Glossary

This is a list of hard-to-translate terms from Taiwan. If you're looking for online terms from China, check out chinaSMACK's comprehensive glossary. If you can’t find what you’re looking for here, it’s a good bet you’ll find at Wiktionary or at g0v’s Mengdian (萌典) dictionary site. Definitions are sorted alphabetically, based on a given term’s Hanyu pinyin or Tâi-lô spelling. Glossary content is published under a CC0 1.0 Creative Commons licence.


(Pinyin): èrèrbā hépíng jìniànrì
proper noun.
228 Peace Memorial Day — a national holiday in Taiwan (ROC) commemorating the events of the February 28 Massacre of 1947.


(Pinyin): jiǔdiǎnèr
noun.
A reference to former Taiwan president Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九). Ma's approval rate dropped to 9.2 during his second term, leading PTT netizens to use the number as his nickname. [From PTTpedia]


阿達嗎控固力

(Pinyin): ādámǎ kònggùlì
noun.
Concrete head. A person who isn't thinking straight or is spacing out. From the Japanese words atama (頭) and konkurito (コンクリート). [From Gigiweb.tw]


按怎

(Tâi-lô): àn-tsuánn
adverb.
Why; for what reason? Equivalent to zěnmeyàng (怎麼樣) in Standard Mandarin.


奧客

(Pinyin): àokè
noun.
An annoying customer or obnoxious guest. Pronounced àu-kheh in Taiwanese Hokkien. Also written as oukè (漚客). [from Wiktionary]


阿撒布魯

(Pinyin): āsǎbùlǔ
idiom.
A situation in a total mess. Asǎbùlǔ has a strange history; it's a loanword from the Japanese colonial period in Taiwan, but the root word asaburo (朝風呂) refers to a morning bath, and does not connote a hectic situation. An equivalent phrase to luànqībāzāo (亂七八糟) in Standard Mandarin. [From Chinese Linguipedia]


阿莎力

(Pinyin): āshālì
adjective.
Frank, direct. Refers to a person who speaks, acts or performs duties in a straightforward manner. Although the word is an import from Japan, its original meaning assari refers to mild or refreshing-tasting food. [From Chinese Linguipedia]


白目

(Pinyin): báimù
noun.
Stupid, moron. Connotes a sense of obliviousness. From the Taiwanese Hokkien word pe̍h‑ba̍k. [From Mengdian Dictionary]


白賊

(Pinyin): báizéi
noun.
A lie. From the Taiwanese Hokkien word pe̍h-tsha̍t. [From iTaigi.tw]


芭樂

(Pinyin): bālè
noun.
Guava fruit. Word origin unknown, although some suggest it's either from the Spanish word guayaba or from the Indigenous Bunun word para or rabatu. The Taiwanese Hokkien pronunciation of the word is pu’at-á (菝仔), and is often pronounced in Taiwanese Mandarin as bālà. [From Wiktionary]


伴手禮

(Pinyin): bànshǒulǐ
noun.
A gift one can conveniently bring to someone. From the Taiwanese Hokkien word phuānn-tshiú (伴手). [From Wiktionary]


巴士

(Pinyin): bāshì
noun.
Bus, mini-bus. Likely a Cantonese loanword from Hong Kong, or possibly from the Japanese word basu. [From Wiktionary]


爆料

(Pinyin): bàoliào
verb/noun.
To expose, to scoop (in the media). Exposé, scoop, inside story. A word likely carried over from Cantonese tabloids, baau3 liu6-2. [From Wiktionary]


本省人

(Pinyin): běnshěngrén
noun.
A term to describe a person who migrated to Taiwan sometime between the 17th and early 20th century, before the arrival of the National Revolutionary Army in 1945. During the martial law period, it was a blanket term to describe Hoklo, Hakka and Indigenous peoples in Taiwan. In contemporary times, it refers only to Hoklo and Hakka people. [From Wikipedia]


便當

(Pinyin): biàndāng
noun.
Bento box; boxmeal. From the Japanese word bentō. [From Mengdian Dictionary]


佈局

(Pinyin): bùjú
verb/noun.
To make plans for; to strategize (for elections). The verb form of bùjú is much more common in Taiwan than in China. [From Mengdian Dictionary]


搏感情

(Tâi-lô): poh kám-tsîng
verb object.
To struggle for someone's favour; to curry favour with constituents during an election by visiting them at their home and interact with them about local concerns. (搏) comes from the Taiwanese Hokkien and Cantonese verb-object bó mìng (搏命), an equivalent to the word pīnmìng (拼命) in Standard Mandarin. [From Baidu Zhidao]


ㄈㄈ尺

(Pinyin): see-see-èr
noun.
Cross-cultural romance. A term originating from Taiwan's PTT messaging board. [From Commonwealth Magazine]


藏鏡人

(Pinyin): cángjìngrén
noun.
Puppet master. A person behind the scenes controlling others to achieve a final outcome. From the Taiwanese Hokkien word tsông-kiànn-jîn, with origins in Taiwanese puppet theatre. [From Wikipedia]


踹共

(Pinyin): chuàigòng
verb.
Come out and explain the meaning of this! From the Taiwanese Hokkien word tshuaih-kóng, a phrase translated as chūláijiǎng (出來講) in Standard Mandarin. [From Wiktionary]


帶風向

(Pinyin): dài fēngxiàng
verb object.
To attempt to sway or manipulate discourse in a certain direction; to influence public opinion in favour of a certain viewpoint or ideology. A term originating from the messaging board PTT. [From PTTpedia]


代誌

(Pinyin): dàizhì
noun.
Affair; problem; matter. From the Taiwanese Hokkien word tāi-tsì. Equivalent to shìqíng (事情) in Standard Mandarin. Also written as dàzhì (大誌). [From Wiktionary]


黨外

(Pinyin): dǎngwài
noun.
Tangwai. Historical political figures that worked outside the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) during Taiwan’s Martial Law period, 1949-1987. The term referred to any political activity that was outside of the KMT party-state regime, including written materials, such as Tangwai magazines (黨外雜誌). [From Wiktionary]


達人

(Pinyin): dárén
noun.
A talented person; an intelligent, well-informed, or skilled individual. From the Japanese word, tatsujin. [From Wiktionary]


第三勢力

(Pinyin): dìsānshìlì
noun.
Third Force parties. Political parties or candidates that don't fit into the traditional "pan-green" and "pan-blue" paradigms. A new wave of Third Force parties and candidates were established after the 2014 Sunflower Student Movement, including the New Power Party (NPP), the Social Democratic Party (SDP) and the Free Taiwan Party. [From the News Lens]


第四台

(Pinyin): dìsìtái
noun.
Cable TV. [From Mengdian Dictionary]


凍蒜

(Pinyin): dòngsuàn
verb.
To be elected. A common chant heard at election rallies in Taiwan. From the Taiwanese Hokkien word tòng-suán. Same as dāngxuǎn (當選) in Standard Mandarin. [From iTaigi.tw]


泛藍

(Pinyin): fànlán
noun.
Pan-blue coalition. A group of pro-unification parties consisting of the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT), the New Party (NP) and the Chinese Unification Promotion Party (CUPP). [From Wiktionary]


泛綠

(Pinyin): fànlǜ
noun.
Pan-green coalition. A group of pro-independence or pro-status quo parties consisting of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and the Taiwan Solidarity Union (TSU). The New Power Party (NPP) and the Social Democratic Party (SDP) are sometimes considered “pan-green” political parties. [From Wiktionary]


廢文

(Pinyin): fèiwén
noun.
An article or social media post without any substantial content. [From PTTpedia]


粉絲

(Pinyin): fěnsī
noun.
fans; fanbase. From the English word, fan.  Sometimes abbreviated simply as fěn (粉); for example, fans of Taipei Mayor Ko-Wenje is written as kēfěn (柯粉). [From Wiktionary]


fu

(Sounds like the English word few or feel)
adjective.

Touching. Written out with English letters. From the English word, feeling.


福爾摩沙

(Pinyin): Fú'ěrmóshā
proper noun.
Formosa. Historic name for Taiwan. From the Portuguese description of the island in the 16th century, Ilha Formosa. [From Wiktionary]


GG

(Pinyin): jījī
interjection.
Good game. A term used to describe an unhappy result. In North American gaming culture, the initials GG imply a positive result or happy meeting between players, while in Taiwan, GG almost always implies a negative result. [From PTTpedia]


槓上

(Pinyin): gàngshàng
verb.
To butt heads with another person; to refuse to compromise. [From Moedict]


幹譙

(Pinyin): gànqiǎo
verb.
To criticize harshly; to cuss out. From the Taiwanese Hokkien word kàn-kiāu (姦撟). [From Moedict]


歌仔戲

(Pinyin): gēzǎixì
Proper noun.
Taiwanese Folk Opera. From the Taiwanese Hokkien word kua-á-hì. [From Wiktionary]


公仔

(Pinyin): gōngzǎi
noun.
Toy. Usually a model miniature or action action figure. From the Cantonese word gung1 zai2. [From Wiktionary]


怪咖

(Pinyin): guàikā
noun.
Geek; eccentric person. [From Wiktionary]


龜毛

(Pinyin): guīmáo
adjective.
Fussy; nitpicky; high-maintenance person. From the Taiwanese Hokkien word ku-moo. [From Wiktionary]


古早

(Pinyin): gǔzǎo
adjective.
Old timey (usually of flavour). From the Taiwanese Hokkien word kóo-tsá. [From Wiktionary]


(Pinyin): hāng
adjective.
Good; the best; popular; hot. [From Wiktionary]


發好人卡

(Pinyin): fā hǎorénkǎ
verb object.
To be friend-zoned. Literally “to receive the good person card”. A phrase used when an individual wants to reject the romantic overtones of another individual, usually those of a man. (e.g. You are a good person, but…)


黑特

(Pinyin): hēitè
adjective.
Hate; hater. An English loanword. The character 黑 is sometimes used at the end of a celebrity or politician's surname to describe a group of people who dislike said person. For example Hánhēi (韓黑) — people who dislike Kaohsiung mayor Han Kuo-yu. The opposite is Hánfěn (韓粉) — people who are fans of Han.


好所在

(Tâi-lô): hó-sóo-tsāi
noun.
A good place. [From iTaigi]


好野人

(Tâi-lô): hó-gia̍h-lâng
noun.
A very rich person. [From Chinese Linguipedia]


乎乾啦

(Tâi-lô): hōo-ta-lah
interjection.
Cheers!; drink up! The equivalent of gānbēi (乾杯) in Standard Mandarin. Also written with the characters 予焦啦.


唬爛

(Pinyin): hǔlàn
verb.
To bullshit; to fool someone. From the Taiwanese Hokkien word hóo-lān.


歹勢

(Tâi-lô): phái-sè
interjection.
Pardon me, excuse. Sometimes transliterated as pāixiè (拍謝) in Standard Mandarin. [From Wiktionary]


鴨霸

(Pinyin): yābà
noun.
A local tyrant or bully. Pronounced ah-pà in Taiwanese Hokkien. [From Wiktionary]


鬱卒

(Pinyin): yùzú
adjective.
Depressed; sulky; unhappy. From the Taiwanese Hokkien word ut-tsut. [From Mengdian Dictionary]


運將

(Pinyin): yùnjiàng
noun.
Taxi driver. Pronounced ùn-tsiàng in Taiwanese Hokkien. [From iTaigi.tw]


在地

(Pinyin): zàidì
adjective.
Local. Local character. From the Taiwanese Hokkien word tsāi-tē. [From iTaigi.tw]


陣頭

(Pinyin): zhèntóu
noun.
A temple troupe. Young men who perform temple activities during religious holidays. Pronounced tīn-thâu in Taiwanese Hokkien. [From Mengdian Dictionary]


正體字

(Pinyin): zhèngtǐzì
proper noun.
Traditional Chinese Characters. Could also be translated as “Complete” or “Orthodox” Chinese Characters. An equivalent word for fántǐzì (繁體字) in China. [From Wiktionary]


莊孝維

(Pinyin): zhuāng xiàowéi
verb object.
To pretend to be crazy. A Taiwanese Hokkien phrase that uses Chinese characters to approximate the Taiwanese pronunciation of the phrase tsng‑siáu‑ê (裝痟的).  [From Mengdian Dictionary]


中古

(Pinyin): zhōnggǔ
adjective.
Second-hand or used. A Japanese loan word. Pronounced tiong-kóo in Taiwanese Hokkien. [From Moedict]


自嗨

(Pinyin) zìhāi
verb.
To get hyper by oneself; to amuse oneself. [From Wiktionary]


抓狂

(Pinyin): zhuākuáng
verb.
To freak out. From the Taiwanese Hokkien word lia̍h-kông (掠狂). [From Wiktionary]


樁腳

(Pinyin): zhuāngjiǎo
noun.
A person who corrals votes for a candidate. Literally a person who “ties together the base of one's pile” — a metaphor for a person responsible for rallying support among key segments of the population to vote for a certain candidate. Money or privileges might be exchanged for this support. From the Taiwanese Hokkien word thiāu-á-kha (柱仔跤). [From Wiktionary]