5 Chinese Words Without English Equivalents

Have you ever wondered what kinds of words, expressions, and phrases exist in other languages, but not in English? Given different histories and worldviews, other cultures and societies will naturally have developed concepts and ideas that are unfamiliar to us, and language can provide the means for expressing or conveying them.

For example, in German there's a word for eating when you're feeling frustrated or emotionally stressed out: Frustfressen. In Japanese, bakku-shan is used to describe a woman who is found to be attractive from behind, but not so much from the front. Yikes! 

Here are 5 more examples from the Chinese language that some friends recently shared with me (feel free to correct me if you have a better English description than the one I've provided!):

  1. yuánfèn is a concept that accounts for the natural connections between people, and helps explain events in our lives without reference to coincidence
  2. shānzhài is the word for low-cost, sometimes oddly branded, imitation versions of familiar luxury products, such as cell phones
  3. guanxi refers broadly to personal social networking for professional benefit; the stronger it is, the more likely you are to succeed in business dealings
  4. chiku is a virtue that allows one to maintain one's cool and not become bitter or resentful even in the most trying situations
  5. lihai is a word used to describe an uncommon intensity and discipline when it comes to things including work, school, or sports

Interested in learning Mandarin Chinese? You'd be surprised how many inexpensive Chinese language classes are offered for adult beginners in the U.S. today. Online courses, or services like italki which allow you to find a low-cost native speaking instructor to communicate with via Skype or webcam, can be great options, too.

More importantly: Can you think of any examples of unique phrases or expressions in English? Or perhaps some words in your native language that others may find interesting? Please share your thoughts in the comments section below!