So after seeing a reddit post this week, I realised just how many ways 吃 can be used without relating to food. I thought I would expand upon it with a blog post.
For our beginner readers, 吃 is the chinese verb meaning “to eat”. 吃 However, as the reddit post says, 吃 can be used with other objects to give a totally different meaning than eating food.
So let’s check some examples out:
Literal translation: to eat bitterness.
Actual meaning: to endure many hardships.
The way I remember this one is to imagine that I’ve just eaten something super bitter, and that requires perseverance to continue eating.
年轻人应该培养吃苦耐劳的精神 - Young people should cultivate a hard-working spirit.
Literal translation: To eat vinegar.
Actual meaning: To be jealous, usually in regards to your partner/family.
Seeing his mother love his newborn sister so much, he was a little jealous.
Literal translation: To eat chicken.
Actual meaning: To win a game of PUBG.
if someone asks you: 你吃鸡吗？ their meaning is: are you playing PUBG?
PUBG is a battle royale game that is extremely popular in China.
This was originally from the game PUBG where if you win in the english version, text pops up saying “winner winner chicken dinner”.
There is a Chinese idiom (成语): 大吉大利. This means: good luck and great prosperity. This is used to express good wishes.
When the game was brought over to China, they decided to combine this saying with 吃鸡， indicating winner winner chicken dinner.
The combination is: 大吉大利，晚上吃鸡！
Note - Don’t say something like 吃我鸡 as this means something else entirely..
This is a new one I just learnt from the reddit post, thanks to cn_lingodeer!
Literal translation: To eat fragrant/aromatic
Actual meaning: Well sought after or very popular.
This is usually used to describe objects or things, rather than people.
Saying something like “他很吃香” is kinda weird..
喜茶很吃香 - Hey Tea (A milk tea brand) is really popular
I’ve seen this a couple of times on my Wechat moments (朋友圈), usually after Singles’ Day (光棍节), which is the equivalent of Black Friday but for China.
Literal translation: To eat dirt.
Actual meaning: To live dirt poor (extremely frugally).
This is typically said because one has spent all of their money shopping. (Hence why I saw it a lot after Singles’ Day..)
我今天逛街买了太多东西了， 我下个月只能吃土了 - I went shopping today and bought too much, for the next month I can only eat dirt (be super frugal)
Well these were my favourite 吃 + non food sayings, but actually there is even more:
- 吃惊: To be shocked or startled.
- 吃豆腐： To make physical contact with a woman against her will.
- 吃软饭: To live of your partner (if you are a man).
吃草: To become a vegetarian for a single meal.
- Usually seen on social media e.g if you post a picture of a salad you ordered.
- 吃亏: To suffer lose out (not get a good deal)
吃错药: Describes people who behaving differently than normal.
- Literally translates to taken the wrong medicine.
- 吃哑巴亏: To be forced to suffer in silence.
吃闭门关: To be rejected/ignored (The door slammed into your face and refused entry).
- Thanks diet2thewind for this one!
There’s most likely even more that I haven’t found, so let me know in the Disqus below if I missed any!