2023 Chinese Buzzwords: What They Mean and How to Use Them

December 23, 2023

Chinese buzzwords are an integral part of the language and culture, reflecting the influence of social media, internet culture, and societal changes.

In this article, we will explore the emergence of Chinese buzzwords, delve into the 26 most popular buzzwords of 2023, and provide tips for using them in everyday conversations naturally.

Let’s start by talking about how buzzwords pop up!

How Do Chinese Buzzwords Emerge?

Social media platforms play a significant role in shaping Chinese internet culture and influencing online trends, with platforms like WeChat, Weibo and Douyin (Tik Tok) dominating the Chinese social media scene.
Buzzwords are popularized through viral memes, videos, or phrases. Some factors influencing their popularity include the rapid spread of information through social media, the creativity of netizens, and the impact of popular culture on language use.
Every year, Chinese buzzwords subconsciously infiltrate modern daily language, reflecting the evolving nature of the Chinese language.

Now, let's delve into the heart of the matter. In the upcoming section, you will discover the '26 Most Popular Chinese Buzzwords of 2023' for a comprehensive insight into the linguistic trends currently dominating the Chinese online landscape.

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14 Most Popular Chinese Buzzwords of 2023

1. 宅男/宅女 zháinán/zháinǚ

Literal meaning: Stay indoor man/stay indoor woman.

Context: Individuals, typically young people, who prefer to stay at home rather than engage in social activities. They are used to describe individuals who are more introverted and home-oriented, in a lighthearted or neutral manner.

Background: Often associated with the concept of "otaku" in Japanese culture.

2. 光想青年 guāng xiǎng qīngnián

Literal meaning: Only think youth.

Context: Young people who have many ideas but never put any of them into action. It's used to describe individuals who are prone to procrastination or are afraid of taking risks. It is often used in gentle mockery.

Background: It emerged ahead of the "618" online shopping festival on June 18, 2023 when online shopping site Tmall asked Weibo users about personal resolutions that they've failed to uphold.

3. 绿茶婊 lǜchá biǎo

Literal meaning: Green tea bitch.

Context: Used to describe a person, usually a woman, who appears to be gentle, innocent, or well-mannered on the outside, but, in reality, is manipulative, or two-faced.

Background: The Chinese buzzword 绿茶婊 refers to a girl who acts innocent but is actually manipulative. 绿茶 translates to green tea, a common beverage consumed by the Chinese. It represents a pure image. Meanwhile, 婊 literally means "bitch." Together, this Chinese internet slang describes a seemingly charming and innocent woman who is, in fact, materialistic and scheming.

The reason why the term “green tea” was used is unknown. However, some argue that it’s because many green tea commercials use innocent-looking female models to represent the “purity” of green tea.

This phrase was popularized during an incident in 2013 where a supermodel was found sleeping with others for money and fame. This slang was originally used to describe innocent supermodels who seemed to lead glamorous lives but were putting up an act to gain pity.

After that, this Chinese slang phrase started to describe other women who acted similarly—like a wolf in sheep's clothing.

4. 我太难了 wǒ tài nán le

Literal meaning: I too difficult.

Context: A Chinese slang phrase that translates to "I'm living such a hard life" or "I'm going through so many difficulties". It is used to express a sense of being overwhelmed, struggling, or finding something challenging.

Background: The term originated on a Chinese video-sharing app where the celebrity Brother Giao talked about how much pressure he was under having to meet a lot of deadlines and said “我太难了”.

5. 你行你上 nǐ xíng nǐ shàng

Literal meaning: You can, you up.

Context: A Chinese slang phrase that can be translated to "If you think you're capable, then you do it". It is used to challenge someone to take action or responsibility for a task, especially when they express confidence or competence.

Background: The phrase originated during an argument between Chinese basketball fans.

6. 剩女 shèngnǚ

Literal meaning: Leftover woman.

Context: It refers to unmarried women in China who remain single into their late twenties and beyond.

Background: The term, popularized by the All-China Women's Federation, initially carried negative connotations, comparing unmarried women to leftover food. However, there have been efforts to redefine its meaning as "victorious women" ("胜女").

7. 裸婚 luǒhūn

Literal meaning: Naked marriage.

Context: Refers to the modern Chinese trend of getting married without the traditional trappings such as owning a house, a car, or holding an elaborate wedding ceremony.

Background: It started gaining popularity in 2008, and it has been embraced by many young people, particularly those in their 20s and 30s, who prioritize genuine love and emotional connection over material possessions.

8. 躺平 tǎng píng

Literal meaning: Lying flat.

Context: It conveys the idea of opting out of the intense competition and rat race, choosing a more laid-back and low-stress approach to life.

Background: It became popular as a cultural and social phenomenon, reflecting a desire for a more relaxed and less competitive lifestyle. Now it has become a part of larger conversations about work-life balance.

9. 搭子 dāzi

Literal meaning: Card partner.

Context: In contemporary usage, "搭子" is used to describe a buddy or a companion with whom one shares specific interests or activities.

Background: It originated from the phrase "牌搭子" pái dāzi, which means "card partner" in a Chinese dialect.

10. 一起爬山吗? yìqǐ páshān mɑ?

Literal meaning: Go hiking together?

Context: It translates to "Do you want to go hiking together?" However, it has gained a different, darker meaning used to imply a "death invitation" or "Do you want to die?"

Background: This change is due to its association with a popular Chinese drama called “The Bad Kids”, where the opening scene of the first episode is of one of the main characters pushing his in-laws off a cliff.

11. CP粉 fěn

Literal meaning: Couple fan.

Context: It refers to fans or supporters of a particular romantic pairing, especially in the context of fandom culture.

Background: This is the equivalent of “shippers” in English (you “ship” or support two people to be in a relationship). However, CP粉 is used in a more intense sense.

12. nsdd (short for 你说得对 nǐ shuō dé duì

Literal meaning: You said right.

Context: It translates to "what you said is right". It is used to approve of what someone has said. However, it can also be used to brush someone off by hastily agreeing with them if the speaker doesn’t wish to continue the conversation.

Background: It originated from the fan circle to avoid contradiction when discussing topics such as star gossip.

13. plgg (漂亮哥哥 piàoliang gēgē)/ pljj (漂亮姐姐 piàoliang jiějiě)

Literal meaning: Pretty brother/ pretty sister.

Context: These terms are commonly used in Chinese internet culture and social media platforms to express admiration for someone's looks. However, “plgg” is typically used to describe stereotypically feminine men.

Background: It originates from the characters “漂亮” (pretty) and “哥哥/姐姐” (brother/sister).

14. bdjw (不懂就问 bù dǒng jiù wèn

Literal meaning: No understand, just ask.

Context: The abbreviation "bdjw" is commonly used to encourage individuals to ask questions when they do not understand something. It is seen as a positive and inclusive expression, promoting open communication and the sharing of knowledge.

Background: It originates from the characters “不懂” (no understand), “就” (then) and “问” (ask).

Now that we're familiar with certain buzzwords, find out some tips on how to incorporate them into everyday conversations in the next section.

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Tips for Using Chinese Buzzwords in Everyday Conversations Naturally

Here are some tips for you to start including these 2023 Chinese buzzwords in daily conversations, expanding your Chinese vocabulary repertoire.

• Learn the context and background of each buzzword to understand when and how to use them appropriately.
• Practice using buzzwords in conversations with native speakers to gain confidence and improve your fluency.
• Stay updated on the latest buzzwords by following Chinese social media platforms such as WeChat, news, and popular culture.

Now that you know the most popular Chinese buzzwords of 2023 and how to use them naturally, let's take a look at some frequently asked questions about Chinese buzzwords to help you fully understand them!

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Commonly Asked Questions on Google about Chinese Buzzwords

Are Chinese Buzzwords the Same Across Different Regions?

Chinese buzzwords may vary across different regions due to dialects, local culture, and regional trends. However, many buzzwords gain nationwide popularity through social media and internet culture, making them recognizable across different regions.

How Can I Keep Up with the Latest Chinese Buzzwords?

To stay updated on the latest Chinese buzzwords, follow Chinese social media platforms, news outlets, and popular culture. Engaging with native speakers and participating in online communities can also help you learn and understand new buzzwords.

What Are Some Historical Chinese Buzzwords and Their Significance?

Some historical Chinese Buzzwords are:
八股文 Bāgǔwén - Eight-Legged Essay (Imperial Examination System Era): Referring to a highly structured form of essay writing used in the imperial examinations, this term became associated with rigid conformity to established rules. It later evolved to criticize overly formal and bureaucratic language.

拆迁 Chāiqiān - Forced Demolition and Relocation (Late 20th Century): As urbanization accelerated, this term became associated with disputes over property rights and the impact of rapid development on communities.

奥运 Àoyùn - Olympics (2008 Beijing Olympics): The hosting of the 2008 Olympics marked China's rise as a global power. The term is associated with national pride, economic development, and international recognition.


All in all, Chinese buzzwords often reflect the current cultural and social trends in China.

By staying updated on these buzzwords, one can gain insights into the evolving mindset, values, and concerns of the Chinese people.

Do you want to learn more slangs and buzzwords? Check out our two posts: Slang Phrases and Chinese Number Slang!

About the Author

Sara Tao is a Chinese language and culture enthusiast who enjoys sharing her learning journey via Instagram (@saratao_chinese).

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