How to Use Chinese Curse Words and Phrases (Like a Native Pro)

Updated on February 5, 2018

A friend who happens to understand a little Chinese recently commented to me: "Hey Justin, you know I don't think the Chinese use curse words. I'm not even sure if they have them." To which I promptly said: "My poor hearing impaired friend. You simply do not know what to listen for."

True, I am an American foreigner who only spent 2 years (mostly) in China's north east regions. However, during my stay I had the pleasure of being accompanied by some of the most foul-mouthed, outlandish native speakers a hapless waiguoren (外国人 - foreigner) could as for.

So for your edification, I have compiled a list of common and not so common Chinese swears, Chinese curses and Chinese insults. You will find that with only a few exceptions, the Chinese curse and carry-on just like the rest of the world.

Vulgar Terms

Alright, let's start off strong by teaching you some of the Chinese swears and curses that will definitely get you a fist fight (hence the use of the bruce lee picture).

肏 - cào -

General vulgar term for the word "Fuck". In general, it has the equivalent meaning and connotation as the English word. However, there are possibly more situations in Chinese where the word is used in expressions of excitement and/or amazement.

Example: 我 肏 (Wo cào), pronunciation: "wo-tsoa" - I fuck. A very common statement for a variety of occasions where the speaker feels pissed, excited, amazed, enraged, etc. Note: This statement is also the reason many Chinese find it so funny when English speakers use the word "wassup." The two terms sound kind of similar if you think about it.

狗崽子 - gǒu zǎizi

Colloquially, this literally means puppy. However, the common (most preferred term) for puppy is 小狗 (Xiǎo gǒu, lit. little dog). The derogatory definition of this term is the most preferred usage (that''s why I have included it.) It literally means "son of a bitch." Its usage is also very similar to the English usage of the term. You might utter this when mad, or when seeking to be mean or a little nasty to someone else.

牛屄 - niú bī

The meaning most coincides with "fucking great" or "fucking awesome" in English. This term literally translates to “cow p@$$y,” and apparently may have some connection to rural China. However, the most interesting thing about this term comes from the fact that (屄 - bī) the character of this phrase that actually means p@$$y, has been officially banned by government teaching and literary authorities for being too vulgar. (bī is composed of two other Chinese character which mean “body” and “hole”, respectively.) Literally, within the past 15 years, the character bi has disappeared from Chinese keyboard settings.

However, young people are super smart. So more often then not you will see the English characters “NB” used in place of the characters themselves on Chinese blogs and forums.

Variations include: 太牛屄 - tài niú bī – “too fucking awesome”

牛 – niú - “great”, “awesome”

泼妇 - pōfù

Simply put, this term means “bitch”, “shrew” or simply implies “crazy woman.” Although, there are literally dozens of other Chinese characters to describe the same exact Chinese swear / Chinese curse word; I’ve tried to present the one that is commonly used.

Translation: "Too f@$king awesome"
Translation: "Too f@$king awesome"

Milder Curses:

哇塞 - Wasāi

This is most often used as a general term of excitement. The best English translations are probably related to the phrases "Holy Cow", "Wow" or "Oh My God". However, on some occasions it is uttered as a mild swear when something upsets the utterer. In these cases, the translation is probably closer to "Shoot", "Darn" or "Damn." Lastly, the phrase is apparently Taiwanese in origin and is especially popular with Chinese women.

白痴 - báichī

Very common and oft used term meaning "idiot." Can be really insulting or a little endearing depending on the usage.

二百五 - Èrbǎiwǔ

Simply put this phrase means "stupid", "buffoon", "simpleton" or "idiot" (at its meanest intent). Mostly used in a half-joking kind of way, the phrase has its origin story dating back to China's Qing dynasty (~ 2 centuries ago).

However, because it has been around for so long it is generally considered a old and dated phrase by many younger Chinese. However, if you are interested in learning the history behind it click here.

Variation Include: 你二啊 - Nǐ Èr A - "You're so stupid." Literally, you are a number 2.

丑八怪 - chǒubāguài

A straightforward insulting term that describes an extremely ugly person. Akin to the English word hideous, with possibly stronger connotations. The literal English translation is "Ugly and All - Around Weird". Apparently, there is also a very popular Chinese song by the same name by the artist Jackie Xue.

垃圾 - lājī

To round out our short list of mild Chinese swears and curses, I bring you lājī (pronounced: laa - jee). It simply means "trash". And just like in english, trash can refer to people in an insulting way (i.e. "You look like trash and smell like poop."), or it can refer to actual trash that you put in a landfill. See our cultures are not so different. :)

Special Note: In Taiwan, the same word is (lèsè). pronounced (luh-suh).

As a bonus, I have included a video below of how some mild (slightly funny) Chinese swears can be used in everyday speech.

Video on Chinese Swear Words

Words for Teasing and Naughty Banter

书呆子 - shū dāi zi

Means "bookworm" or "bookish fool". The Chinese characters themselves translate directly to "book idiot."

懒虫 - lǎn chóng

Term used to describe someone who is lazy, a slob, Generally, considered an insult, and can be combined with various other Chinese swear words for greater effect. However, there are times when it can be used affectionately (i.e. a family member refers to you are "lazy bones" for watching TV all day). The literal translation is "lazy bug".

吃软饭 - chī ruǎn fàn

A phrase that originated in Southern China and is still mainly used in that region. Generally considered negative, it is a term that describes a man who depends on his girlfriend or wife for a living/ sustenance. The literal translation is: "One who eats soft rice."

戴绿帽子 - dài lǜ mào zǐ

Probably one of the most interesting Chinese swear words and curse phrases. It literally translates to "to wear a green hat" and it describes a cuckold....a man whose wife has cheated on him. The reason this specific phrase is rooted in history. Apparently, there was a period during the Yuan dynasty (1271 - 1368 A.D.) when the relatives of prostitutes were forced to wear green hats and other green attire identify themselves.

Cultural Notes on the Use of Chinese Swears and Curses

There are a few key differences between the ways that Chinese use swearing and the way the average western person does. For example, while the West has a long history of using vulgar and harsh language to deride and discriminate against homosexuals (think faggot, fag, fruitcake, etc); the Chinese really don't have such a harsh vocabulary for members of the LBGTQ community. The main reason for this appears to be the atheism of the Chinese culture. While homosexuality has been demonized for years based on religious arguments in western countries, the Chinese have (historically speaking) largely ignored its presence in their society.

Moreover, since China is largely an atheist society, insults that reference God or Heaven either do not exist or do not carry the same kind of "emotional weight" as they do in the west.


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    • Justin Muir profile image

      Justin Muir 2 weeks ago from New York

      Thanks Shyron. And since we're on the topic of animals, don't forget about sheep (Lamb Chop) "'Baaa - stard".

    • Shyron E Shenko profile image

      Shyron E Shenko 2 weeks ago from Texas

      Hello Justin, thanks for the education in Chinese crap. Even cats (yes I mean felines curse) you can hear them on the backyard fence: male (Tom) "Oooo -lord," female (Kitty) "dam-mew."

      Blessings and stay cool

    • Paul Kuehn profile image

      Paul Richard Kuehn 2 weeks ago from Udorn City, Thailand

      Thanks for sharing a very interesting hub. I lived in Taiwan for many years and have heard almost all of these curse words in both Mandarin and Taiwanese.

    • profile image

      AYOOLA RASAQ 2 weeks ago

      Happy New Year.