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Chinese Internet Slang for Chinese Learners
Daniel Nalesnik
   •   March 2, 2021

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! 
 
GG (哥哥) 
gēgē 
bro 
 
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)
 
网红 
wǎnghóng 
internet celebrity 
 
火星人 
huǒxīngrén 
weirdo 
Literally, “martian” 
 
硬核 
yìnghé 
hardcore 
 
悲催 
bēi cuī 
miserable; pathetic 
 
潮 
cháo 
trendy; cool 
 
萌 
méng 
cute 
 
蠢萌 
chǔn méng 
dorky and cute 
 
凸 
tū 
(emoji hand) middle finger 
 
囧 
jiǒng 
(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!”

References

Internet Slang Glossary.” Haha China.

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