China has many kinds of fools – 傻子 vs 呆子

You’ve probably come across tabloid headlines slamming celebrities as 傻子 (shǎzi)  or 呆子 (dāizi), but have you noticed the context in which each expression is used? Both 傻子(shǎzi) and 呆子 (dāizi) describe people who aren’t smart/intelligent and can be translated as “fool,” but they highlight different attributes.

傻 (shǎ) stresses stupidity and muddle-headedness. Therefore, 傻子 (shǎzi) is someone foolish and unintelligent.

Example 1:


“bǎ qúnzhòng dānɡ shǎzi de rén shì zuìdà de shǎzi

“The person who treats the masses as fools is the biggest fool of all.”

Example 2:


“bié dānɡ lǐcái shǎzi

“Don’t be a fool in financial management”

Example 3:


“zhème lěng ,zhǐyǒu shǎzi cái huì chūmén .”

“It’s so cold. Only fools will go outside.”

Example 4:


“wǒ bǎ nǐ dānɡ xiōngdì ,nǐ què bǎ wǒ dānɡ shǎzi .”

“I treat you like a brother, and you treat me like a fool.”

呆 (dāi) emphasizes mental slowness and rigidity. Unlike a 傻子 who is unintelligent, a 呆子(dāizi) could be very smart but obtuse and inflexible. A 书呆子 (shūdāizi), or nerd, for example, is someone who is smart but single-mindedly adheres to what’s written in books.

Example 5:


“xiānggǎng dàxué nèidì zhāoshēng , ‘shūdāizi ’bùshòuhuānyíng “

“University of Hong Kong Recruiting from Mainland, Nerds Aren’t Popular Choices”

Example 6:

“… 把孩子变成只会考试的呆子

“… bǎ háizi biànchéng zhǐhuì kǎoshì de dāizi

“… turning kids into fools only good at exams.”


Check out more examples on FluentU, which has hundreds of videos with embedded learning tools that provide lots of context for language learning.

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

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