Some Chinese learners may think learning Chinese is too hard, not if you know the funny sides of this language! There are lots of funny Chinese words that you cannot easily guess the word meanings only from their surface.However, after you know their meanings and why, you will be impressed and in love with this language, Well, I hope so.
So, let’s take a look at some of the common but funny Chinese words. Many “animals” are involving in the words but the meanings have nothing to do with the animals. Phrases include “eat” in them but the meanings are not literally translated, either! In addition, new-coined Chinese words are also popular nowadays. Make sure to follow up the trend and blend into conversations as you learn Chinese language!
Funny words with “animals”
- 马虎 (Mǎhū): “horse tiger”
If you heard someone saying 做事马虎(zuòshì mǎ hū), it means doing things carelessly. Usually, it’s a negative word indicating your attitudes, that you are always not careful and reliable enough.
There’s a small tale about this word’s origin. Once upon a time, there’s a painter who always draws whatever he wants and people usually couldn’t catch what he was painting. One day, he is painting a tiger head while someone is asking him to paint a horse. The painter then draws a horse body for the tiger head carelessly. When his customer asks him what is the animal on the paper, the painter answers “马马虎虎” to him.
The customer brings the picture home. When his first son asks about this strange animal, the customer says it’s a tiger. The first son then goes hunting with the picture and kills a horse because he thought it’s a tiger, so the customer has to pay the horse’s owner. Therefore, the customer tells his second son that the animal is a horse. Then, tragically, the second son is killed by a tiger because he thought the tiger is a horse and tries to ride on it. The small tale tells us the lesson for being careless and not responsible for your own jobs.
- 拍马屁 (pāimǎpì): “slap on horse’s ass”
“You are amazing!” “Ha, of course, I am.”
拍马屁, “slap on horse’s ass” means flattering people. It’s also a negative word to describe someone kisses others’ butts in order to gain some benefit or good impression. No one likes a 马屁精 (mǎpìjīng), who is really good at kissing others’ butts.
What’s more, the synonym word “狗腿 (gǒu tuǐ)”, “dog’s legs” on the surface, is an adjective to describe someone always cater to others’ favors.
- 马上 (mǎshàng)): “on the horse”
It is also a common word in Chinese’ daily lives. “On the horse” 马上 means right away or immediately. It’s an emphasizing word when someone orders you to do something immediately. Often when a mother is urging and ordering her kids to wake up or do the homework right away, 马上 would appear in the sentence. Also, you can use 马上 to promise people you will do something right now.
- 露马脚 (lòumǎjiǎo): “the horse’s legs exposed”
Horse again? Yes, 马 is really a common word in Chinese words with extended meanings. Here, if you say someone “horse’s legs exposed”, that means he or she reveals their trick or real purpose accidentally. Same as the phrase “狐狸尾巴露出来 (húlí wěibā lùchū lái)”, “showing fox’s tail” literally. Both of them have a negative meaning, indicating finding out and expose someone’s bad intentions or evil plans.
- 涂鸦 (túyā): “draw the duck”
涂鸦 means “graffiti”, or scribbling on walls or paper. The words date back to Tang Dynasty, a little son of a famous poet loved to draw anything on books and paper. The poet then wrote a poem describing his naughty and energetic son as a “duck” when drawing and scribbling on all paper and book.
- 炒鱿鱼 (chǎoyóuyú): “squid fried”
Seems yummy, isn’t it? Don’t be naive, you should be afraid of the word 炒鱿鱼 “squid fried”. If your boss told 你被炒鱿鱼了(nǐ bèi chǎoyóuyúle), it means you are fired.
In the past, some labors leave their hometown and went to Hong Kong or Guangdong province for work. They usually bring their simple bamboo mats with them to sleep. When the employers fire or dismiss their employees, the employees have no choice but to roll up their mats and go home. The rolled bamboo mats look similar to the squid slices that curl when they are fried.
- 放鸽子 (fàng gēzi): “free the pigeon”
If you had a date with your potential lover, but he or she didn’t show up and make you wait, then you are 放鸽子, meaning you are stood up. Or, if you couldn’t make it, or you simply just forgot to meet your friends, then you just “free your friends’ pigeon” (放朋友的鸽子).
- 吹牛 (chuīniú): “blow the cow”
If people were boasting around about how good they are, how rich they are, or what “great things” they’ve done, you can say they are “吹牛”. Therefore, it’s also a negative word describing people who boast and exaggerate their deeds.
- 三脚猫 (sānjiǎo māo): “three-legged cat”
三脚猫 “three-legged cat” means someone is not skillful or master in the professional field. People usually look down on someone who has only 三脚猫功夫 (three-legged cat’s kung fu).
The three-legged cat first appeared in a literary work in Ming Dynasty. In this work, the three-legged cat is good at catching mice but not good at walking at all. Hence, Chinese now use “三脚猫” to describe someone with unprofessional skills but superficial knowledge.
Chinese words dealing with “eat” and “food”
- 吃豆腐 (chī dòufu): “eating tofu”
There’s nothing to do with “eat” or “tofu” in this phrase, 吃豆腐 means sexual harassment. If a stranger touched on your lap on purpose, then he is “eating tofu” on you.
- 吃醋 (chīcù): “eat vinegar”
When someone is 吃醋 “eating vinegar”, he or she is being jealous in their relationships. If you saw a hot chick approach your boyfriend and flirt with him, you would 吃醋, or be jealous. You can also say you are eating that hot chick’s vinegar. (吃…的醋, chī… De cù)
- 种草莓 (zhǒng cǎoméi): “plant strawberries”
In Chinese, there’s a funny expression to say “hickey” on your neck. If your boyfriend or girlfriend gives you a hickey, you are 种草莓 “planted a strawberry”. Not hard to get it, right? It’s all about the appearance of a hickey.
- 吃墨水 (chī mòshuǐ): “eat the ink”
喝墨汁的 (hē mòzhī de), “someone who drinks the ink” on the surface meaning, is used to depict a literate or a writer. In the past, Chinese people wrote with brush and ink. The writers always finish the ink really fast like they just drink it. Thus, we connect “eat the ink” with writers or literate.
New-coined Chinese words about “love”
- 小三 (xiǎosān): “little three”
If there’s the other woman or man intruding your relationship, they are “the third person”, which Chinese created a new word for. 小三 “little three” means mistress or the other man. Furthermore, if a person has not only one affair, he or she would have 小三、小四(little four)、小五(little five), etc. This is not official Chinese of course, you can not find this word in a dictionary, but it’s a popular word nowadays.
- 出轨 (chūguǐ): “out of the rail”
If someone’s having an affair, he is “out of the rail”. Same as English, there are different words for “cheating” and “affair”. “Cheating” in Chinese is 劈腿(pītuǐ), “splitting legs” on the surface meaning.
Are these funny words appeal you and make you smile in your heart? If you want to know more about how to learn Chinese words and phrases, don’t hesitate to tell us in comments or on our Facebook page! Next time, when you are talking to your Chinese friends, you can understand the extended meaning words and blend in the conversation easily! For more Chinese blog posts, materials and classes, don’t forget to sign up our free trial to learn Mandarin and download the Chinese App for more Chinese language materials and to learn Mandarin online!