Various ways to laugh in Chinese

SmilesThe Chinese word for (xiào) can mean to laugh, to smile or to ridicule.

Tā kāixīn de xiào le.
He laughed heartily.

To be specific, use 微笑 (wēixiào) for smiling, such as in 會心的微笑 (huìxīn de wēixiào), which means a

Tā xiàng wǒ wēixiào.
She smiles at me.

If you follow (xiào) with a noun, then you are ridiculing that person, object or event.

Dàjiā xiào tā tān chī.
Everyone laughs at him for being piggish.

How one expresses a laugh can communicate a gamut of different feelings. Following are a number of Chinese words that represent various ways of laughing. Notice how they all explicitly contain the word (xiào).

发笑 (fāxiào) is to issue a laugh.

In the Chinese version of the song, “The More We Get Together”, featured in Chapter 2 of “Learn Chinese through Songs and Rhymes“, you can see two expressions for laughing heartily , 笑哈哈 (xiàohāhā ) and 笑嘻嘻 (xiàoxīxī). Instead of doing “haha” or “hehe” some people giggle or chortle:

Tāmengēgēxiào bùtíng.
They giggled nonstop.

Children often laugh in a silly way. (hān) means innocent or naive. 憨笑 (hānxiào) is to smile or laugh in a childish way. (shǎ) means foolish. 傻笑 (shǎxiào) is to laugh foolishly or to issue an awkard laugh when don’t know what else to do. (chī ) means silly or insane; and 痴笑 (chī xiào) is to giggle foolishly.

大笑 (dà xiào) is to laugh out loud. 狂笑 (kuángxiào) or 哄笑 (hōngxiào) means to guffaw. 哄然大笑 (hōngrán dà xiào) is an expressioon commonly used for describing the boisterous, uproarious laughing of a crowd.

苦笑 (kǔxiào) is to make a forced smile.

他没办法说服她, 只好苦笑了一下.
Tā méi bànfǎ shuōfú tā, zhǐhǎo kǔxiào le yīxià.
As he was unable to convince her, he forced a smile.

惨笑 (cǎnxiào) means to smile in a sad and miserable way, such as when one realizes that everything has been lost.

谄笑 (chǎnxiào) is to smile in an ingratiating way. Have you ever had to do so? 赔笑 (péixiào) is to smile obsequiously or apologetically. A few years ago I saw a Chinese restaurant owner bow and smile apologetically when a customer complained about the food..

冷笑 (lěngxiào) is to laugh grimly or to grin with dissatisfaction, helplessness, or bitterness. It sounds like “ (hng humph)!”.

干笑 (gānxiào) is to cackle, as a witch might do.

奸笑 (jiānxiào) is to smile or laugh like a villain in a sinister way. A villain might also 獰笑 (níngxiào), or grin hideously.

There are also many ways to laugh at other people:

暗笑 (ànxiào) and 窃笑 (qièxiào) both mean to laugh in one’s sleeve or to snicker.

调笑 (tiáoxiào) is to poke fun at someone.

讥笑 (jīxiào) and 嘲笑 (cháoxiào) are synonyms that mean to ridicule, jeer, sneer at, or laugh sarcastically. 耻笑 (chǐxiào) is to ridicule, sneer at, or mock someone to shame him or her.

Bùyào cháoxiào biérén de ruòdiǎn
Don’t laugh at other people’s foibles.

By pairing (xiào) with an appropriate adverb or adverbial phrase, as shown in the very first sample sentence, you could come up with many more expressions that describe different ways to laugh.

I think laughter is the best gift you can give to anyone. On Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, say or do something to put a happy smile on your parent’s face.

Mǔqīnjié kuàilè!
Have a Happy Mother’s Day!

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