12 Essential American Slang in Mandarin Chinese
Do you know what the terms “bff,” “lol” and “srsly” mean?
How about “yolo,” “tbt” and “turnt?”
These slang words, sourced from everyday language in real life, are rarely—if ever—taught in a classroom.
Plus, they are constantly being created, transformed and replaced by newer, fresher generations of slang words.
Many of the latest American slang words have actually found their way into Mandarin Chinese, being adopted into the latest vernacular by teens, young professionals, netizens and trendsetters.
Below, you can find some of the most popular examples of adopted English slang in Mandarin Chinese. Feel free to practice using them, and have fun!
12 Essential American Slang in Mandarin Chinese
1. Awesome! 太棒了! (tài bàng le)
The literal translation of this popular American slang in Chinese is “too great!” Used to express feelings of excitement or amazement, the phrase can be used to describe a person or an event.
“Jīntiān wǒ kǎ lā ō kě bǐ sài yíng le yì bǎi yuán jiǎngjīn.”
(Today I won 100 dollars prize money in a karaoke competition.)
“Zhēn de ma? tài bàng le”
(Really? That’s awesome!)
“Wǒ sòng gěi nǐ yí jiàn lǐ wù”
(I’m giving you a present.)
“Nǐ tài bàng le!”
(You are awesome!)
2. Bae 亲 (qīn)
Similar to how “bae” is a colloquial shortened form of “babe” or “baby,” 亲(qīn) is an abbreviated form of the Chinese term of endearment “亲爱的 (qīn ài de),” which literally means “dear” or “dearest.” The term is most often used as a greeting at the beginning of internet messages in order to create a warm and affectionate tone.
“Qīn! nǐ zài wǎng shàng dìng de chèn shān yǐ jīng dào le, qǐng míng tiān xià wǔ sān diǎn lái qǔ.”
(Bae! The shirt you ordered online is here, please come pick it up tomorrow afternoon at 3.)
3. Bro 哥们 (gē men)
A term used to refer to male best friends, 哥们 (gē men) are the ride-or-die friends who have been through thick and thin with you. 哥们 (gē men) can be used to refer to a singular bro, or a group of bros. Even females can be 哥们 (gē men) provided they are a bro and not a romantic interest.
“Jiè shào nǐ rèn shi liǎng gē men.”
(Introducing you to two of my bros.)
“Zhè shì Mary, gāozhòng shí jiù rènshi de gē men.”
(This is Mary, a bro I knew from back in high school.)
4. Health nut 养生狂 (yǎng shēng kuáng)
Do you know a guy or gal who gets up at 5 a.m., runs six miles a day, eats buckets of kale, does Pilates/Cross-fit/aerobic rope swinging, takes all the right vitamins and is in bed by 11 p.m.?
That would be the prime example of a 养生狂 (yǎng shēng kuáng). The literal translation of the term is “crazy about health.”
“Tā zhēn de bù chī/jí tàn shuǐ huà hé wù ma ？Yǒu diǎn xiàng gè yǎng shēng kuáng”
(He really doesn’t eat carbs? Seems kind of like a health nut.)
5. Not my cup of tea 不是我的菜 (bú shì wǒ de cài)
The Chinese counterpart to the American “not my cup of tea” literally translates to “not my dish.” The term can be used to explain why you might not click romantically with a certain person, or to politely decline something you are not interested in.
“Zuó tiān nǐ hé lì lì yuē huì, gǎn jué zěn me yàng?”
(Yesterday you had a date with Lili, how did it feel?)
“tā hěn hǎo, dàn shì bú shì wǒ de cài.”
(She’s great, but not my cup of tea.)
“Jīn wǎn gēn wǒ men qù pào bā ，zěn me yàng?”
(Tonight come to the bar with us, how about it?)
“Xièxie, wǒ bù qù, nà bú shì wǒ de cài.”
(Thanks, I’ll pass, it’s not my cup of tea.)
6. Show off 炫 (xuàn)
炫 (xuàn) is the Chinese verb for to show off. What do people typically show off? The usual contenders are cars, money and even luxury handbags. With the growth of social media tools such as Instagram, Twitter or Weibo, it’s easier than ever to 炫 (xuàn) just about anything. Be careful though, a noun should always be used with the word 炫 (xuàn)—see the examples below!
“Pāi zhāng zhào piàn ， xuàn yī xià xīn mǎi de bāo bāo!”
(Take a picture, show off the new purse!)
“John chū lái xuàn chē le, nǐ kàn tā mǎi de xīn fǎ lā lì!”
(John came out to show off his car, look at his new Ferrari!)
7. Speak of the devil 说曹操曹操到 (Shuō cáo cāo cáo cāo dào)
Used in the same way as the American “speak of the devil,” the Chinese version refers to a historical Chinese general, 曹操 (cáo cāo), whose large network of spies ensured his prompt political action. As it is slightly derogatory in nature, “说曹操曹操到 (Shuō cáo cāo cáo cāo dào)” is usually used when discussing someone else in secret, or in a joking manner between friends.
“Shuō cáo cāo cáo cāo dào, gāng cái gāng gāng shuō qǐ Lisa, tā jiù lái le.”
(Speak of the Devil, as soon as we talked about Lisa, she arrived.)
“Hēi ! wǒ gāng jiǎng qǐ nǐ dà xué shí hou de gù shi nǐ jiù dào le ，zhēn shi shuō cáo cāo cáo cāo dào a.”
(Hey! As soon as I started telling the stories of you in college you got here, speak of the Devil.)
8. Third wheel 电灯泡 (diàn dēng pào)
The phrase 电灯泡 (diàn dēng pào) literally means “lightbulb.” The term comes from the fact that when two people are on a date, they typically prefer a romantic, dim environment. But the 电灯泡 (diàn dēng pào) makes the two people so uncomfortable, it’s as if he/she is brightly lighting up the room with a 100-watt lightbulb.
“Míng tiān gēn wǒ hé Mike yī qǐ qù chī hā gēn dá sī?”
(Come have Haagen-Daz with me and Mike tomorrow?)
“Hāhā . wǒ qù dāng diàn dēng pào? wǒ bù qù.”
(Haha. Go be a third wheel? I’ll pass.)
9. Top-notch 神级 (shén jí)
To compliment someone on their top-notch skills in sports/video games/foreign languages, you can compliment them as 神级 (shén jí). 神级 (shén jí) literally means “god level,” and the phrase is typically followed by a noun, as in 神级 (shén jí) chef, or a verb, such as 神级 (shén jí) photoshopping. Just be careful, the phrase is usually only used to compliment people, not objects.
“Měi guó shén jí chú shī zuò chū kě sòng tián tián quān.”
(A top-notch American chef created the cronut.)
“Qiú shén jí PS bāng wǒ P tú.”
(Looking for a top-notch Photoshop expert to photoshop a picture for me.)
10. Pumped up – High起来 (High qǐ lai)
Usually used as a call to action, this combo English-Chinese phrase calls for people to get the party going to the next level.
“Chú xī yè , ràng wǒ men yī qǐ High qǐ lai ba!”
(It’s New Year’s Eve, let’s get pumped up!)
“Gēn zhe wǒde jié zòu High qǐ lai ba!”
(Follow my rhythm and let’s get pumped up!)
11 . Wow! 哇! (Wà!)
Use to express feelings of excitement or shock, 哇(Wà) can be used anywhere you can use the English “Wow!” For extra fun, try saying 哇 (Wà) with an exaggerated facial expression, just like just native speakers would do!
“Wà! hǎohǎo chī!”
(Wow! So delicious!)
“Wà! nǐ de lán qiú de tài bàng le!”
(Wow! You are so awesome at basketball!)
“Wà! bàn yè qiāo mén, nǐ xià le wǒ yī tiào!”
(Wow! Knocking on the door at midnight, you scared me!)
12. Yuppie 雅皮士 (yǎ pí shì)
Used to describe the Starbucks-loving, fashion magazine reading, highly educated middle class young professionals in major Chinese urban cities living an affluent lifestyle, 雅皮士 (yǎ pí shì) doesn’t carry the same slightly derogatory meaning as it does in English. People will even refer to themselves as a 雅皮士(yǎ pí shì). To use yuppie as an adjective, we can use 雅皮 (yǎ pí) or 雅痞 (yǎ pǐ).
“Xīn yī dài yǎ pí shì kuài lè ma?”
(Is the new generation of yuppies happy?)
“Kàn yī kàn, 2014 chūn xià liú xíng de dà yǎ pǐ xié”
(Take a look! Five popular yuppie shoe styles in spring/summer of 2014)
So there you have it—these are a few American slang phrases and their Mandarin Chinese counterparts. Try practicing them with your friends!
Always keep in mind that slang is mainly used around people you are familiar with. You wouldn’t want to greet your college professor with “亲!” or call your boss a “哥们!”
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