If you’ve been following my blog, then you’ve had several encounters with the word 好 (hǎo). On the left side of this character is the character 女 (nǚ) , which means “female”. On the right side is the character 子 (zi) , which means a seed, an offspring, a small thing, or a person. Naturally, a female person connotes goodness. 好 (hǎo) is the Chinese word for “good” or “well”. So, 好吃! (Hǎo chī!) means good for eating, or delicious; 您好 (nín hǎo) means “Wishing you well” or “Good day!”; and 新年好(xīnnián hǎo) means “Wishing you well in the new year”. So, what does 好人 (hǎo rén) mean? That’s right! A good person.
Now, put the characters for female and horse together:
女 (nǚ) + 马 (mǎ) = 妈(mā)
The new word means “mother”. Kind of makes sense, doesn’t it? Some people say, 妈 (mā), others say, 妈妈 (māma) – not unlike the English word, “mama”.
You know that 你 (nĭ) means “you”. Replace the left side of this character with 女(nǚ female), and you’d get the word for a “female you”, 妳 (nĭ). It’s all right if you just use 你 (nĭ) across the board and never bother with making the distinction between a male and a female “you”, as 妳 (nĭ) is a modern term, without which the Chinese have been doing just fine for ages. Ditto for the Chinese characters for he and she. By the way, 您 (nín) is the polite form of “you”. It applies to both genders.
女(nǚ) is one of many so-called “radicals” of the Chinese characters. Each radical is shared by a group of characters, and provides a hint to a common characteristic of the words represented by those characters. Look in your Chinese text book or dictionary for additional examples of words containing the radical 女 (nǚ). All of them have something to do with the female gender (for example, she, sisters, aunts, etc.). I hope you will pick out a few simple ones and learn them by heart.