A language student may think, “It’s impossible to learn all these Chinese words!” But what if you were told that there are quite a few Chinese words used in English that you already know?
Tofu is soy bean curd. It comes directly from its Chinese name, 豆腐 (dòu fǔ).
Lychee is a tropical fruit with characteristically red shells and sweet, white flesh. Lychee is also used to flavor other foods like tea. In Chinese, it’s 荔枝 (lì zhī).
A coolie is a laborer. The term comes from European colonialism and the practice of importing cheap labor from China and India. In Chinese it’s 苦力 (kǔ lì), or literally, “bitter work.”
4. kung fu
Kung fu, or Chinese martial arts, has been made famous by Hollywood movies and movie stars like Bruce Lee and Jackie Chan. The word comes from 功夫 (gōng fū).
Tai chi is a slow, meditative martial arts exercise. It comes from the Chinese name for this practice, 太极拳 (tài jí quán), or “shadow boxing.”
6. Yin and yang
In Taoist philosophy, yin and yang represent two balancing forces in the universe. Yin is the dark force, and represents feminine quality. Yang is the light force, and represents masculine quality. The harmony of ying and yang is thought to balance the universe and influence everything in it. It comes from the Chinese term 阴阳 (yīn yáng).
7. Feng shui
The practice of feng shui is thought to balance the energies in the environment and bring about good fortune. It comes from Chinese 风水 (fēng shuǐ), meaning “natural surroundings” or literally “wind and water.”
A wok is a stir-fry pan used for cooking. The word comes from Cantonese wohk, meaning “pan.” Its equivalent in Mandarin is 锅 (guō).
9. Dim sum
Dim sum are small, appetizer-like dishes of food, served for brunch at Chinese restaurants. There are a large variety of dim sum, including meat dishes, vegetarian dishes, cakes and pastries. Dim sum comes from 点心 (diǎn xīn). It translates literally as “touch the heart,” perhaps because of the dishes’ small, attractive quality.
A typhoon is a hurricane. The term comes from the Chinese equivalent, 台风 (tái fēng).