。

(Bié lǐnà xiē jiànpánxiá de huà, méi yìsi.)

Leave those words to the clicktivists, because they make no sense.

12. 正能量/负能量 (Zhènɡ nénɡliànɡ/Fù nénɡliànɡ)

      

正能量(Zhènɡ nénɡliànɡ)

→It refers to someone or something dispersing positive influence or emotion.

e.g.

他是个充满了正能量的人。

(Tā shìge chōngmǎn le zhèng néngliàng de rén.)

He is a positive man.

 

负能量(Fù nénɡliànɡ)

→It refers to someone or something dispersing negative influence or emotion.

e.g.

我不想看这部电影了,里面充满了负能量。

(Wǒ bù xiǎng kàn zhè bù diànyǐng le, lǐmiàn chōngmǎn le fù néngliàng.)

I don’t want to watch this movie anymore, because it is filled with negative emotion.

13. 男神/女神 (Nánshén/Nǚshén)

      

→which means “god/goddess”, or “Dream guy/muse”.

e.g.

小李子是我的男神,大魔王是我的女神。

(Xiǎo lǐzi shìwǒ de nánshén, dà mówánɡ shì wǒde nǚshén.)

Leonardo DiCaprio is my dream guy, while Cate Blanchett is my muse.

(小李子 is the Chinese nickname for Leonardo DiCaprio;大魔王 is the Chinese nickname for Cate Blanchett.)

14. 也是醉了(Yě shì zuì le)

      

→Literally speaking, it refers to “being drunk”

Colloquially, it means someone loses the will to scold or complain of somebody or something.

e.g.

我都告诉他怎么做了,居然还写错了,我也是醉了。

(Wǒ dōu ɡàosu tā zěnme zuò le, jūrán hái xiě cuò le, wǒ yě shì zuì le.)

I have told him how to do it, but he still writes it wrong, which leaves me no more will to scold him.

15. 心塞(Xīnsāi)

      

→Literally speaking, it is a shortened form for the medical condition, “myocardial infarction”.

Colloquially, it means to “feel suffocated or stifled.”

e.g.

听了他的话,我真的觉得很心塞。

(Tīnɡle tā de huà, wǒ zhēn de juéde hěn xīnsāi.)

After hearing his words, I really feel suffocated.

16. 吃土 (Chītǔ)

      

→Literally, it means to “to eat dust”.

Colloquially, it means “to be very poor”.

e.g.

我不去逛街了,我最近都要吃土了。

(Wǒ bú qù ɡuànɡjiē le, wǒ zuìjìn dōu yào chītǔ le.)

I don’t want to go shopping because I have been very poor recently.

17. 戏精 (Xìjīng)

      

→Colloquially, it refers to a “drama queen” or an “attention whore”.

e.g.

身边有一群戏精朋友真的是让人崩溃。

(Shēnbiān yǒu yìqún xìjīnɡ pénɡyou zhēn de shì huì rànɡ rén bēnɡkuì.)

Having a group of attention whores around me is driving me crazy.

18. 撕 (Sī)

      

→Literally, it means to “to tear”.

Colloquially, it means “to have a beef or be irritated with somebody”.

e.g.

那两位明星又开撕了。

(Nà liǎnɡ wèi mínɡxīnɡ yòu kāi sīle.)

Those two stars are starting to have a beef with each other again.

19. 补刀 (Bǔ dāo)

      

→Literally, it means to “amend the knife”.

Colloquially, it means that when someone is in an embarrassing situation or has already been hurt by someone else through language, one makes him feel more embarrassed or hurt through language again. This was derived from the “DOTA” game term “Last hit”.

e.g.

你能不能正经点儿,我现在心情不好,你还补刀。

(Nǐnénɡ bu nénɡ zhènɡjǐnɡ diǎn’r, wǒ xiànzài xīnqínɡ bù hǎo, nǐ hái bǔdāo.)

Are you serious? I’m in a bad mood right now, and you’re still giving me another shock?

20. 套路 (Tàolù)

      

→Originally, it refers to “a series of skills and tricks in martial arts”.

Colloquially, it means “a strategy”, “trickery” or something that is “all planned out.”

e.g.

那些广告都是套路,你别信。

(Nà xiē ɡuǎnɡɡào dōu shì tàolù, nǐbié xìn.)

Those ads are all planned out, don’t believe them.

人生要多点儿真诚,少点儿套路。

(Rénshēnɡ yào duō diǎnr zhēnchénɡ, shǎo diǎnr tàolù.)

Life needs more sincerity and less trickery.

 

These are just 20 of the more popular Chinese slang words. Memorize and practice using them, and your language skills will surely sound more natural. Using slang is a great way to not only express yourself more clearly, it is also a great way to understand the Chinese culture. The fact that there are slang words to express ideas means that they are important to those who are speaking it.

Cecilia He

Cecilia majored in teaching Chinese as a foreign language. She has vast experience in educating her students on how to listen to and speak Chinese, and is trained to teach HSK courses. She has mastered the method and practice of teaching the structure, historical development, and relationships of languages as an academic subject, and has also done extensive research on Intercultural Communication and Sinology.

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