Over the centuries several words have been borrowed into English from various Chinese dialects. For the purposes of this list, I have not included words that refer exclusively to elements of Chinese culture, as otherwise this list would be very long indeed. Thus I have omitted dimsum
, kung fu
, feng shui
, chow mein
, tai chi
, etc. I have also included only words that have been borrowed into English directly from Chinese languages, and thus have left out words like Japan
(borrowed from Italian), tea
(most likely borrowed from Dutch), and silk
(actually an Old English
word, that's how long ago it was borrowed), as well as innumerable Japanese loanwords constructed from Chinese character readings. All words were taken from Mandarin
unless otherwise specified.
China - qin2 (秦), "Qin Dynasty"
chop chop - Chinese Pidgin English, perhaps from doubling of Cantonese kap, "fast, hurried"
chopsticks - English-Chinese Pidgin hybrid, perhaps from Cantonese kap, "fast, hurried"
chow chow - Chinese Pidgin English, from Cantonese kau (狗), "dog"
ginseng - Cantonese jên shên (人葠), "image of man" (refers to forked shape of the root, which resembles the Chinese character for "man")
gung ho - gong1 he2 (工和), "work together"
kaolin - gao1 ling3 (高嶺), "tall mountan range" (refers to an area of Jiangxi province famed for its white porcelain powder)
ketchup - Amoy kê-tsiap, "pickled fish sauce" (disputed, possibly from Malay)
kowtow - kou4 tou2 (叩頭), "knock head"
kumquat - Cantonese gam guat (金橘), "golden orange"
litchi - li4 zhi1 (荔枝), "litchi"
loquat - Cantonese luh kwat (盧橘), "rush tangerine"
lychee - Cantonese lai ji (荔枝), "litchi"
sampan - shan1 ban3 (舢舨), "three planks"
typhoon - tai2 feng1 (颱風), "big wind" (disputed, possibly from Greek)
yen (eg "have a yen for") - yin3 (癮), "craving, addiction"