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The Guide to Chinese Internet Slang: How to Chat Like a Native Speaker

If you’ve ever used any social media sites, video apps or joined any online community, you probably use a different way of speaking to communicate with your online friends. Like the young generations everywhere in the world, China’s internet users have cultivated their own online vocabulary. Understanding Chinese internet slang is critical if you want to have closer relationships with Chinese people which will bring you many future opportunities. 

However, even the most advanced language student may find it difficult to adapt to the quickly evolving world of Chinese internet slang. This article will be a helpful way to unlock the challenging world of Chinese internet slang! 

1. What is Chinese internet slang?

Slang is an informal language that is more commonly spoken than written. It also sometimes refers to the language usually used by the members of particular in-groups, rather than the common vocabulary of a standard language. 

The Chinese-speaking internet is changing and growing quickly day by day. So far, in 2021, there are more than a billion people buzzing in cyberspace in China. Some of China’s most popular social media platforms are WeChat (similar to WhatsApp but has more features), Weibo (like Facebook and Twitter), TikTok (for short videos), Baidu Tieba (like Reddit), and Youku (like YouTube). 

Because China is the world’s largest social media market, Chinese-speaking internet users have developed their own subcultures and slangs as they react to viral videos, spread hysterical memes, and find faster and funnier ways of expressing themselves via keyboards. 

Like English internet slang, Chinese internet slang transforms the Chinese language in unexpected and highly nuanced ways, for example, calling a dog “doggo” or saying “LOL” instead of “That’s funny”. The differences between “standard Chinese” and Chinese internet slang make it possible to express subtle emotions and feelings via abbreviations, puns, rhymes, and visual cues.

Besides using Chinese characters, Chinese internet slang even incorporates Arabic numerals and the Latin alphabet. For instance, when you see “88” (“Bye-bye” in Chinese) or “666” (Chinese meaning: “Awesome!”), you’re seeing a faster way of typing approximations of what Chinese phrases sound like. The Latin alphabet abbreviations like “XSW” (“LMAO” in Chinese) are also a faster way of typing by using the first letter of the pinyin that underpins the phrases. 

Chinese internet slang using numbers

Chinese people can be very creative in creating new colloquial expressions because plenty of Chinese numbers sound like another character. Let’s start with the most common ones!

666 (liùliùliù): This is probably the most common slang in Chinese internet slang. The colloquialism 666 (liùliùliù) comes from the phrase 牛牛牛 (niuniuniu), which means awesome, excellent, great, etc. However, as most native English speakers know, the  English meaning of 666 is often related to the Devil because of Biblical symbolism. 

520 (wǔ’èrlíng): This is probably the second most common phrase you’ll see on the internet, especially around May 20th. This date comes from the famous song “Digital Love” by the Taiwanese singer Fan Xiaolan. Nowadays, “520” is a way that Chinese young people express their love because “520” (wǔ’èrlíng) represents 我爱你 wǒ ài nǐ, which means “I love you” in Chinese. 

– 995 (jiǔ jiǔ wǔ): This Chinese number slang stands for 救救我 (jiù jiù wǒ) meaning “Help me!”. This is used a lot, sometimes in an amusing or ironic way. 

– 748 (qīsìbā): This phrase represents 去死吧 (qùsǐba), which is pretty much a translation for “Go to hell” or “Go die”. 

88 (bābā): This phrase sounds like “Bye-bye” in English. Young Chinese people usually end their online conversations by saying “88”. 

– 233 (èr sān sān): This Chinese internet slang refers to the sound of laughter. The pinyin “èr sān sān” is similar to the 哈哈哈 (often used as “lol”), which sounds like ‘hā hā hā ‘.

– 555 (wǔwǔwǔ): If 233 represents the sound of laughter, 555 (wǔwǔwǔ) represents the sound of crying. This phrase comes from the characters 呜呜呜 (wūwūwū). Admit it, it does sound a lot like someone crying!

– 484 (sìbāsì): This Chinese slang is similar to the 是不是 (shì búshì), meaning yes or no. This is a way of asking a question in Chinese. 

– 530 (wǔsānlíng): The pinyin for this one sounds like 我想你 (wǒ xiǎng nǐ), which is how you say “I miss you” in Chinese.

– 1314 (yīsānyīsì): This comes from the Chinese 一生一世 (yīshēng yīshì) which means “forever”. You will usually see this after a phrase like “I love you” or even the slang “520” mentioned above. 

– 4242 (sìèrsìèr): Let’s say this phrase aloud! Can you tell what it is? This one represents saying “Yes” which is 是啊是啊 (shìa shìa) in Chinese. 

– 7456 (qīsìwǔliù): 756 (qīsìwǔliù) represents the phrase 气死我了 (qìsǐ wǒle). This is the Chinese number slang for “I’m angry”.

– 918 (jiǔyāobā): 918 (jiǔyāobā) represents the phrase 加油吧 (jiāyóu ba) which means “Good luck” or “Come on!”. You will see this phrase a lot whenever someone is sending encouragement. 

Fun fact: 加油 (jiāyóu) literally means to “add oil”, so this phrase somehow means refuel. 

996 (jiǔjiǔliù): This is an interesting Chinese internet slang related to China’s long, hard-working culture. The “996 workers” are likely to work in many technology companies or startups. They follow the daily routine of working from 9am to 9pm, for 6 days a week. That is 72 hours every working week, with only Sunday to enjoy. And guess what 996 workers like to do on a Sunday? You got it – Sleep!

Chinese internet slang using letters

Let’s switch from taking a look at numbers to checking out slang using letters. This list below gives you a taste of Chinese internet slang using the alphabet!

– YYDS (yǒnɡyuǎn de shén): This phrase is an abbreviation of the Chinese term 永远的神 (yǒnɡyuǎn de shén) which literally means “Forever The God”. YYDS is similar to the abbreviation GOAT in English, which stands for “Greatest Of All Time”. 

– KSWL (kēsǐwǒle): This is a unique slang that doesn’t really exist in English. It stands for 磕死我了 (kēsǐwǒle), the word used to describe a couple who are being so cute and so sweet. 

– HHH (hóng hóng huo huǒ huǎng huǎng hū hū): This is a nice and easy term which stands for 哈哈哈 (hāhāhā), the equivalent of “Laughing Out Loud” in Chinese. 

– U1S1 (yǒuyīshuōyī): This combination of both letters and numbers stands for 有一说一 (yǒuyīshuōyī), which means “to be honest”. It’s normally used at the beginning of a sentence when you’re going to be frank with someone. 

– XSW (xiào sǐ wǒle): XSW stands for 笑死我了 (xiào sǐ wǒle), which basically means “I am dying of laughter”. This Chinese slang is similar to the English slang abbreviation ROFL (“Roll on the floor laughing”). 

– QSWL (qì sǐ wǒle): This term is pretty much the opposite of XSWL. It stands for 气死我了 (qì sǐ wǒle) – “I am extremely annoyed/angry” or more literally “You have angered me to death”. 

– DBQ (duìbùqǐ): The last Chinese letter slang is the straightforward abbreviation DBQ. It means 对不起 (duìbùqǐ) – the word for sorry in Chinese

Final thoughts

Now you have the ultimate list of Chinese internet slang and know how to chat like a pro with Chinese people on social media! Don’t forget to go out and get used to Chinese language digital media, and keep your Mandarin skills up-to-date.

So, what are some ways to keep your Chinese sharp? Try memorizing these slang terms by using flashcards or making sentences because it’s the best way to remember these words, numbers, and phrases. Chinese slang is also influenced by trends in the media, popular influencers, TV shows, and social culture, so try using them to develop your repertoire.

Another effective way to master Mandarin is learning with a Spaced Repetition System (SRS) learning method. Pandanese is an SRS platform that helps Chinese learners build vocabulary fast and effectively. We use a one-of-a-kind curriculum with a perfect mnemonics system, breaking Chinese characters and words into small parts and giving you interesting explanations to help you store them more accessibly in your brain. 

You can also practice with some online Chinese friends or some Chinese learners in daily conversations. Keep practicing every day, and finally, one day you will end up using slang like a real native Chinese speaker!
Check out Pandanese Flashcards to learn some cool Chinese slang. Sign up now and try Pandanese for free!

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