It’s time that you learned another way to say “cute” aside from “可爱 (kě ‘ ài),” which you probably learned in first year Chinese. How about something more nuanced – like “dainty”: 小鸟依人 (xiǎoniǎoyīrén)?
小鸟依人 (xiǎoniǎoyīrén) basically means that someone is small, cute, and delicate. Literally, it brings up the image of a small bird that relies on people. It’s used generally for girls or small children and has a positive tone.
A breakdown of the characters in 小鸟依人 (xiǎoniǎoyīrén):
小 (xiǎo): small
鸟 (niǎo): a bird
依 (yī): to depend on (eg. 依赖 – yīlài – to be dependent on)
人 (rén): a person
Observing 小鸟依人 (xiǎoniǎoyīrén) in the wild reveals that it can be used in many ways.
Usage 1) 小鸟依人 + 地 + Verb
“qínlán zé xiǎoniǎoyīrén de kào zài lùchuān huáilǐ”
“Qin Lan daintily leaned into Lu Chuan’s embrace”
“wúshù cì fēnjū chǎojià hòu, zuìhòu háishì xiǎoniǎoyīrén de huídào gāofēng shēnbiān”
“After living separately and fighting countless times, (she) ultimately still daintily returned to Gao Feng’s side”
Usage 2) 小鸟依人 + 的 + Noun
“yǒushí wǒ yě huì kào zhe tā kuānkuò de jiānbǎng, xiǎoniǎoyīrén de yàngzi”
“Sometimes I will also lean on his broad shoulders, in a cute and delicate way”
“xiǎoniǎoyīrén de xíngxiàng, kěài yòu shíshàng”
“A dainty image, both cute and fashionable”
“wǒ lǎogōng 176 gōngfēn, zài tā pángbiān yǒu zhǒng xiǎoniǎoyīrén de gǎnjué”
“My husband is 176 cm, (so) at his side (I have) a feeling of being small and dainty“
Usage 3) As a Noun
“céngjīng de xiǎoniǎoyīrén, hūnhòu túrán biànchéng hédōngshīhǒu”
“Previously a cute and dainty girl, after marriage she became a dominant and demanding woman”
“xián de jiào tèlìdúxínɡ, ruò de jiào xiǎoniǎoyīrén, búxiàng nǚrén de jiào chāonǚ”
“Those who are idle are called maverick, those who are weak are called cute and dainty girls, and those who don’t seem like women are called supergirls”
Questions? Comments? Other words you’d like us to cover? Please let us know!
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