4 Chinese Curse Words That Sound Funny in Literal Translation, But Are Actually Serious

By Loozrboy – Watch your language, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=40097524

I married a Chinese man and we share a bilingual relationship in Chinese and English. So it was inevitable that one day my language learning would extend to that forbidden territory – cursing in Mandarin Chinese.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not the kind of woman who belongs in a Quentin Tarantino movie, dropping F-bombs at gunshot speed. But let’s face it — there are moments that demand a well-chosen curse word. So why not know a few in Mandarin Chinese?

But when it comes to curse words, the most fascinating ones are the least expected. You know, words that don’t necessarily sound like curse words on literal translation. (In fact, they can actually pack a serious punch, so be careful about how you use them.)

Here are four fascinating curse words in Mandarin Chinese that, on literal translation, might sound funny to English speakers. Just remember — use them with care, because whoever hears you might not laugh in return. 😉

狗兔崽子, gǒutùzǎizi – this could literally translate to “dog and rabbit bastards.” I confess, I busted up with laughter when I first heard this curse word. That’s because I was imagining dogs and rabbits trying to mate with each other – how could you not laugh over that?

That said, this curse word actually packs a punch. It’s the Chinese equivalent of SOB. Now you know.

畜生不如, chùshengbùrú – “No better than wild beasts.” The first time I heard this choice curse word, it fell from the lips of an elderly relative in the family, after her husband chose to rudely light up his cigarette indoors despite her pleas.

I love that woman.

While the translation sounds tame enough, it isn’t in Mandarin Chinese. I’ve seen folks translate it as you f***ing beast or simply a-hole.

王八蛋, wángbādàn – you could rewrite this classic curse word into English as “the king of eight eggs.” “egg of a tortoise.” But if you think it’s sounds just as innocuous as the literal translation, you’d be wrong. It actually comes off more like a really strong term for “bastard” or even that bad word for anus. Careful guys.

鬼子,guǐzi – who hasn’t heard this other classic curse word that translates as “devil” or “demon” or “foreign invaders”? Besides, “gui” can also mean “ghost,” so you could be forgiven for thinking this isn’t all that strong.

Except you’d be wrong on that. It actually can be as potent as that World War II ethnic slur against the Japanese — yeah, that word — which is also one definition for the term.


Do you have examples of curse words that sound funny in literal translation, but pack a punch in reality?

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10 thoughts on “4 Chinese Curse Words That Sound Funny in Literal Translation, But Are Actually Serious

  • August 29, 2017 at 8:45 am

    I was hoping for a few in Cantonese to spring on my husband.

    Does that make me a bad wife?

  • August 29, 2017 at 11:16 am

    王八蛋means the egg of a Tortoise

  • September 1, 2017 at 5:50 am

    Do any one of these four words sound like “comsonose” ?

    • September 4, 2017 at 10:00 am

      Hey Darlene, thank you for the comment. Forgive me for asking, but is “comsonose” a word? I googled it and the only references I found were to some Youtube videos about a mispronunciation. In any event, you can see the pronunciation for these words as I provided the pinyin and tone marks; none would sound like that.

  • September 2, 2017 at 6:19 pm

    These curse words are very flowery, hehe. I had never heard 1 and 2. Number 3 I’ve said as a joke sometimes, I didn’t get the feeling it was very insulting, definitely less than SB (which sometimes falls off my mouth inadvertently, oooops! but only with C. and close friends).

    • September 4, 2017 at 10:02 am

      Thanks for the comment Marta! Yeah, I’ve used SB a few times, inadvertently — with a few oops moments of my own! 😉

  • September 18, 2017 at 11:02 pm

    Wow I learned a lot Jocelyn! I hadn’t heard of one or two either… Surprisingly my Chinese friends, despite being liberal and learning curse words in English, really don’t want me to learn the equivalent in Chinese!

    I also know that the ‘your mom’ thing in China is actually a very serious cuss word as well… and dissin the ancestors, that’s another low blow!

    • September 19, 2017 at 4:44 pm

      Thanks rubymary! Glad you found this useful! Yeah, the “your mom” thing is totally serious business, and anything dissing ancestors is definitely a no-no.


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