Despicable, Lowly, Jerk, Bitch – Chinese Swear Word

Not all Chinese words are beautiful and draped in tradition, which is true for the following word. When you need to give someone a serious telling of, or jokingly scold a friend this is the word for you.


Pinyin: jiàn
English: To be despicable, lowly, jerk, bitch (贱人)

A great example for explaining this word fell into my lap (well, my twitter stream) the other day. The tweet was written in reaction to an Instagram post by John Gruber, a well known Apple-centric journalist. Gruber had posted a photograph he had taken of people queuing overnight to buy the new iPhone 5, using an iPhone 5 – the joke being that he already had one (presumably as a review unit) and didn’t have to queue overnight to get one. Here’s the Instagram post:

Gruber iPhone 5

If you were an Apple fan you’d naturally be a bit peeved at this, as was the following Chinese twitterer:

賤 tweet

John Gruber 就是啊!
John Gruber jiù shì jiàn a
John Gruber is a jerk

Just like the Taiwanese slang 機車, the English definition for 賤 is difficult to pin down. Context is a big factor in determining the meaning, which can vary greatly. The translation of the above example will definitely vary depending on where you are from, I opted for the Americanism “jerk” as it seemed to be the least offensive word that got the point across, though “… is a dick” or something similar could also have been used. Here’s a few examples that should get you on your way:

tā shì ge jiàn rén
She’s a bitch

He’s a jerk

bú yào zhè me jiàn
Don’t be such a dick


Further reading: article on 賤人

3 responses to “Despicable, Lowly, Jerk, Bitch – Chinese Swear Word

  1. I have a Taiwanese American friend Paul who, according to my recollection, moved to the U.S. when he was young, and spoke Mandarin fluently (or certainly with meaningful proficiency) from his upbringing. He related that his parents had given him the Chinese name which I think was 健仁, or certainly at least it was two positive-feeling Chinese characters having those same sounds (jiàn rén). Folks got a good laugh from that (somebody had to explain the humor to me, it was quite early in my Mandarin language learning endeavors), but his parents made an odd choice.

  2. “贱”,from the part “贝” you can get it’s originated from something related to money or value. it means something with low price or underpriced. when it’s used on people it normally refer to social value concepts. it’s really a mean word, only by the sound you can feel the viciousness that enough to cause a fight. related vocab:作贱,自贱。don’t do it.

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