Chinese word radical – Mouth

(kǒu) is the formal word for the mouth. It also means an opening or a gateway. For the sake of safety, when you are inside a large building, always make sure you know the location of the nearest exit, or 出口 (chūkǒu).

Qǐngwèn chūkǒu zài nǎli?
Please, where is the exit?

请问 means “May I ask …” This is a very important word to know by heart. Asking questions is an effective way to obtain the needed information.

开口 (kāikǒu) means to open one’s mouth and start talking. When asked why you failed to borrow some money from a friend, you might say:

Wǒ bùhǎoyìsi kāikǒu.
I’m too bashful (or embarrassed) to bring it up.

闭口 (bì kǒu) means to close one’s mouth.

开口闭口 (kāikǒubìkǒu) means whenever one opens one’s mouth to speak.

Tā kāikǒubìkǒu shuō tā yǒu duōme hǎo.
He never fails to mention how nice she is.

There’s a Chinese adage that emphasizes the importance of watching what comes out or goes into one’s mouth: “Trouble comes from what you say; illness comes from what you eat.” If you don’t remember this Chinese saying, please review the article I posted on 2/22/12 .

In everyday speech, we refer to the mouth as (zuǐ) or 嘴巴 (zuǐba).

嘴脸 (zuǐliǎn) is one’s countenance. This word is usually employed in a negative sense.

Tā děi kàn tā lǎobǎn de zuǐliǎn chīfàn.
He has to cater to his boss to earn a living.

嘴甜 (zuǐtián) is to be sweet-talking, such as in 她嘴甜. (Tā zuǐtián. She is honey-tongued.)

多嘴 (duōzuǐ) is to say things that should probably not have been said.

回嘴 (huízuǐ) or 还嘴 (huánzuǐ) is to talk back or to retort. When you do that to your boss, he or she may yell, “闭嘴! (Bì zuǐ! Shut up!)” or “住口! (zhùkǒu! Stop talking!)”

亲嘴 (qīnzuǐ), like 接吻 (jiēwěn), means to kiss.

If you need to buy a nipple for your baby’s feeding bottle, ask for a 奶嘴 (nǎizuǐ).

It is interesting to note that 嘴角 (zuǐjiǎo) are the corners of the mouth, while 口角 (kǒujué a quarrel or to quarrel) has a totally different meaning.

We have already come across a number of word particles that make use the mouth radical, such as (ma) and (ba). Following are a few additional examples of words that involve the mouth.

(xī) is to inhale, to suck up, or to draw in. 吸管 (xīguǎn) is a drinking straw.

(tūn) means to swallow, while (tù) means to vomit, as in 嘔吐 (ǒutù).

also means to spit out. In this case, it may be pronounced in the third tone or in the fourth tone. Generally, use the third tone when by spitting out you mean “to utter”, as in 吐露 (tǔlù to reveal or to disclose). Use the fourth tone for a more forceful expectorating action, as in 吐血 (tùxiě spitting blood).

吞吞吐吐 (tūntūntǔtǔ) describes how one hems and haws around, unable to be forthright with what’s on one’s mind.

(chuī) is to blow, to play a wind instrument or to brag. Colloquially, it also means to have broken up or fallen through. 吹牛 (chuīniú) is to blow one’s own horn. 吹风机 (chuīfēngjī) is an electric blower, like a hair dryer.

Tāmen liǎng gè chuī le.
The two broke up.

打嗝 (dǎ gé) is to belch.

叹气 (tànqì) is to sigh. How do you sigh in Chinese? Following is an example.

唉! 真可惜.
Ái! Zhēn kěxī.
(Sigh) What a pity! (Too bad!)

(mà) is to scold or to curse.

(yǎ) means dumb or mute.

Tā zhuānglóngzuòyǎ.
He pretends to be deaf and dumb.
(He feigns ignorance.)


2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Anthony B.
    Oct 05, 2012 @ 12:03:09

    Hi dear Ms Lin,
    What a great lesson! Ah, so many new words to learn.
    As usual I have picked up a few things you might want to look at again.
    (Unfortunately I have to use numbers to represent tone marks.)
    1. spelling in “zui3lian3 is one’s contenance.” I think it’s “countenance”.
    2. pinyin spelling in “duo1zhui3”. Should it not be “duo1zui3”?
    3. “Following are few additional examples …” I feel it should be “Following are a few examples ….”.
    4. “tun1 means to swallow, while tu4 means to spit out or to vomit.”
    My Chinese dictionary states that tu4 (as fourth tone) means to vomit whereas to spit is tu3 (third tone) – as you state a little later – and not 4th tone as seems to be implied in your original statement.
    Looking forward to you comments,
    Anthony B.


    • likeabridge
      Oct 05, 2012 @ 13:14:13

      Hi Anthony,

      Thank you so much for your comments. The errors have been duly corrected. Please see the revised text about the tone for 吐. That was a good point to bring up.


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