Learn Chinese word radical – Claws



The Chinese character, (zhuǎ), stands for claws or talons. Does it not look like a drawing of a chicken’s foot? Some people pronounce this word as (zhǎo). Colloquially we say 爪子 (zhuǎzi) or 爪子 (zhǎozi). Either way is fine. Just make sure that you don’t confuse (zhuǎ) with (guā melon or gourd). 瓜子 (guāzǐ) are dried melon seeds that people enjoy eating as a snack.

We know that (yá) are teeth. Literally, 爪牙 (zhǎoyá) are talons and fangs. However, this term refers to a bad guy’s minions.

张牙舞爪 (zhāngyáwǔzhǎo) is to bare fangs and brandish claws, i.e. making threatening gestures.

魔爪 (mózhǎo) means the devil’s talons or a monster’s grip. 鸡爪 (jī zhuǎ) are chicken claws or chicken feet. (I know which Chinese dish you are thinking of.) 鳞爪 (línzhǎo) are fish scales and bird claws, or bits and fragments. It often appears in the phrase 一鳞半爪 (yīlínbànzhǎo one scale and half a claw).

Wǒ duìyú zhè jiàn shì zhǐ zhīdào yīlínbànzhǎo.
I only have scrappy information about this matter.

In the character, (zhuā), you see both the “hand” radical and the “claws” radical. Therefore it should not surprise you that this word means to grab, to clutch, to scratch, to catch or to arrest.

Tā zhuā dào yī zhī jī.
He caught a chicken.

Dìdi zhuā le yībǎ guāzǐ qù kè.
Younger brother grabbed a handful of melon seeds to munch on.

The blog post at this link discusses a Chinese children’s song about an eagle trying to catch little chicken. There you will learn the word for wings. Then you will know how to say chicken wings in Chinese.

(pá) means to crawl or to climb.

Nǐ xǐhuān pá shān ma?
Do you like to climb mountains?

Many words contain the “claws” radical in a squashed form.

(yǎo) is to ladle up, spoon up, or scoop up.

Tā yǎo le yī wǎn tāng gěi wǒ.
She ladled up a bowl of soup for me.

(ài) is love (noun), to love, to treasure, or to enjoy doing something.

(mì), or 寻觅 (xúnmì), is to look for or to seek.

(shòu) means to give or award, to vest power in someone, or to instruct (i.e. to confer knowledge). 教授 (jiàoshòu) is a professor.

Lǎo jiàoshòu jīntiān yòu chídào le.
The old professor is late again today.

(yuán) means to help or to rescue. For example, 援助 (yuánzhù) is to help or to provide support. 援救 (yuánjiù) is to rescue or to save someone.

(nuǎn) means warm or to warm up. 暖和 (nuǎnhuo) means nice and warm. You can use this term to describe a balmy day or a warm jacket.

(shùn) is a wink or a blink. 瞬间 (shùnjiān) means a moment, momentary or momentarily.

Nèi kē liúxīng shùnjiān jiù bùjiànle.
That shooting star disappeared in the blink of an eye.

Signing in Chinese

二手货 (èrshǒuhuò) means second-hand merchandise. Here, the word (èr two) refers to 第二 (dìèr second, or secondly). If you mean to say “both hands”, then say 两只手 (liǎng zhī shǒu two hands), or 双手 (shuāngshǒu both hands).

When a word or expression escapes us, we might make a gesture to help convey what we are trying to say. Hand gestures are also often used to emphasize a point. In fact, certain facial expressions and hand gestures are an integral part of some languages. For people with impaired hearing and/or speech, the ability to employ sign language is a true blessing. The Chinese word for sign language is 手语 (shǒuyǔ).

Associating an expression with a gesture will actually make it easier to learn that expression. You are more apt to remember a Chinese word when you say it often, write it often, sing it often and repeatedly see an object or scene or do an action involving that word. Storing the word in multiple channels, so to speak, allows it to be more readily recalled when you need it.

To try your hand at signing in Chinese, click on this link: 手牵手 (Shǒu Qiān Shǒu Hand in Hand) and follow the demonstration performed by the four Malaysian students.

牵手 (qiān shǒu) is to hold hands.
花开 (huā kāi) describes how flowers open up, or bloom. 花谢 (huā xiè) describes how flowers wither. These natural phenomena signify the change of seasons, or 季节的转移 (jìjiě de zhuǎnyí).
面对 (miànduì) is to face or to confront.
未来的 (wèilái) means future.
分离 (fēnlí) means to separate or to leave each other. It is synonymous with 分手 (fēnshǒu). Here it is used as noun (separation).
牢记 (láojì) is to keep firmly in mind.
这段 (zhè duàn) means “this section of” or “this segment of”.
记忆 (jìyì) is memory or remembrance.
朋友 (péngyǒu) are friends.
我永远祝福你. (Wǒ yǒngyuǎn zhùfú nǐ.) – I will always wish you well.
人生 (rénshēng) is life.
一定 (yīdìng) means for sure, certainly.
起落 (qǐluò) means rise and fall, or ups and downs.
不要伤心. (bùyào shāngxīn) – “Don’t feel sad.”
我会在你身边. (Wǒ huì zà nǐ shēnbiān.) – I will be by your side.
鼓励 (gǔlì) is encouragement. This word can also be used as a verb.
愿意 (yuàny) means to be willing to.
把我们的手牵在一起. (Bǎ wǒmén de shǒu qiān zài yīqǐ.) – Let’s join our hands together.
(yòng) means to use.
青春的 (qīngchūn) means youthful.
(xiě) is to write, and 奇迹 (qíjì) is a miracle.
放在一起 (fàng zài yīqǐ) means to place together.
(xīn) is the heart.
共同 (gòngtóng) means jointly.
度过 (dùguò) is to undergo or to endure.
风和雨 (fēng hé yǔ wind and rain) refers to the troubles in life.

The Mid-Autumn Festival is coming up tomorrow. May those of you who are far away from home have friends with whom to celebrate this happy occasion.

Zhōngqiūjié kuàilè.
Have a happy Moon Festival!

More Chinese expressions involving the hand

If you haven’t already found out, hand shadows are called 手影 (shǒu yǐng) in Chinese.
(yǐng) is a shadow, a reflection or an image. Nowadays, it is used in such words as 摄影 (shèyǐng photography) and 电影 (diànyǐng movies).

This may be a good time to take inventory of how many words, expressions or idioms you already know that contain the (shǒu) character. Here are a few more to add to your collection.

手背 (shǒubèi) is the back of the hand, while 手掌 (shǒuzhǎng) is the palm. The center of the palm is called 手心 (shǒuxīn) or 掌心 (zhǎngxīn).

We already know that 拍手 (pāishǒu) means to clap one’s hands. 鼓掌 (gǔzhǎng) has the same meaning but is a more formal word.

手下留情 (shǒuxiàliúqíng) means to show mercy or be lenient. In times past, when a Chinese house slave was about to be whipped, he might use this phrase to plead for mercy. Nowadays, this expression is used figuratively.

The expression 手下 (shǒuxià) also means under the leadership of someone.

Tā shǒuxià yǒu sān wèi nénggàn de jīnglǐ.
He has under him three capable managers.

经理 (jīnglǐ) are managers, while 助手 (zhùshǒu) are assistants.

歌手 (gēshǒu) are singers. They probably prefer to be referred to as 歌星 (gē xīng music stars, pop stars).

高手 (gāoshǒu) is an expert or champion. Therefore, 武林高手 (wǔ lín gāoshǒu) is a kung-fu master. 数学高手 (shùxué gāoshǒu) is someone who is great at mathematics. You can easily form other terms by inserting the subject of your choice.

手机 (shǒujī) are mobile phones, 手表 (shǒubiǎo) are wrist watches, and 手电筒 (shǒudiàntǒng) are flashlights.

手枪 (shǒuqiāng) are pistols, while 枪手 (qiāngshǒu) are gunners.

We have learned before that 运气 (yùnqi) means one’s fortune or luck. Well, 手气 (shǒuqì) is one’s luck in a game of cards or gambling.

Tā jīntiān shǒuqì bùhǎo.
He has poor hands today.

亲手 (qīnshǒu) means making something personally.

Zhè jiàn qúnzi shì wǒ mǔqin qīnshǒu zuò gěi wǒ de.
My mother made this skirt for me herself.

The Chinese don’t stick their noses in other people’s business. Nay. They go in with their hands. 插手 (chāshǒu) means to have a hand in someone else’s business.

Zhè jiàn shì nǐ zuìhào bùyào chāshǒu.
It would be best if you don’t get involved with this matter.

(huò) means merchandise or goods. What would 二手货 (èrshǒuhuò) mean?

Chinese word radical – Hand

Hand Shadow

Hand Shadow

Come to think of it, our hands do a multitude of things for us, but most of us take them for granted. Without hands, it would be very difficult to even perform such basic tasks as putting food into one’s mouth and doing the dishes. That’s why the Chinese say, “双手万能 (huāngshǒu wànnéng)”.

The hand is called (shǒu). 双手 (huāngshǒu) means both hands. 万能 (wànnéng) means all-powerful or omnipotent.

Naturally, words like (zhǎng the palm) and (quán the fist, or boxing) take on the “hand” radical. So does the word (ná), which means to hold, to grasp or to take.

In everyday speech, we often speak of the palm as 手掌 (shǒuzhǎng). Similarly, we often refer to the fist as 拳头 (quántou). 拳击手 (quánjíshǒu) is a boxer. In this term, (shǒu hand) refers to a person who is doing a task or is good at doing a certain task, much like how the word “hand” is employed in the English term “farmhand”.

In your Chinese dictionary you will find many words containing the reduced “hand” radical. We’ve discussed a number of them in “Learn Chinese through Songs and Rhymes“, and mentioned a couple last week Following are a few more for you to look at

(mō) is to stroke, to feel with one’s hands or to feel out.

Tā mō dào yī gè xiǎo liúzi.
He felt a small tumor.

(fú) is to support someone with one’s hands. 扶手 (fúshou) is a handrail or an armrest.

(rēng) and (pāo) both mean to throw, to toss, to discard or to abandon.

他抛弃了财产, 离开家乡.
Tā pāoqì le cáichǎn, líkāi jiāxiāng.
He adandoned his property and left his hometown.

(sī) is to tear.

Tā sī xià yī zhāng rìlì.
He tore off a page from the daily calendar.

As a verb, (tuō) is to hold or support something with upturned hands. 委托 (wěituō) means to entrust someone with a task. 寄托 (jìtuō) means to entrust something or someone to the care of another person. 拜托 (bàituō) is to politely ask someone to do something in your favor.

拜托, 帮个忙.
Bàituō bāng gè máng.
Please, do me a favor.

托儿所 (tuōérsuǒ) is a child-care center.

(wā) means to dig or unearth. 挖苦 (wāku) means to speak sarcastically or ironically.

(kàng) is to resist or to defy. 抵抗 (dǐkàng) is to resist, and 抵抗力 (dǐkàng lì) refers to one’s ability to ward off diseases.

(chě) is to pull apart or to pull on someones clothing. Colloquially it refers to going off a point. For example, 胡扯 (húchě) means to talk nonsense.

(pá) is to rake up or to push loose things (like dry leaves) aside to reveal what’s underneath. Doesn’t the (bā eight) character on the right-hand side look like arms spread out while pushing things away from the center? A pickpocket is called a 扒手 (páshǒu). Here again, (shǒu hand) refers to the “doer”. An easy way to remember this word is to imagine eight hands picking all your interior and exterior bellow pockets, zippered pockets, hand-warmer pocket, etc. (This reminds me of a scene in Charlie Chaplin’s movie “The Kid“.)

吃里扒外 (chīlǐbāwài) describes the treacherous behavior of living on somebody but secretly working for the benefactor’s adversary, or 对手 (duìshǒu oponent). This is a rather serious accusation.

Homework: Find out what hand shadows are called in Chinese.

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