15 Words English Borrowed From Chinese

15 Words English Borrowed From Chinese

When people are learning a language, often they learn the names of delicious foods. English has adopted the names of many Chinese dishes. However, you may be surprised to realize that many other everyday words and phrases are also borrowed from various dialects of Chinese.


Bok choy is an Asian green that can be cooked or eaten raw. In Chinese, the expression derives from words meaning “white vegetable” because of the white stalks. Ketchup, also spelled catsup, is thought to derive from Chinese words referring to the juice of an eggplant. Oolong, literally meaning black dragon, and pekoe, meaning white hair, are types of tea. In fact, the word tea itself comes from a Chinese word! Other Chinese food words include ginseng and lychee.


Many cultures love dogs, and the Chinese are no exception. From them, we get the names of many dog breeds. Shar peis, a breed distinctive for loose wrinkly skin, get their name from Chinese words meaning “sand” and “fur.” We also get the breed name for shih tzus from Chinese words meaning “lion dog.”


The expression chop chop, an impatient way of telling someone to hurry up, comes from a Chinese expression with a similar meaning. Yin Yang describes the interaction of darkness and brightness. Gung ho, which in English means enthusiastically or wholeheartedly, has an interesting story. A U.S. Marine officer used the phrase as a training slogan after learning the name of the Chinese Industrial Cooperative Society derived from a literal translation of the Chinese expression for “work together.”

Other Cool Things

Many martial art forms, such as tai chi and kung fu, owe their names to their Chinese origin. Mahjong is a fun matching game that many enjoy. Rickshaw is an alternative name of jinrikisha, a small cart pulled by a human driver that was once very popular in China and Japan.

This article contains only a few words adopted from Chinese. With a little investigation of your own, you will discover many more Chinese words embedded in the English language. Why not brainstorm with your family and friends to see how many more you know?

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