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Top 10 New Chinese Words Using in English

Recently, you may always found some new Chinese words quoted by Western media. These words usually have no English equivalents, and are essential for understanding Chinese-specific phenomena.

1. Dama


The Wall Street Journal recently coined the term dama (big mother), which comes from Chinese pinyin, to refer to middle-aged Chinese women who have become a driving force in the global gold market.

Dama’s rushing to the global gold market may have stolen the spotlight of Wall Street; still, it is one of the most common Chinese words that people say in daily life.

In Chinese, the word Dama has two meanings:

1) Wife of father’s elder brother


A: zhè shì nǐ de māmɑ ma ?
这 是 你 的 妈妈 吗 ?
Is this your mother?

B: bù ,zhè shì wǒ de dà mā .
不 ,这 是 我 的 大 妈 .
No, this is my father’s elder brother’s wife.

2) A respectful form of address to elder women, similar to aunty


A: dà mā ,nín qǐng zuò zài zhè gè zuò wèi shàng bɑ .
大 妈 , 您 请  坐  在  这 个 座 位 上 吧.
Aunty, please have a seat here.

B: xiè xiè !
谢 谢 !
Thank you!

2. Niubi


The word Niubi can also be written as NB for short, which is slang from the northeast dialect of Chinese, meaning “awesome.” Because, literally, Niubi means “cow pussy,” it is a word of slight swearing; the translation “fucking awesome” would be more appropriate for it, and it still expresses the speaker’s admiration.


nǐ shù xué kǎo shì 100 fēn ?zhēn niú bī !
你 数学 考 试100 分 ? 真 牛 逼 !
You got 100 grades in Math exam? You are fucking awesome!

3. Guanxi


About 10 years ago, foreigners took delight in talking about “guanxi” (relationship). It describes the basic dynamic in personalized networks of influence, and is a central idea in Chinese society. In Western media, the pinyin of this Chinese word is becoming more widely used, instead of the two common translations—”connections” and “relationships”—as neither of those terms sufficiently reflects the wide cultural implications that “guanxi” describes.


A: xiǎo liú gāng bì yè jiù jìn rù shì zhèng fǔ gōng zuò le ,zhēn xìng yùn ɑ !
小刘 刚 毕 业 就进入 市 政府 工 作了 , 真  幸 运 啊 !
Xiao Liu works in the city government hall right after his graduation, how lucky he is!

B: tā shì yīn wéi jiā lǐ yǒu guān xì cái néng qù shì zhèng fǔ gōng zuò de 。
他 是因 为家里 有 关系 才 能 去 市 政 府 工作的 。
He only gets to work in there because his family has guanxi.

4. Chinsumer

Chinese + consumer = Chisumer


Chinsumer is a word created by Chinese cyber citizens; they combine “Chinese” and ”consumer” into ”Chinsumer” to point out the Chinese tourists’ enthusiasm for shopping luxury goods. Pop music producer and songwriter Gao Xiaosong forwards this word in his Weibo and makes it well-known by many Chinese, which stands for “crazy and rich Chinese consumers” who spend a lot of money shopping while on overseas tours. We can translate Chinsumer into the prhase “zhong guo gou wu kuang”—meaning “Chinese shopaholic”—since there is no word in Chinese for this word.

In fact, more and more, the most famous European department stores and luxury stores all have shop assistants who are fluent in Chinese to help Chinese tourists pick up goods they like.

Selfridges, one of the most famous department stores in London, even takes China Union Pay cards now, so the Chinsumers will feel it is more convenient to just take the cards they use daily instead of visa cards or master cards only.


Chinsumer men měi dào yí gè chéng shì dōu huì xiān qù dà xíng bǎi huò gōng sī gòu wù 。
Chinsumer 们 每 到 一 个城 市 都会 先去 大型 百货公司 购 物 。
The Chinsumers always go shopping in big department stores when they go to a new city.

5. Antizen/Yi Zu

ant + citizen = antizen


When being created, “Antizen” referred to the group of college graduates who, earning a meager salary and living in small rented apartments, were like the tiny and laborious ants. It’s made by translating the Chinese word ”yi zu”(which means a group of people living in a situation like ants—small places to live, doing jobs with a huge amount of labor only to earn little money) into a combination of “ant” and ”citizen.”

In recent years, not only those college graduates are called Yi Zu; those peasant workers who rush into big cities are also in a similar living situation, so the group of Antizens is getting bigger and bigger, which attracts more and more attention to the whole society.


yǒu de dà xué bì yè shēng bù xiǎng zài dài chéng shì guòyǐ zú shēng huó, xuǎn zé huí dào jiāxiāng
有 的 大学 毕 业 生 不 想 在 大 城 市 过 “蚁 族” 生 活,选择回到 家 乡。
Some college graduates don’t want to live an Antizen life in the big cities, they choose to go back to their hometown.

6. Shuanggui


“Shuanggui,” a form of investigative detention for cadres, which comes from < Chinese Communist Party for discipline inspection organs cases checked work regulations>,due to the Chinese government’s strengthening to the anti-corruption work, is more and more seen on newspapers from home and abroad.

On Jun 8, 2009, The Wall Street Journal reported that Shenzhen City Mayor, Xu Zongheng, is being investigated for suspected serious disciplinary offences, that he had been placed under “Shuanggui.” This meant that he was required to report his problems within a prescribed time and in a prescribed place.

“Shuanggui” is not being detained for questioning by the police; the officers would not be cuffed. Also, since they may have to be “Shuanggui” for days, food and drinks are available; people sometimes may say that they are invited to “he ka fei (to have coffee)” instead of “Shuanggui.”


A:bó xī lái bèi shuāng guī le 。
薄 熙 来被”双规” 了 。
Bo Xilai is under investigation.

B: ò ,tā yě bèi qǐng qù hē kā fēi le ?
哦,他 也 被请 去 “喝 咖 啡”了 ?
Oh well, he is also invited to “have the coffee”, huh?

7 . Chengguan


“Chengguan” are Chinese local government enforcers who are often involved in public confrontations in their main role of removing unlicensed street vendors and checking permits, reported in < Official Chinese guide tells how to beat suspects and leave no marks > in , April 23, 2009 issue.

In the law enforcement process of “Chengguan,” they often get into public confrontations, which makes their work harder and also gives them a bad reputation of being violent for no reason. People even describe it in an exaggerated way, saying that no matter when, and how many, hawkers show up in the streets, chengguan will attack them as soon as you could imagine and make a disastrous battlefield with multiple kinds of damage, and usually it is used only against Chinese. Some even made fun of it, saying that it’s going to be the final solution for ultimate world peace.


zuì jìn wǎng shàng chū xiàn le yī duàn chéng guǎn dǎ rén de shì pín 。
最近  网 上 出 现 了 一段 城  管 打 人的 视频 。
Recently, there is a video clip of Chengguan beating people online.

8. Hongbao


“Hongbao” is lucky money elders give to kids at spring festival, wishing them good luck and a healthy life in the coming year. Nowadays, it also refers to money wrapped up by red paper, used as a wedding gift or a birthday gift; it refers to bonus money or bribes, as well.

In recent years, Hongbao is seen being used as a bribe more and more often. People give Hongbao to doctors, wishing that they will be more careful in operations on family members. People give Hongbao to principals, wishing that schools will take their kids in…etc. It becomes a social atmosphere, and sometimes it can be very disappointing.


A: nǐ qī zǐ zuò shǒu shù ,nǐ zhǔn bèi hǎo gěi yī shēng de hóng bāo le ma ?
你妻子做 手术 , 你准 备 好给医 生的  红包  了 吗 ?
Your wife needs an operation, have you prepared Hongbao for the doctor?

B: wǒ zhǔn bèi le yī qiān kuài zuò wéi gěi yī shēng de hóng bāo 。
我 准备了 一 千块 作 为 给医 生 的 红 包 。
I have 1000kuai as Hongbao to give to the doctor.

9. Geilivable/geili

geili + able = geilivable


“Gelivable” means something is cool, or cooperative; “awesome” also works for it. “Gelivable” is a Chinese word in the English alphabet, with its original form in pinyin, “geili.” In Chinese, “Gei”(给) means “to give” and “Li”(力) means “power” or “force.” So, together, they mean “to give force (to)” or “to push something forward.”

“Geili” is a new word, even in Chinese; it is said that it comes from a Chinese dubbing of the Japanese animation series , then it became popular with Chinese net citizens. On November 10th 2010, <people’s daily=””> used “Geili” in a headline < Jiang Su Gei li cultural powerful province>, which makes “geili” accepted by mainstream media, and thus, accepted by more people.</people’s>


A: nǐ men duì zuó tiān de bǐ sài zěn me yàng ?
你 们 队 昨天 的比赛 怎么样 ?
How was your team’s match yesterday?

B: wǒ men duì de biǎo xiàn tài gěi lì le !6:0 dà shèng !
我 们 队的 表 现太 给力了 !6:0 大  胜 !
We were awesome! We had a 6:0 landslide victory!

10. Ernai


Ernai is a new Chinese word which means the second wife or married man’s mistress. Usually Ernai are young women who have a steady sexual life with married men. In this kind of relationship, they may look for money, for future, for sex, or for real love. Not all of them do this for money, or for marriage.

Though they may have a different purpose, they do tend to be the biggest problem for many families, so an Ernai is not accepted by society; being called “Ernai” is quite shameful.


yǒu xiē nián qīng nǚ hái wèi le fù yù de shēng huó ér qùzuò èr nǎi 。
有 些 年轻 女孩 为了 富 裕 的 生 活而 去做 二 奶。
Some young girls choose to be Ernai to live a rich life.

Lesley Xu

Lesley Xu has been working as a middle management and a Chinese teacher in an international school since 2008. She loves teaching Chinese to students from all over the world, and receives good reviews from her students. She feels very satisfied when Mandarin learners find out the culture behind the language.

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Thanks for sharing this interesting and educative post. There are certain Chinese words for which there are no English alternatives. To learn to speak Chinese language or at least knowing to interpret the words actual meaning is important to recognize them in English.The usage of the words in English, emphasizes on how Chinese language is recognized and given importance worldwide.

  2. As china now booming in terms of economy, education and most of all they are targeting their future along with the new inventions plus innovative ideas then adding more words in English becoming a trend to now a days. Addition of new words should get the extra facilities to make the language valuable to learn.

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