Swear Words in Chinese Posted by sasha on Mar 6, 2012 in Culture, Vocabulary
Normally, we try to keep it pretty PG around here on the Chinese blog, but the readers have spoken, and people want to learn how to say bad words (坏语 – huài yǔ) in Chinese. That should come as no surprise, since I’m sure most of us would admit that we always seek out the profanity when studying a language. Especially here in China, when your standing as a 老外 (foreigner) always leaves you prone to being ripped off and taken advantage of, it’s nice to be equipped with a few insults to throw back to show that you’re not fresh off the boat, and you’re not messing around!
Not surprisingly, in Chinese, a lot of the most hurtful insults have to do with someone’s mother, or their ancestors. Think “Yo mama” jokes in English, only much worse. Chinese learners should be warned, though, that hurling some of these insults someone’s way could lead to more trouble than is really worth. If a cab driver scams you for 10 kuai or so, it’s not worth it to kick in with the mother and ancestor related insults. I’ve seen plenty of fights get started over these, so proceed with caution. Anyway, here are some of the most commonly used swear words that fall into that category:
他妈的 (tā mā de) – This is a common translation of the English equivalent of “f***,” “shit,” or “damn it.” It literally translates as “his mother’s.” Way back in the 1920s, a famous Chinese writer joked that this should be the country’s national curse word. Keep your ears open, and you’ll probably hear this more than a few times everyday, especially in the big cities.
去你妈的 (qù nǐ mā de) – Whereas the first phrase can simply be used as an exclamation, like when you stub your toe or get cut off on the road, this one is more of a direct insult to someone, and it basically means “f*** off.” It literally translates as “go to your mother.”
肏你妈 (cào nǐ mā) – Now we’re getting really serious. This means “f*** your mother,” and will only be used when people are really, really angry with someone else. This is the kind of talk that can get a bottle of Yanjing beer thrown at you.
肏你祖宗十八代 (cào nǐ zǔ zōng shí bā dài) – This is basically the granddaddy of them all. It means “f*** your ancestors to the 18th generation.” As Chinese have deep respect for their ancestors, this will certainly do more than offend someone, and it will almost definitely result in a fight of some sort.
For some reason, there are plenty of insults in Chinese having to do with eggs. This may have something to do with one particular insult that goes back to the Song Dynasty:
王八 (wáng bā) – This can be translated roughly as “bastard.” Be careful when telling a cab driver that you want to go to an Internet bar (网吧 – wǎng bā), as this word has similar pronunciation. In Chinese, 王八 is slang for “tortoise,” and as a tortoise is associated with promiscuity, this word basically insults someone’s mother/grandmother/etc. This brings us to the use of the character for “egg.”
王八蛋 (wáng bā dàn) – If you use this, you’re basically calling someone a “son of a bitch.” Calling someone a turtle egg is a roundabout way of saying that their mother or grandmother was, well, you know…
龟蛋 (guī dàn) – This literally means “turtle egg” and can be used in the same fashion.
混蛋 (hún dàn) – As this translates as “mixed egg,” it means that someone’s mother mated with two men in quick succession, thus meaning that the person has two biological fathers.
坏蛋 (huài dàn) – Literally meaning “bad egg,” this is used to call someone a wicked or just downright bad person. Not quite offensive as the others, this one can be used without fear of causing a fight.
笨蛋 (bèn dàn) – A “stupid egg,” this term is used to call someone a fool/idiot/moron/etc.
滚蛋 (gǔn dàn) – A “rolling egg,” you can use this to tell someone to piss off. Alternatively, you can also say 滚开 (gǔn kāi). I use this to ward off hawks and beggars on the streets, especially around big tourist attractions where they refuse to leave you alone.
There are also tons of curse words in Chinese that have to do with sex, prostitution, genitals, masturbation, etc.
二屄 (Èr bī – or just 2B online) – This means “double vagina” and is used to call someone the equivalent of a “f***ing idiot.”
傻屄 (shǎ bī) – Literally meaning “stupid vagina,” I’m sure you can guess what calling someone this name means. I’ll give you a clue – it rhymes with stupid bunt, and most ladies would slap you for saying it.
卖豆腐 (mài dòu fu) – “Selling tofu” is used as a euphemism for prostitution. As such, be careful when you go to the local vegetable market to inquire about whether or not they sell tofu. Maybe it’s best to just ask – 你有豆腐吗? (Do you have tofu?)
吃豆腐 (chī dòu fu) – On the other hand “eating tofu” is used to describe a man who is a pervert, who will try to touch women against their will.
公共汽车 (gōng gòng qì chē) – Calling a lady a “public bus” means that everyone gets a ride. You catch my drift?
花花公子 (huā huā gōng zǐ) – Used for guys, the “flower flower prince” means playboy, and can be used with either a negative or positive connotation, just as in English.
炒饭 (chǎo fàn) – While these two characters together normally mean “fried rice,” they also have a double meaning – “to have sex.”
打飞机 (dǎ fēi jī) – Quite possibly my favorite Chinese slang, “to hit the airplane” is a euphemism for male masturbation.
我肏 (wǒ cào) – Literally “I f***,” this can mean a variety of things – “Well, f*** me!”, “Holy shit!”, “F***in’ awesome!” Alternatively, you may hear people say 我靠 (wǒ kào), especially in public, as this is not as offensive. I hear people in Beijing saying this all the time.
牛屄 (niú bī) – For some reason, “cow vagina” means “f***in’ awesome” in Chinese.
吃屎 (chī shǐ) – “Eat shit” – this one speaks for itself.
二百五 (Èr bǎi wǔ) – Calling someone “250” basically means they are stupid, useless, good for nothing, etc.
戴绿帽子 (dài lǜ mào zi) – If a man is “wearing a green hat,” that means his wife/girlfriend is cheating on him. I wrote a post about this one and 250 a while back, which you can find here.
While there are plenty more swear words out there in Chinese, I’d say this is a solid enough base. You won’t get very far equipped with only these words and phrases, though. In fact, you may find yourself in a hospital or a Chinese jail. So why don’t you really learn Chinese with us?
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@Linda Why do you want to learn to swear in Chinese.为什么你想学习中文骂人的话
@jack Cause people will never know what ur saying and u can get away with 95%of the time!!!
@jack I’ve been called a word in Chinese by a girl with a deep tone of disgust that made everyone look at me. I’m thinking it was bad.
@Linda Um cursing in chinese is rude and abusive. Im moving to chinese thats why im looking this stuff up.
@Queen_me but if u find Chinese swearing bad, why u search this up
thanks for this informative post. I have been living in china for a year and I heard most of those swear words a couple of times. Some of them maybe even a couple of times every day. I think it’s important to know them because they are part of everyday life in china…but maybe as a foreigner it is better not to use them too often ;=) best wishes from Switzerland.
wonderful article some of the explanations I have not even heard about. besides, 脏话 is better for bad words than 坏话
I am fascinated by how colorful the Chinese are with language, even swear words! Someone once wrote out the Chinese character for “dogfucker” or “woman who fucks dogs.” I think it was three characters – “dog”, “to do/fuck”, “someone who does something.” I also think there was a character for woman in there. But I’m sure it was only three characters. Can you help?
P.S. Sorry in advance for adding more profanity to your swear word entry!
@Andrea it could be Ri Gou 日狗 or gou ri de 狗日的
日：Original — sun Slang — to fuck
狗日的：the dog fucker
Can anyone give me some mandarin phrases which imply that an individual is an mannerless, uneducated buffoon.
Also, are these phrases correct and widely used.
How would you rate them as an insult?
tu bao zi 土包子 – dirt dumpling
nong min 农民 – peasant
mei pin wei 没品味 – no taste
Ni mei jiao yang 你没教养 – your not educated
Thanks in advance
@rosewoodandspruce I would say “dirt dumpling” is the worst one.
this is very well written! (and i’m chinese)
Thank you so much! This article is just what we we’re looking for! We’re late-comers, and recently caught up with Joss Whedon’s Firefly series and Serenity movie, where all the main characters curse in Chinese! Your article is a most enjoyable read!
um…i’ve been to china four times in my life, and i speak mandarin fluently, and i have NEVER heard the phrase 他妈的 being said in china. just saying:P
@concerned Apparently you weren’t listening, because this curse is uttered EVERYWHERE. I hear it at least 3 times a day just walking around/taking the subway/hanging out in restaurants. Maybe you should take another class or two, Mr. “I Speak Chinese Fluently.”
@concerned @concerned 你会说中文但是不知道“他妈的”？真可笑，你是聋了还是怎么了。还什么“我会一口流利的中文”。别吹牛逼啦，。（这就是一个很巧当地用“牛逼”的地方）。
You speak Chinese and doesn’t even know the word”他妈的”？What a joke, are you deaf or something? What “I speak Chinese fluently”。Stop blowing on your “牛逼”(Of course, this is a great place to the the word “牛逼”)
Is zoi kai a word if it is can you tell me the english name for it please?
@liz larnder Sorry I’m not sure about that word…
@liz larnder Zoi kai are you referring to 走开？Because that just means to go away.
meh, i’m kinda fluent:
@liz larnder Do you mean “走开”? (the pinyin would be zou kai, which is very similar). If you did mean “走开” I’m pretty sure it means “go away” I’m not 100% sure because my chinese is kinda rusty but that’s what i think it is. I hope this helped!
It’s weird because I’m Chinese and my father (and everyone who I know lol) says 他妈的 all the time so you probably where in a good part of China where people don’t swear 😛 IMO it really is the most common swear word 😀
HAHAHAHHAHA I laughed so hard…I’m Chinese and I didn’t even know that some of these swear words existed…
…does that mean I’ve been swearing without realizing it for most of my life…??? TT^TT
You missed the famous swear in Chinese “chee bye”
@James what does that mean?
@James that’s not mandarin, but it is another dialect of chinese… try search it by alternate word “cibai” or “jibai”?
@James Chee bye is hokkien for vagina.
A Foreign Chink:
@James Cheebye is equivalent to cunt.
If you call someone a “cibai”, you’re basically calling that person a cunt.
It’s more commonly used around the south east Asia region and actually not anywhere else. Not even in Taiwan.
I’m taking Chinese classes and i asked my teacher if these are true and she said thanks
Thanks for the article! I’m currently translating a paper by Wang Shuo for my chinese literature class and this list of swear words are incredibly helpful!
Well done! The understanding of the words are almost native. The words are better to be called 脏话 instead of “坏话”as Jin says. “坏话”mostly means bad words about someone. And, “二屄” is almost the same as 傻屄 where 二 implies “傻”. As such, sometimes (according to the situation) “二哥”and “二姐” refer to some person with confused mind or mentally weatness. We can also say “我有点二乎了。”meaning I am a little bit confused.
i live in a city where the Chinese population is rapidly increasing so these ill be good to know in case i need to defend myself.
@concerned: No more hot air, please! You might have been to China four times, but it couldn´t be any more obvious that you´re far from speaking fluent Chinese. Otherwise you would know that 他妈的 not only is one of the most common swear phrases, but also appears in movies, conversation with friends, strong anger and so on. When speaking fluently, one also knows such (cultural) aspects. So yeah, if you could be a little more realistic about your self-assessment…that would be nice.
@Lei Y’all should learn about personal space for crying out loud.
I had a chinese co-worker for a while who told me (excuse the way I’ve gone about spelling, as I am going by my memory of the phonetics and as I would spell these words in English) “Sick Sea Poke eye”. I’m unable to remember how they were spelled properly obvioisly, as I habe just plugged in similar sounding English words… sound familiar to anyone? If I remember right it was two seperate things that could be joined “sick see” and “poke eye”.
@Alain Those are Cantonese curse words. Sick see means to eat poop or eat sh*t and poke guy means to go trip over something. Both are like telling someone fu*k you.
What is the worst of the worst that you can tell to a Chinese ? is there any kind that will make it hard for a Chinese to control and not kill you ?
Does anyone know the meaning of an insult that roughly translates to “Your grandfather is your grandfather”? What is its origin, and why is it an insult?
Simpson Wong Ho Chu:
China sucks .Taiwan is the best.
@Simpson Wong Ho Chu you suck, china is the best!\n\n
it means fuck eighteen generations of your family in chinese
meh, i’m kinda fluent:
I did know some of these (mostly the family related ones like “去你妈的”, “肏你祖宗十八代”, and “他妈的”. However this added a lot more handy phrases. I’m going to China later this year so I need to stock up on phrases!
Go f all your ancestors to the 20th generation!
a word called siao gui zi is meaning outsiders
Out of curiosity, is there a kind of inappropriate exclamation commonly used to show unpleasant surprise? Kind of like how in Harry Potter they would say “merlin’s beard!” Or some such?
while i don’t need to learn chinese because i speak it at home, and i’m just a teeny bit skeptical about the claims about swearing your ancestors, it’s really funny to me that my dad is basically saying fuck constantly, even though my mom hates swearing. ironic, hun
really cool! I studied Mandarin for a while in school, and I really wanna continue after classes ended. though here in the Philippines the Filipino-Chinese people have a different dialect, which i hope to become familiar with in the future.
Some of the family parts have better alternatives.
Change 肏 to 操. Although pronounced the same, but the second one is a lot more common.
I heard that pronunciation of G8 is a bad word in Chinese so some of to technology companies are naming their 8th generation devices as Gen8, so do you know what is it in Chinese when you read G8 (G Eight)?
My Chinese friend said English school classes can be funny as the pronunciation of 吃屎 (chī shǐ) in English is very close to “Now class, let us turn the page and look at figure Six, C…”
“cào nǐ mā”
I was looking for this one. Got thrown at me in the streets, after I refused, to give this dude my number. 🙄😂