English words from China

Different Chinese words commonly used in English that will help you learn Chinese

Your knowledge of English can help you learn Chinese. Sounds strange. Right? You can learn Chinese at home by using your current knowledge base. These Chinese words in English will help you learn the language with ease. So let’s get started!

When it comes to learning a foreign language, you need to put in some extra effort. But sometimes, learning a foreign language brings certain surprises as well. There are several English words that have Chinese origin. Surprised, right?

It means that your knowledge of English can help you learn Chinese. Being a language student it may seem strange to you know. But going through this guide in detail will make the learning path easier for you.

Let us give you an example. The word ‘ketchup’ is commonly used In the English language but has its origin in Chinese. These words make learning Chinese not only easier but also super fun. You can learn Chinese online by seeking the required training from online language learning platforms. Italki is a well-developed and highly structured foreign language learning venture that provides highly qualified and fluent Chinese tutors. The best part is the availability of experienced instructors with real context instructional practices. You can seek guidance and training via well-structured course plans with related practical exercises to make you speak Chinese fluently.

Below are some of the common Chinese words in English that you already know.

Words related to food and beverages

Pekoe – It is one of the most famous types of tea. This tea is generally produced in India and Sri Lanka. This word has its origin in Chinese discourse called Amoy, spoken in Xiamen, China, in which the tea is called pek-ho. In Mandarin, it is called 白后 (bái hòu), which means ‘white empresses’. This particular name depicts the tips of young buds found in tea plants.

Chop suey – It is a mixed vegetable dish widely available at Chinese restaurants. It has its origin in 杂碎 (zá suì), which means “mixed pieces.” For instance, you will most probably see “pork chop suey” or “vegetable chop suey” in the menu list.

Bok choy – It is a green leaf vegetable with a white stem. It is widely available at Chinese grocery stores. It is also a common ingredient found in Asian foods and cuisines. This word has an origin in 白菜 (bái cài), which means “white vegetable.”

Dim sum – These are small, appetizer-like dishes usually served in brunches at Chinese restaurants. There is a large variety of dim sum available such as meat dishes, vegetarian dishes, cakes, and pastries. This word has its origin in 点心 (diǎn xīn). In literal terms, this word means “touch the heart”. This word is given because the dish is small and attractive.

Ginseng – It is an herbal root used for tea and naturopathic medicine. This word has come from 人参 (rén shēn). It has several health benefits such as healthy blood circulation, lowers cholesterol levels, and helps reduce stress levels.

Won ton – These are meat-filled dumplings, generally served in soups and sometimes with noodles. This word is from 馄饨 (hún tún), which means “irregular pasta.”

Loquat – It is a yellow fruit that originated in China and Japan, sometimes also known as the Japanese plum. This word has its origin in Cantonese, luh kwat which means “rush orange.” In Mandarin, it is 芦橘 (lú jú).

Wok – It is a stir fry pan used for cooking purposes. This word has its origin in Cantonese wohk, meaning “pan.” In Mandarin, it’s 锅 (guō).

Ketchup – This is the most interesting word that has its origin in Chinese. The word ketchup is from a Chinese word called kê-tsiap which originally means the sauce made from fermented fish. In Mandarin, ketchup is 番茄酱 (fān qié jiàng), or “tomato sauce.”

Hoisin sauce – It is dark-colored just like ketchup. It is sometimes, also called oyster sauce. This word has its origin in 海鲜酱 (hǎi xiān jiàng), which means, “seafood sauce,” because by tradition it includes oyster essence or flavor.

Chow – Chow denotes food and the word “chow down” means to eat. This word has various stories associated with its origin. One of the most common explanations is that it comes from the Chinese word for “stir fry,” 炒 (chǎo).

Kung pao – You must have heard kung pao chicken. It is one of the most famous Chinese dishes. In Mandarin, it’s called 宫保鸡丁 (gōng bǎo jī dīng). 宫保(gōng bǎo) means “palace guard.” This name is given because the dish was the favorite of a famous palace guard in ancient China.

Tofu – It is soybean curd. It comes directly from its Chinese name, 豆腐 (dòu fǔ).

Lychee – It is a tropical fruit with a red shell and white flesh. It is also used to flavor other foods like tea. In Chinese, it’s 荔枝 (lì zhī).

Words related to culture and sayings

Kung fu – It is a famous Chinese martial art. This art form has been made quite famous by Hollywood and is especially associated with Jackie Chan. This word has its origin in 功夫 (gōng fū).

Coolie – The word coolie is used for the laborer. This word has its origin in European colonialism and the past practice of importing low-cost labor from China and India. In Chinese, it’s 苦力 (kǔ lì), which means, “bitter work.”

Gung-ho – It means to display enthusiasm. This word has its origin in Chinese industrial cooperatives, 工合 (gōng hé), which means “work together.”

Tai chi – It is a slow martial arts exercise. It has its origin in the Chinese name for this practice, 太极拳 (tài jí quán), or “shadow boxing.”

Yin and Yang – Yin and yang mean two balancing forces in the universe. Yin is the dark force and represents feminine quality. Yang is the light force and represents masculine quality. It is considered very important to have a sense of harmony between Yin and Yang. This harmony is thought to balance the universe and everything that is present in between. It has its origin in the Chinese term 阴阳 (yīn yáng).

Cheongsam – It is a traditional robe for men. It is mostly worn at weddings or on Chinese New Year’s Eve. This word has its origin in Cantonese chèuhngsāam, equivalent to Mandarin’s 长衫 (cháng shān) or “long dress.”

Mahjong – It is a gambling game in Chinese. It has its origin in both Cantonese màhjéuk and the Mandarin 麻雀 (má què), which means “sparrow”. The picture of the sparrow is usually displayed on the first tile of a playing set.

Qipao – Qipao is a form-fitting traditional dress for women. Its Chinese name is 旗袍 (qí páo).

Feng shui –   It is the practice of balancing energies in the environment and becomes a source of bringing good fortune. Its origin is from Chinese 风水 (fēng shuǐ), meaning “natural surroundings” or “wind and water.”

Typhoon – It is a form of a hurricane. This term has come from the Chinese equivalent, 台风 (tái fēng).

Shar Pei – It is a breed of dog with brown wrinkled skin and with black-blue tongue. Its name comes from 沙皮 (shāpí), meaning “sandy skin.”

Shih Tzu – Shih Tzu is a Tibetan dog breed with a long silky coat. It comes from 西施犬 (xī shī quǎn).

Chop chop – It is a famous phrase used to say ‘hurry up. The term Chop chop comes from the Cantonese word, gāp, which in Mandarin is 急 (jí). Both mean “in a rush.”

These were some of the most common yet very famous English words from Chinese. We are sure you already knew these words. You can also learn Chinese characters to associate them with these words to structure your sentence properly. These words are super easy to memorize due to their association with the English language. You can easily add them to your vocabulary list as you are already familiar with them.

A large number of people question is Chinese grammar easy? With the right piece of training, you can learn Chinese grammar easily. Italki has the availability of trained instructors that are providing their assistance to make sure that language learners do not make any grammatical errors or mistakes.