Remember when learning body parts was as simple as singing, “head, shoulders, knees and toes?”
Songs are extremely useful when it comes to learning a language. I only wish that my teacher had used the Chinese version of the song to drill those terms into my head back when I was learning Mandarin.
Ah well, what’s done is done.
If you’re a beginner in Mandarin, the song in Chinese is great for learning the basic body parts. But if you’re ready to learn the rest of your body, maybe venture into internal body parts, you’re in the right place.
Why You Need to Know Body Parts in Chinese
To describe your aches and pains when you’re at the hospital
Let’s face it. It’s kind of silly having to point out where it hurts, especially as an adult.
It’s also quite tedious communicating via translation apps; so why not make it easier for everyone and learn the terms? In addition to learning some Chinese medical terms, knowing the different parts of the body in Chinese just makes sense in case you ever have a medical emergency or need to visit a doctor in a Mandarin-speaking destination.
To be specific when you’re at the spa
It’s easy to point to your hands or feet when you want a mani or pedi. But let’s say you want to get a full body massage, perhaps avoiding your calves or feet because of an injury, sensitivity or some other reason.
It’d be great if you could explain everything in Chinese. However, just knowing how to say the bare minimum, which would be “I don’t want…” or 不要 (bùyào) + said body part in Chinese, indicates enough to the native speaking staff so they can tailor spa services according to your needs.
To get your flirt on
You can refer to your significant other using terms of endearment like 老婆 (lǎo pó — wifey), call your crush 帅 (shuài — handsome), but feel free to amp up your flirting by complimenting certain body parts, without being creepy, of course.
You can say something like 你的眼睛很美。 (nǐ de yǎnjīng hěn měi.) — Your eyes are so beautiful.
To speak and understand slang
Think about all the body idioms we have in English.
Hot head. Cold shoulder. A sight for sore eyes. Play it by ear. Putting your foot in your mouth.
There’s a whole list of body part-related slang in the English language, and it’s no different in Mandarin, or any other language, for that matter.
For example, if there’s someone who always asks others for information because they’re too lazy to look it up themselves, you might call them a 伸手党 (shēnshǒu dǎng), literally meaning “hand out party.”
Another example of body slang would be 玻璃心 (bō li xīn) which translates to “glass heart,” referring to someone who’s overly sensitive about criticism and very defensive when given slightly negative feedback.
To learn more about body language
When you learn the body parts in another language, you don’t just memorize the translations. Knowing the vocab opens you up to contextual information, which in this case would be slang and body talk.
Body language varies across the globe, where one gesture may be perfectly acceptable in one culture yet perceived as rude in another. We mustn’t forget that learning a language also means learning to assimilate beyond verbal communication.
Body Parts in Chinese: A Holistic List of Over 60 Essential Body-related Words
So how much of the body or 身体 (shēntǐ) do you actually know?
You might’ve already come across the easy terms for basic body parts, but it’s high time you go beyond the basics with this extensive vocabulary guide.
And just for fun, we’ve included some expressions and slang that mention parts of the body.
Head and Neck
头 (tóu) — head
脸 (liǎn) — face
头发 (tóufa) — hair
前额 (qián é) — forehead
眉毛 (méimao) — eyebrows
眼睛 (yǎnjīng) — eye
睫毛 (jiémáo) — eyelashes
耳朵 (ěrduo) — ear
耳垂 (ěrchuí) — earlobe
鼻子 (bízi) — nose
脸颊 (liǎnjiá) — cheek
嘴巴 (zuǐbā) — mouth
嘴唇 (zuǐchún) — lips
牙齿 (yáchǐ) — tooth
舌 (shé) — tongue
下巴 (xiàba) — chin
脖子 (bózi) — neck
The face expresses a lot of emotions. In English, we have terms like “long face” to show unhappiness or disappointment, and “red face” to signify embarrassment or anger.
Chinese has similar expressions, with terms like 绷脸 (běng liǎn) that literally translates to “stretch face,” and 脸红 (liǎnhóng) translating to “face red” to indicate blushing with embarrassment or anger.
Common expressions involving the eyes usually have something to do with grabbing someone’s attention.
For example, 抢眼 (qiǎngyǎn) literally means “snatch eyes” but translates to “eye-catching.”
There’s also the Chinese proverb about love, 各花入各眼 (gè huā rù gè yǎn ) that means “different flowers match different eyes,” which is close to the Western adage of beauty being in the eye of the beholder.
Here are a few other expressions:
左耳进右耳出 (zuǒ ěr jìn yòu ěr chū) — left ear in, right ear out; (literally) in one ear and out the other
毒舌 (dúshé) — poisonous tongue; (lit.) a harsh critic
仰首伸眉 (yǎng shǒu shēn méi) — lift head stretch eyebrows; (lit.) hold your head up high
躯干 (qūgàn) — torso
肩膀 (jiānbǎng) — shoulder
胸膛 (xiōngtáng) — chest
肚子 (dùzi) — abdomen, belly
肚脐 (dùqí) — navel, belly button
腰 (yāo) — waist, small of the back
腰胯 (yāo kuà) — hip
脊背 (jǐbèi) — back
屁股 (pìgu) — butt
阴部 (yīnbù) — genitals, private parts
There are actually quite a number of idioms that include the chest and abdomen in Chinese, as people believe that the torso is the container of emotions.
One example would be 捶胸顿足 (chuíxiōngdùnzú) meaning “to beat one’s chest and stamp one’s feet” to describe grief, sorrow or anguish. It’s almost like the Western saying of beating yourself up over something. Other common sayings use different synonyms for chest in Chinese.
Arms and Legs
Parts of the arm
臂 (bì) — arm
腋窝 (yèwō) — armpit
手肘 (shǒu zhǒu) — elbow
前臂 (qiánbì) — forearm
手腕子 (shǒuwànzi) — wrist
手 (shǒu) — hand
手掌 (shǒuzhǎng) — palm
手指 (shǒuzhǐ) — finger
拇指 (mǔzhǐ) — thumb; big toe
指甲 (zhǐjiǎ) — fingernail
If you completed a task that you felt took no effort at all, you might say it was 易如反掌 (yìrúfǎnzhǎng), or “easy as turning palm.”
To describe worry or sorrow, you might use the term 扼腕 (èwàn), literally meaning “to wring one’s wrist.”
Parts of the leg
腿 (tuǐ) — leg
大腿 (dàtuǐ) — thigh
膝盖 (xīgài) — knee
胫 (jìng) — shin
腿肚子 (tuǐdùzi) — calf
脚腕 (jiǎo wàn) — ankle
脚 (jiǎo) — foot
脚底 (jiǎodǐ) — soles of the feet
脚跟 (jiǎogēn) — heel
脚趾 (jiǎozhǐ) — toe
趾甲 (zhǐjiǎ) — toenail
Generally, the movement of legs or feet signify extreme anger or anxiety.
If you wanted something more emotive or colorful than 生气 (shēngqì) meaning “angry,” you could always use 跳脚 (tiàojiǎo), literally meaning “jumping feet,” though it really means “to stomp feet in rage or anxiety” or “hopping mad.”
Internal Body Parts
脑 (nǎo) — brain
喉 (hóu) — throat
心 (xīn) — heart
静脉 (jìngmài) — vein
动脉 (dòngmài) — artery
肺 (fèi) — lungs
胃 (wèi) — stomach
大肠 (dàcháng) — large intestine, colon
小肠 (xiǎocháng) — small intestine
肝 (gān) — liver
脾 (pí) — spleen
胆囊 (dǎnnáng) — gallbladder, guts
生殖器 (shēngzhíqì) — reproductive organs
膀胱 (pángguāng) — bladder
尿道 (niàodào) — urethra, urinary tract
肌 (jī) — muscle
关节 (guānjié) — joint
骨 (gǔ) — bone
骨架 (gǔjià) — skeleton
脊梁 (jǐliáng) — backbone, spine
Have you ever noticed that a lot of the words for “happy” in Chinese have 心 (xīn) it? According to Chinese culture, the heart is the source of emotions, and it’s actually quite beautiful that many positive feelings in Chinese include the character, such as:
开心 (kāixīn) — happy, elated
心旷神怡 (xīnkuàngshényí) — heart untroubled, spirit pleased; (lit.) relaxed and carefree
心醉 (xīnzuì) — heart drunk; (lit.) enchanted, charmed
But as the heart is the source of all emotions, 心 (xīn) also appears in negative qualities, with 心急 (xīnjí) and 心切 (xīnqiè) both meaning “impatient.”
In Chinese, the gallbladder represents courage—and sometimes, lack thereof. Terms and expressions concerning the gallbladder could make a hefty list of its own, so we’ll include just a few below:
胆量 (dǎnliàng) — gallbladder amount; (lit.) courage
胆大 (dǎn dà) — gallbladder big; (lit.) bold, daring
胆小 (dǎn xiǎo) — gallbladder small; (lit.) timid
And there you have it!
With this list, you’ll definitely be able to express yourself better in the circumstances mentioned above, as well as throw in some body idioms while conversing with native speakers!