I realised this week I didn’t know how to say “Give me two kilograms of oranges please” in Mandarin as I didn’t know the word for oranges! So I thought I’d delve a bit deeper into fruits over the weekend and am sharing with you a few things I’m learning about fruit 水果 / shuǐguǒ as well as a few interesting asides about them.
I’ve mentioned before that it’s not always easy to know what vocab to focus on and I guess part of this exercise is to address that – to think about fruit and any related words that might expand your vocabulary on a chosen topic. So I decided to get fruity and I’ve learned and am learning plenty
The fruits I really should know:
Oranges: 柳橙 / liǔchéng OR 橙子 chéngzi
Apples: 苹果 píngguǒ
For the geeks: 苹果公司 / Píngguǒ Gōngsī = Apple Inc. and yes they actually refer to Apple using the Chinese terminology on Chinese radio instead of using English Apple. Weird! Right?
Bananas: 香蕉 xiāngjiāo (fragrant banana) or just 蕉 jiāo.
According to MDBG.net a ‘banana’ or ‘banana person’ 香蕉人 xiāngjiāorén can be used as a mildly pejorative term used by Chinese for assimilated Asian Americans / Westernized person of Asian appearance.
Lemon / 柠檬 níngméng or just níng or just méng is a popular flavour in tea 柠檬茶 níngméngchá and a popular Chinese dish with lemon as ingredient is 柠檬鸡 níngméngjī lemon chicken or chicken in lemon sauce.
Grapes - 葡萄 pútao – when fermented you get 葡萄酒 pútaojiǔ (grape) wine and when dried 葡萄干 pútaogān or raisins.
Mango - 芒果 mángguǒ – for obvious reasons difficult to forget!
Melon - the common name would be guā 瓜 and forms the basis word for all fruits (even veg) of the “same family”. 瓜子 guāzǐ = melon seeds and 大傻瓜 dàshǎguā is not a fruit but a term used to tell someone they’re a fool or a jerk / lit. a silly big melon!
A few common melons:
- Paw-paw or Papaya – 木瓜 mùguā – literally tree melon because unlike most of the other melon varieties that’s where it grows!
- Honeydew Melon = 白兰瓜 báilánguā. I believe 哈蜜瓜 hāmìguā is another name for it and the one that’s more commonly used. Possibly more of a transliteration from the English name as the second character refers to honey and hāmì sounds like honey.
- Watermelon = 西瓜 xīguā – named so because it was apparently introduced to China from the west.
- And finally a useful idiom? 种瓜得瓜，种豆得豆 zhòngguādéguā, zhòngdòudédòu = an idiom that means “Sow melon and you get melon, sow beans and you get beans (idiom); fig. As you sow, so shall you reap.”
Coconut: 椰子 yēzi – 椰奶 – yēnǎi (coconut milk) while 椰丝 yēsī would be shredded coconut – two very lovely ingredients used in South East Asian cooking.
Mandarin – this one unfortunately seems to have a couple of names 柑橘 gānjú / 橘子
júzi / 蜜柑 mìgān…
Peach 桃子táozi and 桃色 táosè would be – you guessed it – peach colour.
Peachy news or 桃色新闻 – refers to news of illicit love and the idiom 艳如桃李 yànrútáolǐ lit. means beautiful as peach and prune. Figuratively speaking it refers to a “radiant beauty”.
Cherries 樱桃 yīngtáo = cherries and 樱花 yīnghuā = cherry blossoms.
Sample sentence from MDBG.net:
The cherry blossoms come out in early April in Japan.
在 日本 ，樱花 在 四 月初 开花 。
Strawberry = 草莓 cǎoméi and this can also refer to a hickey or love bite in Taiwan
Lime – 青柠 qīngníng or 清柠檬 qīngníngméng or 酸橙 suānchéng (lit. sour orange) and to refer to the colour you can use ‘青柠色 qīngníngsè’
Fig – 无花果 wu2hua1guo3. Lit. without flower fruit. I looked it up and aptly named because ‘While fig trees technically do flower, you’ll never see anything that resembles a flower.’ Source: Do Figs Flower? | eHow.com http://www.ehow.com/info_8350047_do-figs-flower.html#ixzz2CcAW4kr3
Pineapple - 菠萝 bōluó or 凤梨 fènglí
Litchi - 荔枝 lìzhī
Apricot 杏子 xìngzi
Pear 梨子 lízi
Nectarines 油桃 yóutáo
Two useful words you need to know:
- 成熟的水果 Chéngshú de shuǐguǒ refers to ripe fruit.
- 未熟 wèishú (lit. not yet + ripe) or 不成熟 bù chéngshú on the other hand would mean unripe when used with fruit.
Other fruit related vocabulary
- 果子酱 guǒzijiàng marmalade / jellied fruit
- 核儿 húr pit (stone of a fruit)
- 果啤 guǒpí = fruit beer
- 果蝇 guǒyíng = fruit fly
- 果木 guǒmù = fruit tree
- 禁果 jìnguǒ forbidden fruit
- 果农 guǒnóng = fruit farmer while 农夫 nóngfū = peasant / farmer and 菜农 càinóng = vegetable farmer)
- Dried fruit 干果 gānguǒ is really popular in China and you’ll see dried fruit / candied fruit shops everywhere in China.
Don’t forget your fruit etiquette!
In Chinese culture, when visiting someone’s home – it’s normally the thing to do to take a small present with to the host – normally a gift of fruits or snacks or flowers. However be aware that certain fruits have certain connotations and so do flowers.
For example I just learned that you should never ever share a pear with a lover, friend or spouse as a pear / 梨 lí has the same pronunication as it’s homonym ‘离’ in 离开 li2kai1 (to leave). More about Chinese fruits and symbolism
I think I’ve not even explored 1% of the vocabulary related to fruits but if you’ve never had a chance to look at fruits (beyond the basics) as part of your Mandarin studies, this might be a fruitful start
Which fruits have I missed? As always – I am happy to be corrected on anything I share with you. Your thoughts are always welcome.« Previous:
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Exotic Fruits in Mandarin Chinese