Your Guide To Curse Words In Chinese: 27 Swears And Insults To Learn

Your Guide To Curse Words In Chinese: 27 Swears And Insults To Learn

Even if you’ve been diligently studying your Chinese language learning textbook, when you actually get the chance to hear Chinese speakers talking amongst each other, you might find yourself hearing a lot of words and phrases that aren’t in your textbooks.

Some of these words and phrases that aren’t in your textbooks are actually Chinese curse words.

Curse words and slang terms in Chinese are not often given much space in “serious” textbooks or phrasebooks, but they are sure fun to learn!

Why Do You Need to Learn Curse Words in a Foreign Language?

One slightly “naughty” pleasure of learning any new language is learning how to swear and insult someone in that other language. 

Admit it, there’s a little guilty thrill that comes when you think about being able to use curse words in Chinese, or Italian, or German. No matter what language you are learning, there are bound to be a bunch of colorful and salty curse words that native speakers use almost daily.

Learning curse words isn’t just “fun” though, it’s also important if you want to gain fluency. Many casual curse words or insults are part of the daily vocabulary of native speakers. You might have a hard time following along with conversations if you don’t learn these words.

Why Do You Need to Learn Curse Words in Chinese?

Learning curse words in Chinese can be fun, but it is also tricky. You need to learn which curse words and insults you can use in certain situations and which ones you should avoid.

Like many Asian cultures, respect for elders and those considered of higher social standing than you -- your boss or a politician or the owner of a big company – is a big thing among the Chinese. You don’t want to casually throw out what you think is a harmless slang term only to find out you’ve called someone retarded.

Another tricky taboo in Chinese culture is disrespecting someone’s family and ancestors. One of the most grievous things you can do to a Chinese person is to imply that their family or someone in their family is less than honorable. Since many curse words in Chinese do just that, you need to be careful about which ones you use and who you say them around.

So, how can you curse in Chinese without either getting into a fight or getting labeled as a “vulgar foreigner”? You can start by studying the curse words and insults in Chinese that we’ve gathered here.

Aside from translations, we’ve also included their English swear or slang word equivalent and a few tips on what exactly they mean and how and when you should use them.

10 “Mild” Chinese Curse Words You Can Use Every Day

The words here are considered “curse” words as they are slightly insulting if not downright vulgar. They are not, however, considered completely offensive and you might hear Chinese speakers using them casually among themselves.

In other words, they are “colorful” and can be used among friends or people you know where. Refrain, however, from using them among elders or formal settings.

1. Huài dàn 

Translation: Bad egg

English equivalent: Bad guy

While this might not necessarily be a flattering term to call someone, it is not really considered offensive. You can use it playfully to refer to a friend who’s done something mischievous.

2. Pāi mǎ pì

Translation: Patting a horse’s butt

English equivalent: Suck up

This descriptive Chinese phrase is used as an insult. It refers to someone who acts extremely deferential to someone they consider more powerful in the hope of gaining favor. So, in English, a suck-up or a brown noser. 

3. Bèn dàn  

Translation: Stupid egg

English equivalent: An idiot

This is a mild Chinese insult that implies someone is not very bright. It’s basically the equivalent of saying that someone is an idiot or a moron. Not unforgivable.

4. Wǒ kào

Translation: Butt

English equivalent: An exclamation of pleased surprise

While the literal translation may refer to a “rear end”, it’s usually used by Chinese speakers as just an exclamation of surprise. Something more like: Holy shit!

5. Gǔnkāi

Translation: Rollaway

English Equivalent: Go to hell

You may hear a Chinese speaker say this if they are angry or annoyed at someone else. 

6. Niúbì

Translation: Cow vagina

English equivalent: Awesome

This is another slang phrase you are more likely to hear around Chinese youth talking amongst themselves – and not when addressing their elders. While the literal meaning is rather vulgar, it’s used more as an exclamation of pleasure or admiration, like “cool” or “awesome”.

7. Diǎo sī

Translation: Male pubic hair

English equivalent: Loser

This is another Chinese curse word where the meaning or how it is used, is not as vulgar as the literal translation of the word. 

8. Chǔn lǘ 

Translation: Jackass

English equivalent: Stupid and annoying person

This isn’t a nice thing to call someone but it’s considered a mild Chinese curse word. You are unlikely to get into a fight if you use this phrase.

9. Xiǎo guǐ

Translation: Little devil

English equivalent: Affectionate insult to refer to a child

This is only really a curse word because it references the devil. It is actually used as a term of endearment for a child. It implies that the child is “mischievous” but that their antics don’t do any harm.

10. Xiǎo tù zǎiz

Translation: Little rabbit kitten

English equivalent: Little brat

Again, sounds harsh, but is more likely to be said with some degree of affection. You should probably be careful to only use this around the kids of people you know though.

12 Chinese Curse Words That You Should Use With Caution 

The following Chinese phrases are used to express anger. You will usually hear them if a Chinese speaker is angry or upset at a situation or is trying to insult someone. 

You can use them as well without offending someone too greatly, but again, be cautious – don’t throw them around someone who you might mortally offend – like a superior or the elderly grandparents of a new friend. 

1. Cào

Translation: Fuck

English Equivalent: Fuck

This Chinese curse word is the equivalent of the English curse word “fuck”. Similar to English, Chinese has many words and phrases that might literally mean “fuck” but might have a different meaning or connotation. Most are used to express a negative emotion such as anger or disgust, but different phrases can mean different degrees of emotion depending on when and how they are said. 

2. Mā de

Translation: Shit

English equivalent: Shit

You can use this Chinese swear word the same way that you would use the phrase “shit” in English.

3. Tā mā de

Translation: His mother 

English equivalent: Fucking shit

This is a little stronger than “mā de”, but used pretty much the same way. It’s a mild curse word that is used daily, just not in formal situations or around anyone’s mother. 

4. Bái chī

Translation: Idiot

English equivalent: Mentally retarded

It’s not nice to make fun of someone who was born mentally retarded in almost any language, Chinese is no exception. Be careful with this one.

5. Wáng bā dàn 

Translation: Tortoise egg

English equivalent: A stupid man or a cuckold

This is a Chinese curse word that is used in two ways. The first is to call someone a “stupid man” which is a mild insult. But the second deeper meaning of this phrase is considered a more grievous insult in Chinese because you are implying that the man was so stupid he didn’t realize his wife was cheating on him – he’s a cuckold. 

6. Shǎ bī

Translation: Stupid female reproductive part

English equivalent: Stupid cunt

This is a commonly heard insult from Chinese speakers. They will use it to express anger about a situation as well. It’s considered vulgar and a grave insult when directed as a woman, so be careful.

7. Lǎo tóuzi

Translation: Old head

English equivalent: Old geezer

Respect for elders is an important tenant of Chinese culture, so this is an insult that is definitely not fit to be used in “polite company” or towards someone who is in a position of seniority to you.

8. Lǎo tài pó

Translation: Old hag

English equivalent: Disrespectful term for an elderly woman

Again, respect for elders is important to the Chinese, so be careful about using this particular phrase.

9. Kào běi

Translation: Shut up

English equivalent: You are annoying, shut up.

You might hear a Chinese person snappishly say this phrase to someone with who they have lost patience with. You will not, however, hear them say it to someone who deserves more “respect” – an elder or someone senior to them. So, if you don’t think a Chinese person would use this phrase in a situation, neither should you.   

10. Hún dàn

Translation: Mixed egg

English equivalent: Bastard

This is a rather creative bit of Chinese slang to refer to someone who was born of unwed parents. You need to be careful when you use this, however, because family is very important to the Chinese so implying something like this is an insult not just to them but their family.

11. Zázhǒng

Translation: Mixed seed

English equivalent: Having parents of different ethnicity

This is not a nice thing to call someone. Much like “hún dàn” this is casting aspirations on one’s parentage. While there is nothing wrong with having parents who came from different countries anymore, in ancient China, it was a bit taboo which is why this term became a grave insult.

12. Xià lǎozi yī tiào

Translation: Scared me to jump

English equivalent: What the fuck?

This Chinese phrase is usually used to express angry disbelief. You can use it to angrily ask someone what they think they are doing.

5 Explicit Chinese Curses and Insults 

The following Chinese words and phrases are considered very harsh and some are extremely vulgar. Don’t just throw these around because they are offensive and could end up getting you into trouble.

1. Cào nǐ zǔzōng shíbā dài

Translation: Fuck your ancestors to the eighteenth generation

English equivalent: Insults you, your immediate family, and your ancestors.

In a culture that values family honor as much as the Chinese culture does, insulting one’s family and ancestors is one of the worst things you can do. This Chinese curse word is one of the worst ones you can use against a Chinese speaker.

2. Biàntài

Translation: Pervert

English equivalent: Pervert

You don’t want to be called this, especially if you are in a crowded, public area. If a woman calls a man this, the man could be in for some trouble. 

3. Jiàn nǚ rén

Translation: Female dog

English equivalent: Bitch

In Chinese, as in many languages around the world, the word for a female dog is considered an insult when used to refer to a human.

4. Cào nǐ mā

Translation: Fuck your mother

English equivalent: Motherfucker

This is a strong Chinese curse word that is an insult to not just yourself, but your mother as well. Throw this out carelessly and you are just asking for a fight.

5. Gōng gòng qì chē

Translation: Public bus

English equivalent: Slut

This is a very harsh Chinese curse word that is used to insult a woman. Like a public bus, a woman who is called this is supposed to “get around” or “give many people a ride”.

Conclusion

When learning slang and curse words in Chinese and any other language, the best way to learn how to use them properly is to ask a native language speaker.

The curse words we’ve enumerated above are relatively common and can give you a good start in learning the nuances of Chinese cursing. 

A native language tutor can help you better understand the nuances of these words, how to pronounce them and what kind of tone of voice you should use to let people know you were “just joking” or didn’t mean anything really bad by them. This will help ensure that your efforts to “sound local” don’t end up with you just sounding rude or vulgar.

Why do I need to learn curse words in Chinese?

Learning curse words in Chinese can be fun, but it is also tricky. You need to learn which curse words and insults you can use in certain situations and which ones you should avoid. Like many Asian cultures, respect for elders and those considered of higher social standing than you -- your boss or a politician or the owner of a big company – is a big thing among the Chinese. You don’t want to casually throw out what you think is a harmless slang term only to find out you’ve called someone retarded.

Why do we learn swear words?

Learning curse words isn’t just “fun” though, it’s also important if you want to gain fluency. Many casual curse words or insults are part of the daily vocabulary of native speakers. You might have a hard time following along with conversations if you don’t learn these words.

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