Bet you don’t know the difference between 签名 and 签字

Today we compare two words that both involve writing things: 签名 (qiānmíng) and 签字 (qiānzì). If you think the difference is that one means to sign your name, while the other means to write anything, then you’re in good company. That’s what many people think. But you would be wrong.

Both 签名 and 签字 mean to sign your name, and your name only.

But 签名 tends to be used in more general contexts. Also, 签名 can be used as a noun while 签字 cannot:

Example 1:


“zhǎo li lián jié qiānmíng de rén páichéng chángduì”

“People looking for Jet Li’s signature form a long line”

Example 2:


“hánguó zǒngtǒng li míng bó zài nǚ zhígōng bèibù qiānmíng rě zhēngyì”

“Korean President Lee Myung-bak signing on a female worker’s back causes controversy”

Example 3:


“yàmǎxùn zhēngjí qiānmíng ,yù jiāng wǎngshāng xiāoshòushuì tíjiāo quánmín gōngjué”

“Amazon collects signatures, wants to submit the internet merchant sales tax to all citizens for a public decision”

On the other hand, 签字 is reserved for more formal occasions. You could say that you feel more of the weight of responsibility when 签字 is used.

Example 4:


“yīshēng dān zé qiānzì jiù le tuìwǔ lǎo bīng”

“Doctor’s assuming of responsibility to sign saves a retired soldier”

Example 5:


“rì xīn fǎxiàng chēng bùyuàn qiānzì”

“New Japanese Justice Minister announces he is unwilling to sign”

Example 6:


“jiē kuàidì hángyè sìdà qiánguīzé ,xiān qiānzì hòu yànhuò 。。。”

“Revealing the express delivery industry’s 4 unspoken rules, sign first and inspect goods later…”


Questions? Comments? Other words you like us to cover? Let us know!

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P.S. Like this post? Check out our other Chinese Vocabulary posts!

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