Chinese Characters and What They Mean
Each Chinese character usually has one or more meanings and the combinations of different Chinese characters can form Chinese words with their own meanings. There are over 70,000 Chinese characters, about 7,000 of them commonly used today. The great number of the Chinese characters formed the basis of the fascinating Chinese world and the Chinese culture.
The Chinese characters used today were developed from the oracle bone script with a history of over 3,000 years. The Chinese characters are known as logograms or symbols. The basic building blocks for the Chinese characters are called Chinese radicals.
Since each Chinese character has one or more meanings, it is hard to list the meanings of all the Chinese characters here. To give you some ideas about the Chinese characters, we will only give you a few examples here. If you are looking for the translations of English words, please see our Chinese characters section.
It means human or person (on the left). It looks like a person with two legs separated.
It means big or large. Without the horizontal line, the character becomes the character for human (see above). With the line, it looks like a person with two arms extended so it is big (see also the character for small below).
It means small. The arms are down and legs are together so it is small, compared with character for big (see above).
It means good. The left part of the character is the character for woman or female and the right part is the character for son or child. It originally means 'beautiful (woman)'. We may also say when you have woman and son, it is good. The ancient Chinese worship their ancestors and are very keen on sons for carrying on the ancestral lines, which are reflected in this character for good --- sons (or children) are as important as women.
It means river. The midlle line represents a stream of water and the other two lines are the banks of the river. But it is usually not used in river names.
To master Chinese, you will have to learn at least 2,500 - 3,500 Chinese characters. Since the characters have meanings, it is relatively easy to know the meanings of Chinese words.
If you are looking for the meanings of Chinese names, click here. If you don't have a Chinese name yet, please check out the Chinese name list. If the name you are looking for is not on the list, you can get it here.
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