Homonyms for the Chinese word for deer

Deer in the Woods

Deer in the Woods

Deer are not part of the Chinese zodiac. They are getting a mention here because the Chinese word for deer has a number of homonyms that I’d like to bring to your attention.

Deer in Chinese is 鹿 (lù). Sika deer, or 梅花鹿 (méihuālǜ), originated mostly from Japan, Taiwan and East Asia. They are mentioned in “The Little Monk“, a short novel that features Taiwan in the seventeenth century.

Giraffes are called 长颈鹿 (chángjǐnglù), or long-necked deer. 驼鹿 (tuólù) refers to moose or elks.

Literally, 逐鹿 (zhúlù) means to chase the deer. Figuratively, it means to bid for state power.

中原 (zhōngyuán) are the Central Plains in China that cover the middle and lower reaches of the Huanghe River. Many ancient Chinese dynasties established their government seats in this central area. The term 中原 (zhōngyuán) is also generally used to refer to the entire country of China. Therefore, 逐鹿中原 (zhúlùzhōngyuán) is to engage in a fight for the throne.

People competing for a high position or a coveted prize are likened to hunters going after the same deer. If you have no diea about who will most likely be the winner, you could say:

Bùzhī lùsǐshuíshǒu.
Don’t know at whose hand the deer will die.

鹿皮 (lùpí) is deerskin.

There are many other words that are pronounced exactly the same as 鹿 (lù). We will look at a few common ones.

(lù) or 山麓 (shānlù) is the foot of a mountain.

(lù) or 道路 (dàolù) is a road, a path or a route. 高速公路 (gāosùgōnglù) is a freeway, and 地下铁路 (dìxiàtiělù) means subway. 路标 (lùbiāo) is a road sign, and 路灯 (lùdēng) are street lamps.

Crossroads are called 十字路口 (shízìlùkǒu). See how the Chinese numeral 10 looks like an intersection of two roads.

路面 (lùmiàn) is the road surface or pavement. 路边 (lùbiān roadside or curb) is usually used as an adverb,as in:

There are many street vendors on the road side.
Lù biān yǒu xǔduō tānfàn.

迷路 (mílù) means to lose one’s way. When you lose your way, you will want to ask for directions, or 问路 (wènlù), and someone might be kind enough to show you the way, or 带路 (dàilù).

路程 (lùchéng) is the distance traveled or to be traveled on a journey.

走路 (zǒulù) means to go on foot. 路人 (lùrén) are passersby.

路人皆知 (lùrénjiēzhī) is an idiom that means everybody knows, referring to a well-known fact.

走投无路 (zǒutóuwúlù) means to have no way out or to be in an impasse.

When (lù) takes on a bird radical, it becomes (lù). 白鹭 (báilù) is a great white egret, and 苍鹭 (cānglù) is a gray heron.

(lù) or 陆地 (lùdì) means land, and 着陆 (zhuólù) is a verb that means to land. 大陆 (dàlù) means mainland or a continent. Eurasia is called 欧亚大陆 (Oūyàdàlù). 内陆 (nèilù) means inland or interior.

陆军 (lùjūn) is the ground force or army, and 海军陆战队 (hǎijūnlùzhànduì) are the marine corps.

陆续 (lùxù) means one after another.

Lǚkèmen lùxù shàngle huǒchē.
The travelers got on the train one after another.

(lù) means to kill or slay, and 杀戮 (shālù) is a massacre.

(lù) and 贿赂 (huìlù) are bribes. 贿赂 (huìlù) can also be used as a verb.

Zhèngzhí de guānyuán bù huì jiēshòu huìlù.
Upright officials will not accept bribes.

As a noun, (lù) means dew. It can also refer to a sweet drink distilled from flowers. 雨露 (yǔlù) is rain and dew. Figuratively, it connotes grace or a favour. On the other hand, 鱼露 (yúlù) is fish sauce. This is one example of why it is important to pay attention to the tone of the Chinese words you utter.

As a verb, (lù) means to reveal or to show. So, 露出 (lùchū) is to expose or to protrude from under a cover.

露面 (lùmiàn) means to show one’s face or to appear. In ancient China, women from good families were expected to stay at home and lead a private existence. Those who dared to show themselves unashamedly in public, or 抛头露面 (pāotóulùmiàn), were looked down upon

露一手 (lòuyīshǒu) is to show off one’s abilities or skills.

Literally, 露骨 (lùgǔ) means showing one’s bones. Figuratively, this expression describes a remark or action that is considered point-blank, explicit, or without polite disguise.

不露声色 (bùlùshēngsè) means to do things quietly and not show one’s feeling or intentions, like keeping a poker face.

原形 (yuánxíng) is the original shape or the true shape under the disguise. 原形毕露 (yuánxíng bìlù) is having the whole truth unmasked. In the same vein, 露出马脚 (lùchūmǎjiǎo) is to reveal the cloven foot or to give oneself away unintentionally.

透露 (tòulù) is to divulge, disclose or leak information.

If you see a friend taking a large wad of cash out of his wallet to count in the open, you could offer him this advice:

Cái bù lòubái
Don’t show your money in front of people.

露天 (lùtiān) means in the open air or outdoors. Therefore, an outdoor concert is called 露天演唱会 (lùtiān yǎnchàng huì).

露营 (lùyíng) is to camp out. When amping out, please be careful not to start a forest fire!

(lù) means to write down, to record or to register. 记录 (jìlù) is to record or take notes. A documentary film is called 纪录片 (jìlùpiàn).

录取 (lùqǔ) is to recruit, and 录用 (lùyòng) is to take on as an employee.

录音 (lùyīn) means sound recording. 录像机 (lùxiàngjī) is a video-recorder or camcorder. In Taiwan, it is called 录影机 (lùyǐng jī).

(lù) is also used as a noun that means a record or a collection of records. Memoirs are called 回忆录 (huíyìlù).

(lù) means busy or commonplace. 忙碌 (mánglù) is to bustle about, or to be busy with commonplace things.

劳碌 (láolù) to toil or work hard.

(lù) or 俸禄 (fènglù) refers to an official’s salary in ancient China. Therefore, it is an auspicious word. Therefore 福禄双全 (fúlùshuāngquán be happy and wealthy) is a popular wish to give to or to receive from an acquaintance.

Zhōngqiū jié kuàilè!
Happy Mid-Autumn Festival!

Learn Chinese word radical – Double-person

If you cut (xíng to walk) vertically through the middle, the left side is (chì), representing a step forward with the left foot; and the right side is (chù), representing a step forward with the right foot.

Does the character for street, (jiē), make more sense to you now?

We’ve talked about the “person” word radical (rén). It is also known as the single-person radical, or 单人旁 (dānrénpáng). The (chì) radical, is also referred to as the double-person radical, 双人旁 (shuāngrénpáng), as it looks like a single-person radical stacked on top of another one. (páng side or other) refers to a lateral radical of a Chinese character.

Understandably, the (chì) is often found in words associated with walking or pathways.

(tú) means walking on foot, as in 徒步旅行 (túbùlǚxíng hiking). This word also has quite a few other meanings. It can represent a fellow, as in 徒弟 (túdì apprentice or disciple) and 歹徒 (dǎitú scoundrel, bad guy). It can mean a prison sentence, or 徒刑 (túxíng). In formal Chinese, it is also used as an adverb that means “merely” or “only” in a negative sense. For example, 徒劳无功 (túláowúgōng) means making an effort in vain.

(lǜ) means restraint or law and order. 法律 (fǎlǜ) is a law or a statute. 规律 (guīlǜ) can mean regulations or regularity.

Wǒmén bìxū zūnshǒu fǎlǜ.
We must abide by the law.

(jìng) is a small path, a track or a way. 途径 (tújìng) is a way or a channel. When used figuratively, it refers to the means for doing something. 半径 (bànjìng) is the radius of a circular shape. What is the diameter called in Chinese?

径自 (jìngzì) means to take the liberty to do something, without permission or without consulting anyone.

Tā jìngzì zǒu jìn shìzhǎng bàngōngshì.
He walked into the mayor’s office uninvited.

徘徊 (páihuái) is to saunter back and forth. 彷徨 (pánghuáng) to waver and not know what to do.

他心里苦闷, 在街上徘徊了许久.
Tā xīnli kǔmèn, zài jiē shàng páihuái le xǔjiǔ.
He felt dejected, and moseyed up and down the street for a good while.

(zhēng) is to go on an expedition or going to a battle. In the Simplified Chinese system, this word also means to levy taxes, i.e. 征税 (zhēngshuì), to draft men for military service, i.e., 征兵 (zhēng bīng), or to solicit job applicants. In addition, it also refers to an evidence or a sign.

Are you looking for a job? If so, pay attention when you hear something like this:

Nèijiā bǎihuò gōngsī zhèngzài zhēngqiú diànyuán.
That department store is looking for salesclerks.

Bái gē xiàngzhēng hépíng.
Doves symbolize peace.

(yì) means labour or service. 服役 (fúyì) is to be on active military service.

(dài) also has multiple meanings. 等待 (děngdài) means to wait for someone or something. 对待 (duìdài) means to treat or deal with a person or to approach a matter. 接待 (jiēdài) is to receive or admit a guest.

(hěn) is an adverb that means very or quite.

Wǒ hěn bù gāoxìng nǐ zhèyàng duìdài tā.
I’m very unhappy with the way you treat her.

(dé) means to get, to obtain, or to gain. So, 得分 (défēn)
means to score in a ball game or in popularity.

(yǎn) means to spread out or smear over.
The Chinese idiom 敷衍了事 (fūyanliǎoshì) means doing something perfunctorily.

Qiānwàn bùyào fūyanliǎoshì.
Absolutely don’t just muddle through this task.

FYI, you would have had a few more commonly used Chinese words to study this week had they not lost their double-person radical in the Simplified Chinese System.

Learn Chinese word radical – Rain

Snow 雪 (xuě)

Snow 雪 (xuě)

We have discussed the Chinese character for rain, (yǔ), a few times before. This character, featuring four drops of water, also serves as a word radical that is employed in words involving precipitation or moisture in the air. As you know, one advantage of being able to recognizing a word radical is that you will only need to learn the remaining part in a new word.

As with many other natural elements, the words containing the rain radical are often used in phrases associated with human nature.

We will start with a simple character, (xuě snow).

Nǐ huì huáxuě ma?
Do you know how to ski?

(xuě) is also used as a verb in the idiom 报仇雪耻 (bàochóuxuěchǐ), which means to take revenge and wipe out a humiliation.

(tàn) is charcoal. (sòng) means to give or to deliver. The idiom 雪中送炭 (xuězhōngsòngtàn providing charcoal in snowy weather) means to offer needed help and be “a friend indeed”.

(shuāng) is frost. 雪上加霜 (xuěshàngjiāshuāng), means to have frost added on top of snow, to have one disaster after another, or to add insult to injury.

(bīng) is ice. 冰雹 (bīngbáo) are hailstones. Some one who is really aloof might be described as being icy. The following comment is often bestowed on strikingly beautiful women who give their admirers the cold shoulder.

艳若桃李, 冷若冰霜.
Yàn ruò táo lǐ, lěng ruò bīng shuāng.
Gorgeous as peach and plum blossoms, but cold as ice and frost.

(léi) is thunder, which often strikes a field when it rains. 地雷 (dìléi) are land mines.

雷声大,雨点小. (léishēngdà,yǔdiǎnxiǎo) literally translates to “loud thunder but tiny raindrops”. This idiom implies that much is proclaimed but followed by little action.

暴跳如雷 (bàotiàorúléi) and 大发雷霆 (dàfāléitíng) both mean flying into a rage.

他听了这话, 暴跳如雷.
Tā tīng le zhè huà, bàotiàorúléi.
After hearing these words, he flew off the handle.

如雷贯耳 (rúléiguàněr) literally translates to “like thunder piercing the ears”, but this idiom is used for complimenting a person on his or her colossal reputation, implying that everyone is praising that person and the clamor fills the ear like thunder.

(lù) as a noun means dew. 雨露 (yǔlù rain and dew) often refers to grace and bounty.

(ní) is the secondary rainbow. What is the primary raindow called in Chinese?

We learned before that 晚霞 (wǎnxiá) is the evening glow at sunset.

(zhèn) means to shake or shock, or to be greatly shocked, as in 震惊 (zhènjīng). 地震 (dìzhèn) is an earthquake.

他听了这消息, 十分震惊.
Tā tīng le zhè xiāoxi, shífēn zhènjīng.
He was shocked to hear this piece of news.

(méi) is mildew. 发霉 (fāméi) is to become moldy.
倒霉 (dǎoméi), on the other hand, means to have bad luck.

今天又碰到他. 倒霉!
Jīntiān yòu pèng dào tā. Dǎoméi!
I ran into him again today. Just my luck!

The proper word for “tough luck” is 倒楣 (dǎoméi). However, 倒霉 (dǎoméi) has been so widely used that it has won legitimacy. Either way you write it, it’s not a happy word.

下雪天, 走路开车都要当心.
Xià xuě tiān, zǒulù kāichē dōu yào dāngxīn,
In snowy weather, walk and drive carefully.

For a short discussion of other weather conditions please see Chapter 22 of “Learn Chinese through Songs and Rhymes“.

Money talks?

Louisa May Alcott, the author of “Little Women” once said, “Money is the root of all evil, and yet it is such a useful root that we cannot get on without it any more than we can without potatoes.” This sentiment is reflected in the following modern Chinese saying:

Āiqíng bùnéng dāng miànbāo.
Love cannot serve as bread.

(qián) is money. (yǒu) means “to have”. 有钱 (yǒuqián) means “to be rich”.

Tā yǒuqián.
He is rich.)

Yǒuqián rén zhù dà fángzi.
Rich people live in large houses.

Yǒuqián néng shǐ guǐ tuī mò.
If you’re rich, you could make the devil turn your millstones. (Money talks.)

Following is a way to ask for confirmation of a statement.

VI. c) Statement + “Yes or no?” or “Correct or not?” = Question

Tā yǒu hěn duō qián, shìbùshì?
He has a lot of money; yes or no?

你是美国人, 对不对?
Nĭ shì Měiguórén, duì bùduì?
You are an American, right or not?

Some people drop the last word from the above question format. For example:

你是中国人, 对不?
Nĭ shì Zhōngguórén, duì bù?
You are a Chinese, correct?

If someone is not rich, then you would say:

Tā méiyǒu qián.

没有 (méiyǒu not to have) is the negation of (yǒu). These two words also serve as auxiliary verbs to help form the past or perfect tense of other verbs. 没有 is oftened abbreviated as (méi).

Generally, to form the negation of an adjective or other verbs, you would add the word (bù no, not). For example:

他不高興. (Tā bù gāoxìng.) He is not pleased.
他不是. (Tā bùshì.) He is not.
他不喜欢. (Tā bù xǐhuān.) He does not like.
他不去. (Tā bù qù.) He won’t go.

Now, what does the following sentence mean?
他没有去. (Tā méiyǒu qù.)

It means: “He did not go.” Here, 没有 (méiyǒu have not) is used as an auxiliary verb to indicate that the action did not take place, or has not taken place.

Try and apply (bù no, not) and (méi have not) to the following action words, and make sure you fully understand the difference between these two terms.

(zǒu go, walk), 回家 (huíjiā go home), (zuò do), 打球 (dǎqiú hit/play ball), (gǎi change).

We are now ready to talk about another method you could use for forming a question.

VI. d) Add negation to a verb or an adjective to change a statement into a question.

The Chinese convey the uncertainty expressed through the use of “whether or not” by pairing the verb or adjective with its negation. For example,

Tā yǒu méiyǒu qián?
Is he rich?

Nĭ shì bù shì Měiguórénì?
Are you an American?

Tā gāoxìng bù gāoxìng?
Is he pleased?

You may add the interrogative particle (ne) at the end of this type of questions. Also, in such a question format, the first occurrence of a polysyllable word will often be represented by just the first character in the word. For example:

Tā gāo bù gāoxìng?
Is he pleased?

Tā zhī bù zhīdào ne?
Does he know?

If an auxiliary verb is used, then the negation is applied to the auxiliary verb rather than the main verb. For example:

Tā huìbùhuì shēngqì?
Will he get angry?

Nĭ yào bù yào dǎqiú?
Would you like to play ball?

Tā yǒu méiyǒu qù?
Did he go?

Yǒu méiyǒu xiàyǔ?
Did it rain?

Questions in the perfect tense can also be phrased as follows. In this case, do not add any interrogative particle at the end.

Tā qù le mé?
Has he gone?

Xiàyǔ le méi?
Has it begun to rain?

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