信 (xìn) is the Chinese character for trust, faith or credibility. It is one of the popular characters used in Chinese given names. As a mnemonic for this word, think of your “shin” (a close approximation in pronunciation).
The character 信 (xìn) is made up of the radical, 人 (rén person), and the character for words or language, 言 (yán). Good parents teach their children not to make loose promises, but to honor the words uttered. The traditional adage goes like this:
Rén yán wèi xìn.
A person’s word counts.
In the above, 为 (wèi) is the formal word for “to be”, “to become” or “to act as”. In modern parlance, we use the word 是 for “to be”.
When you always keep your promises, your words carry weight, and people will believe you and trust you.
As an adverb, 相 (xiāng) means mutually. 相信 (xiāngxìn) is to believe or to trust someone. For example,
Xiāngxìn wǒ. Wǒ shì wèi nǐ hǎo.
Trust me, I’m for your well-being.
(Trust me. I have your best interest in mind.)
Here, 为 (wèi) takes on the 4th tone and is used as the preposition “for”.
If you tell your girlfriend that you love her, but she gives you the following response, then you’d better try hard to find a good way to convince her.
Wǒ bù xìn.
I don’t believe it.
信任 (xìnrèn) means to trust and have confidence in someone. 信赖 (xìnlài) means to trust and count on someone.
Tā lǎobǎn xìnlài tā.
His boss trusts him.
Trust is of fundamental importance to any human relationship. Children need to trust their parents to feel secure. A loss of trust is often what breaks marriages. A trusted employee is a happy employee. Trust is the foundation of friendship. The great Chinese philosopher, Master Confucius, mentioned that each day he performs a self-examination by asking three questions, one of which was: “When dealing with friends, have I failed to keep my word?”
It used to be that a person’s words meant something, and a handshake made a deal.
Hǎo! Yī yán wéi dìng.
All right! Our words seal the deal.
(OK. That’s settled then.)
You have my word.
Nowadays, you must call in your lawyer to put everything in writing and then have the document properly signed and notarized before you can have peace of mind. Needless to say, a bank won’t loan you money solely based on your promise to pay them back. But a little plastic card will do the trick.
信用 (xìnyòng) means trustworthiness or credit, and 信用卡 (xìnyòngkǎ) is a credit card. If a person has the habit of going back on his own word, people will say:
Tā méi xìnyòng.
He does not keep his word.
When you trust a higher being or a doctrine, you are said to have a belief, faith or conviction. The Chinese word for it is 信仰 (xìnyǎng). This word can also be used as a verb.
Tā xìnyǎng Shàngdì.
She believes in God.
A person’s words can be represented by a letter. Therefore, 信 (xìn) also means a letter. 写信 (xiěxìn) means to write a letter. The following two sentences can be used interchangeably.
Xiě fēng xìn gěi wǒ.
Write a letter to me.
Gěi wǒ xiě fēng xìn.
Write me a letter.