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List of English words of Chinese origin

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Title: List of English words of Chinese origin  
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Subject: Chinese language, Lists of etymologies, Transcription into Chinese characters, List of loanwords in Chinese, Kaolinite
Collection: Chinese Language, Lists of English Words of Foreign Origin
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List of English words of Chinese origin

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 1
  • B 2
  • C 3
  • D 4
  • F 5
  • G 6
  • H 7
  • K 8
  • L 9
  • M 10
  • N 11
  • O 12
  • P 13
  • Q 14
  • R 15
  • S 16
  • T 17
  • W 18
  • Y 19
  • Z 20
  • See also 21
  • References 22
  • External links 23

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 (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.[1]
Bok choy
from Cantonese 白菜 (baak6 coi3), a Chinese cabbage: lit. 'white vegetable'


see Ketchup
colloquial English word for 'tea', originally from Cantonese 茶 (caa4)
from Cantonese 長衫 (coeng4 saam1), lit. long clothes. Popular in the 19th and early 20th centuries.
or "qi", energy of an object or person, from 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.[2] 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
Chop chop
from Cantonese cuk1 cuk1 速速, lit. hurry, urgent[3]
from Chinese Pidgin English chop chop.
Chop suey
from Cantonese 雜碎 (zaap6 seoi3), lit. mixed pieces
from Chinese Pidgin English chow chow which means food, perhaps based on Cantonese 炒 (caau2), 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


Dim sum and Dim sim
from Cantonese 點心 (dim2sam1), lit. touches the heart


from Cantonese 番攤 (faan1 taan1), 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 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 Cantonese 工合 (gun1 hap6), 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 (haa1 gaau2), lit. shrimp dumpling
Hoisin (sauce)
from Cantonese 海鮮 (hoi2 sin1), 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.[4]
from Cantonese 祁門 (kei4 mun4), tea from Qimen in China
from Cantonese 茄汁 (ke4 zap1), short for 蕃茄汁 (faan1 ke4 zap1), lit. tomato sauce/juice
Japanese 公案 kōan, from Chinese 公案 (Mandarin gōng'àn), lit. public record
from Cantonese 叩頭 (kau3 tau4), lit. knock head
Kumquat or cumquat
from Cantonese name for tangerines 柑橘 (gam1 gwat1)
Kung fu
the English term to collectively describe Chinese martial arts; from Cantonese 功夫 (gun1 fu1), lit. efforts


Lo mein
from Cantonese 撈麵 (lou4 min6), literally scooped noodle
from Cantonese 龍眼 (lung4 ngaan5), name of the fruit, literally "Dragon's eye"
Long time no see
from Chinese 好久不見 (hou2 gau2 bat1 gin3), a common greeting literally translated[3]
from Cantonese 蘆橘 (lou4 gwat1), old name of the fruit
from Cantonese 荔枝 (lai6 zi1), name of the fruit


Mao-tai or moutai
from Mandarin 茅台酒 (máotái jiǔ), liquor from Maotai (Guizhou province)
from Cantonese 麻將 (maa4 zoeng3), 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
Cantonese 不可以 (bat1 ho2 ji5)[3]
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 (paai4 gau2), a gambling game
from Cantonese 北京 (bak1 ging1), a patterned silk cloth
from Mandarin 拼音, lit. put together sounds; spelled-out sounds[5]
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 (saan1 baan2), the name of such vessel.
from Mandarin 上海 (shang hai) i.e 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.
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 (saa1 pei4), lit. sand skin.
Shih Tzu
from Mandarin 獅子狗, lit. lion child dog (Chinese lion)
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"
Siu mai
from Cantonese 燒賣 (siu1 maai6), pork dumplings, lit. to cook and sell
from Cantonese 師傅, (si1 fu6), master.
from Cantonese 小種茶 (siu2 zung2 caa4), lit. small kind tea
From Japanese shoyu 醤油, Chinese 醬油


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 (daai6 baan1), 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".
lit. bean curd, from Cantonese 豆腐 (du6 fu6).
from Cantonese 堂 (tong4)
tung oil
from Cantonese 桐油(tun4 yau4), oil extracted from nuts of the tong tree
via Japanese 大官, lit. high official; or 大君, lit. great nobleman
from 颱風 (toi4 fung1) not to be confused with the monster: typhon.


from Cantonese 鑊 (wok6) lit. boiler or cauldron
Won ton
from Cantonese 雲吞 (wan4 tan1), lit. 'cloud swallow' as a description of its shape
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 (yan5), lit. addiction (to opium)
Yen (Japanese currency)
Japanese 円 en, from Chinese 圓, 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 , originally from Sanskrit ध्यान Dhyāna / Pali झन jhāna.

See also


  1. ^ Harper, Douglas. "brainwashing". Online Etymology Dictionary. Retrieved January 15, 2012. 
  2. ^
  3. ^ 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.
  4. ^ (accessed on 10 March 2008)
  5. ^ Hànyǔ means the spoken language of the Han people and pīnyīn literally means "spelled-out sounds".Pinyin

External links

  • Chinese Loanwords
  • English Words from Chinese
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