Mandarin Chinese profanity

The Traditional Chinese characters for the word huài dàn, a Mandarin Chinese profanity meaning, literally, "bad egg"

Profanity in Mandarin Chinese most commonly involves sexual references and scorn of the object's ancestors, especially their mother. Other Mandarin insults accuse people of not being human. Compared to English, scatological and blasphemous references are less often used.

In this article, unless otherwise noted, the Traditional character will follow its Simplified form if it is different.



As in English, many Mandarin Chinese slang terms involve the genitalia or other sexual terms. Slang words for the penis refer to it literally, and are not necessarily negative words:

Note: One should note that in Middle Chinese the words for and were homophones. The fǎnqiè of "" (丁了切) and the fǎnqiè of "simplified Chinese: ; traditional Chinese: " (都了切) denoted the same pronunciation; both began with a voiceless unaspirated alveolar stop (/t/ in IPA and d in pinyin) and the same vowel and tone. Based on regular sound change rules, we would expect the word for bird in Mandarin to be pronounced diǎo, but Mandarin dialects' pronunciations of the word for bird evolved to an alveolar nasal initial, likely as a means of taboo avoidance, giving contemporary niǎo while most dialects in the south retain the Middle Chinese alveolar stop initial and the homophony or near homophony of these words.


There appear to be more words for vagina than for penis. The former are more commonly used as insults and are also more aggressive and have negative connotations:

Brothel frequenter[]


In addition to the above expressions used as insults directed against women, other insults involve insinuating that they are prostitutes:





Male masturbation, at least, has several vulgar expressions, in addition to two formal/scientific ones that refer to both male and female masturbation (shǒuyín 手淫 and zìwèi 自慰):


Sexual intercourse[]


As in English, a vulgar word for the sexual act is used in insults and expletives:


Insulting someone's mother is also common:

Other relatives[]

Turtles and eggs[]

The 中文大辭典 Zhōng wén dà cí diǎn (Encyclopedic Dictionary of the Chinese Language)), discusses 王八 (wáng bā) in vol. 6 p. 281. "Wáng bā" is the term that is usually written casually for the slur that means something like "son of a bitch."

A "wángbādàn 忘/王八蛋" is the offspring of a woman lacking virtue. Another meaning of 王八 is biē, fresh-water turtle.[5] Turtle heads reemerging from hiding in the turtle's shell look like the glans emerging from the foreskin, and turtles lay eggs. So a "wang ba" is a woman who has lost her virtue, and a "wang ba dan" is the progeny of such a woman, a turtle product, but, figuratively, also a penis product. 龜頭 (guītóu, "turtle head") can refer to the glans of the penis.

"Wáng bā 王八" originally got switched over from another "忘八 wàng bā" (one that referred to any very unvirtuous individual) because of a man with the family name Wáng 王 who picked up the nickname 賊王八 zéi Wáng bā ("the thieving Wang Eight") but for being a dastard, not for being a bastard. The dictionary doesn't say, but he may have been the eighth Wang among his siblings. Anyway, he became "crook Wang eight" and the term stuck and spread just as "Maverick" did in English. There is a pun here because of the earlier expression 忘八 wáng bā used to describe (1) any person who forgets/disregards the eight virtues, (2) an un-virtuous woman, i.e., one who sleeps around. The first meaning applied to the dastardly Wang, but the family name got "stuck" to the second, sexual, term.[citation needed]


Many insults imply that the interlocutor's mother or even grandmother was promiscuous. The turtle is emblematic of the penis and also of promiscuous intercourse, because turtles were once thought to conceive by thought alone, making paternity impossible to prove. Eggs are the progeny of turtles and other lower animals, so the word dàn () is a metonym for offspring.


Suck up[]



While there are vulgar expressions in English referring to the buttocks or rectum, there are no real equivalents in Mandarin. Pìgu yǎn (屁股眼) or pìyǎnr (屁眼兒/屁眼儿), one expression for anus, is not vulgar, but it occurs in various curses involving an imperforate anus



As in the West, highly sexual women have been stigmatized. Terms for males who sleep around are rare.

Positive connotations[]

Occasionally, slang words with a negative connotation are turned around and used positively:


Other insults include the word hùn (), which means "mixed-up", or hùn (simplified Chinese: ; traditional Chinese: ), which means "muddy":


Perhaps due to the influence of wángbādàn (王八蛋), dàn (; "egg") is used in a number of other insults in addition to hùndàn (混蛋):


The word guā (; melon or gourd) is also used in insults:

In addition to the senses listed above, the "melon" is a metonym for the womb, and a "broken melon" refers to a female's lost virginity.


The noun gùn, stick/staff is often used to refer to someone who is morally corrupted.

Ghosts and spirits[]

The noun for "ghost" 鬼 is often used to mock someone with some bad habit. The mocking tone may not be very serious though.

精 "nonhuman spirit in a human's form" is usually for insulting some cunning people.





Because shame or "face" is important in Chinese culture, insulting someone as "shameless" is much stronger than in English:




Other insults accuse people of lacking qualities expected of a human being:


(; "dead", "cadaverous," or, less precisely, "damn(ed)") is used in a number of insults:


The words "" (shǐ) (= turd, dung), "" (fèn) (= manure, excrement) and "大便 (= stool, poop)" (dà biàn), all mean feces but vary from blunt four letter to family-friendly, respectively. They can all be used in compound words and sentences in a profane manner.

Originally, the various Mandarin Chinese words for "excrement" were less commonly used as expletives, but that is changing. Perhaps because farting results in something that is useless even for fertilizer: "fàng pì" (放屁; lit. "to fart") is an expletive in Mandarin. The word "" (; lit. "fart") or the phrase is commonly used as an expletive in Mandarin (i.e. "bullshit!").


In a 1968 academic study of Chinese pejorative words, more than a third of the 325-term corpus of abusive expressions compare the insulted person with an animal, with the worst curses being "animal" generally, "pig, dog, animal", or "animal in dress", which deny the person of human dignity.[9] The expressions contain metaphorical references to the following domesticated animals: dogs, cows, and chickens (12 or 11 terms each), (8 times), horse (4), cat (3), and duck (2), and one each to sheep, donkey and camel.[10] A variety of wild animals are used in these pejorative terms, and the most common are monkey (7 times) and tiger (5 times), symbolizing ugliness and power respectively.[11]


The fact that many insults are prefaced with the Mandarin Chinese word for dog attest to the animal's low status:


In at least one case, rabbit is part of an insult:



The Chinese word for bird "niǎo"() was pronounced as "diǎo" in ancient times, which rhymes with () meaning penis or sexual organ.[12] It also sounds the same as "penis" in several Chinese dialects. Thus, bird is often associated with 'fuck', 'penis' or 'nonsense':


A tigress or 母老虎 (Mǔ lǎohǔ) refers to a fierce woman, usually someone's strict wife.


A dinosaur or 恐龙 (Kǒnglóng) has been used as Internet slang to describe an ugly girl.



Certain words are used for expressing contempt or strong disapproval:



Some expressions are harder to explain:

Action specific[]

Some expressions represent offensive insults involving some kind of actions:

Region specific[]

Many locations within China have their own local slang, which is scarcely used elsewhere.

Racial euphemisms[]

Mandarin Chinese has specific terms and racial euphemisms for different races and ethnicities, and some discriminatory slurs against representatives from certain governments and backgrounds.

Against Westerners[]

Against Other East Asians[]

Against Japanese[]

Demonstrators in Taiwan host signs telling "Japanese devils" to "get out" of the Diaoyutai Islands following an escalation in disputes in 2012.

Against Koreans[]

Against Taiwanese[]

Against South Asians[]

Against Indians[]

Against Southeast Asians[]

Against Filipinos[]

Against Indonesians[]

Against Vietnamese[]


Against Communists[]


There are various circumlocutions in Mandarin Chinese for homosexual, and the formal terms are recent additions just as is the direct translation of "masturbation" (hand soiling).

Duànxiù (simplified Chinese: ; traditional Chinese: 斷袖) — cut off sleeve, from the story of a ruler whose male favorite fell asleep on the sleeve of his jacket, so when the ruler had to get up to conduct some needed business he cut his sleeve off rather than awaken his lover (See Bret Hinsch, Passions of the Cut Sleeve, p. 53). An analogous story, of a sleeve being cut off so as not to disturb a sleeping cat, is told of both Confucius and Muhammad, and perhaps others.

Yútáo (simplified Chinese: ; traditional Chinese: 餘桃) — remains of a peach, from the story of a favorite who rather too familiarly offered his sovereign a peach of which he had already eaten half. (From Han Fei Zi, chapter 12)

Bōlí (玻璃, glass) — lit., "glass" person. It comes from a passage in the Dream of the Red Chamber in which Phoenix is described as having a "crystal heart in a glass body," meaning that she was glistening, pure, clear, fastidious, etc. It stands as high praise for a lady, but comes off as an effeminate slur when referring to men. The English translation of Bai Xian-yong's novel about male homosexuals in Taiwan includes the term "crystal boys," derived from the same passage in the earlier novel, and also a rather gruff reference to the old photographer who befriends some of the boys as "you old glass," which, delivered by a female friend of his, comes out sounding about on the level of "you old fart," i.e., not really so very offensive, but indicating a passing mood of aggravation on the speaker's part. Nevertheless, the general meaning is probably closer to "old queer."

Nán fēng (simplified Chinese: 男风; traditional Chinese: 男風), male custom, is homophonous with (南風, southern custom.) The first writing of the term would fairly easily be picked out as referring to sexual interactions, whereas the second term could just mean "the customs of the southern part of China."

Tóngzhì (同志) (lit. "comrade") was recently adopted in Hong Kong and Taiwan to mean homosexual, and is sometimes used on the mainland. Literally the term means "one having same aspirations".

Tùzi (兔子) lit., "bunny," but used to refer to catamites. (See Herbert A. Giles, A Chinese-English Dictionary, entry 12,122) See also Tu Er Shen.

Since the success of Ang Lee's Brokeback Mountain, duànbèi (simplified Chinese: 断背; traditional Chinese: 斷背, lit. "Brokeback") has also become popular.

See also[]



  1. ^ 为什么"月经"又叫"大姨妈"?. Baidu Zhidao.
  2. ^ 女生习惯说法"大姨妈"的来历. Xinhua News. 2008-05-10.
  3. ^ . Mandarin-English Talking Dictionary. Chinese Language Center.
  4. ^ 为什么乳房叫波.
  5. ^ , , , and are all different characters for "turtle".
  6. ^
  7. ^ FluentFlix, Chinese Slang 101: "Color Wolf"
  8. ^ Note: The character may not be supported on all browsers. It is a 巴 ba below a 尸 corpse radical, and appears as Ba hkscs.PNG. The character is present in the HKSCS. In the case where the correct character cannot be rendered, the phrase can also be colloquially shown as 屎巴巴 otherwise.
  9. ^ Huang, Frank and Wolfram Eberhard (1968), "On Some Chinese Terms of Abuse," Asian Folklore Studies 27.1: 29.
  10. ^ Huang and Eberhard 1968: 30.
  11. ^ Huang and Eberhard 1968: 32.
  12. ^
  13. ^ "瞧不起".
  14. ^ Chao, Eveline. NIUBI!(2009) pg.13
  15. ^ chinaSMACK Glossary: Cena
  16. ^ 第一滴血──從日方史料還原平型關之戰日軍損失 (6) News of the Communist Party of China December 16, 2011
  17. ^ "Chinese in the Philippines". China History Forum, Chinese History Forum. Archived from the original on 26 April 2014. Retrieved 1 February 2015.
  18. ^ Chua, Amy (2018). Political Tribes: Group Instinct and the Fate of Nations. Penguin Press. p. 43. ISBN 978-0399562853.
  19. ^ Custer, Charlie (12 August 2010). "StarCraft 2 in China: "We Gamers Really Suffer"". ChinaGeeks. Archived from the original on 16 August 2010. Retrieved 15 August 2016.CS1 maint: BOT: original-url status unknown (link)
  20. ^ 共產黨與羞恥心(in Chinese)