So you’ve decided to dive into the Chinese internet and have quickly come to realize that you have no idea how to understand Chinese internet slang.
You stumbled upon a delightful video of a sleepy cat falling asleep in its food bowl, and when you went to comment, you realized that you didn’t know how to say “cute” in Chinese. For that matter, what is “lol” in Chinese?
You look at the other comments. You see that someone has written “886” and wonder if it’s just a typo. You later see “666,” which just confuses you even further.
You study Chinese and may even learn Chinese online, so why can’t you make heads or tails of what’s going on?
Welcome to the World of Chinese Internet and Social Media
The Chinese-speaking internet is rapidly changing and growing. Today in 2021, nearly 1 billion people are online in China, buzzing in the cybersphere. China is the world’s largest social media market, and though its apps may sound foreign to most English-speaking social media users, their uses will be familiar.
Some of the biggest social media platforms in China are WeChat (like WhatsApp but with greatly expanded functionality), Weibo (like Twitter), Kuaishou (for short videos), Douyin (the Chinese Tik Tok), Baidu Tieba (like Reddit), and Youku (like YouTube).
Like their English-speaking counterparts, Chinese-speaking internet users have developed their own subcultures and slang as they react to viral videos, spread hysterical memes, and find faster—and often goofier—ways of expressing themselves via keyboards.
Like English internet slang, Chinese internet slang transforms the Chinese language in unexpected and highly nuanced ways. Like the difference between calling a dog a “dog” or a “doggo,” or that between saying “that’s funny” instead of “lulz,” the differences between “standard Chinese” and Chinese internet slang make it possible to express subtle emotions and feelings through mechanisms like abbreviations, puns, rhymes, and visual cues.
In addition to using Chinese characters, Chinese internet slang even incorporates Arabic numerals and the Latin alphabet. When you see “886” (Chinese meaning: “bye”) or “666” (Chinese meaning: “awesome”), you’re seeing faster ways of typing approximations of what Chinese phrases sound like. Abbreviations in the Latin alphabet like “awsl” (Chinese meaning: “that’s so cute!”) and “xswl” (Chinese meaning: “lmao”) are also faster ways of typing by using the first letters of the pinyin that underpins the phrases. The meanings of these phrases aren’t easy to guess if you’re not a native speaker.
Useful Chinese Internet Slang
Below is a list of Chinese internet slang to give you a taste of what it can be like.
|233||èrsānsān||lol; rofl||Refers to an emoji code for someone pounding on the floor laughing|
|520||wǔ’èrlíng||I love you||Sounds like “我爱你”|
|666||liùliùliù||awesome; excellent||Sounds like “牛牛牛” or “溜溜溜”|
|双击 666||shuāngjī liùliùliù||You’re awesome for liking [my video/my post]!||“双击” means “double click”|
|88 or 886||bābā or bābāliù||Bye-bye!||Sounds like “拜拜” or “拜拜咯”|
|995||jiǔjiǔwǔ||Help!||Sounds like “救救我”|
|996||jiǔjiǔliù||daily grind||Refers to working from 9:00 am to 9:00 pm six days a week|
|AWSL (啊我死了)||à wǒ sǐ le||(It’s so cute) I’m going to die!|
|XSWL (笑死我了)||xiàosǐ wǒ lè||lmao|
|笑cry||xiào cry||to laugh so hard one cries||Refers to this emoji:|
|怎么样？ or 怎么了？||Zěnmeyàng or Zěnmele||What’s up?|
|照骗||zhàopiàn||(deceptively) flattering photo||Pun on “照片”|
|尬…||gà…||awkward…||尬聊 (awkward conversation; pinyin: gàliáo)
尬舞 (awkward dance; pinyin: gàwǔ)
|悲催||bēi cuī||miserable; pathetic|
|蠢萌||chǔn méng||dorky and cute|
|凸||tū||(emoji hand) middle finger|
|囧||jiǒng||(emoji face) embarrassment; shock|
Refers to an emoji code for someone pounding on the floor laughing
I love you
Sounds like “我爱你”
Sounds like “牛牛牛” or “溜溜溜”
You’re awesome for liking [my video/my post]!
“双击” means “double click”
88 or 886
bābā or bābāliù
Sounds like “拜拜” or “拜拜咯”
Sounds like “救救我”
Refers to working from 9:00 am to 9:00 pm six days a week
à wǒ sǐ le
(It’s so cute) I’m going to die!
xiàosǐ wǒ lè
to laugh so hard one cries
Refers to this emoji:
怎么样？ or 怎么了？
Zěnmeyàng or Zěnmele
(deceptively) flattering photo
Pun on “照片”
尬聊 (awkward conversation; pinyin: gàliáo) 尬舞 (awkward dance; pinyin: gàwǔ)
dorky and cute
(emoji hand) middle finger
(emoji face) embarrassment; shock
Getting Yourself Up to Speed
Now that you have this list and know how to say “cool” in Mandarin and “what’s up” in Chinese, you can study these terms just the same as you would study the Chinese word for “thanks.” Just consider them timely pieces of vocabulary to add to your repertoire. For the best way to get a handle on these words and phrases, try memorizing them using Hack Chinese.
As you study and your confidence with Chinese internet slang grows, you might even be able to leave a comment on that cute cat video: “awsl!”
“Internet Slang Glossary.” Haha China.