Posts Tagged ‘mandarin food’

Getting Fruity in Mandarin

peckishlaowai Posted in Learning Mandarin,Tags: , , ,

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 / liǔ​chéng OR 橙子 chéng​zi

Apples: 苹果 píng​guǒ

For the geeks: 苹果公司 / Píng​guǒ​ Gōng​sī = 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 xiāng​jiāo (fragrant banana) or just 蕉 jiāo.

According to a ‘banana’ or ‘banana person’ 香蕉人 xiāng​jiāo​rén can be used as a mildly pejorative term used by Chinese for assimilated Asian Americans / Westernized person of Asian appearance.

Lemon / 柠檬 níng​méng or just níng​ or just méng is a popular flavour in tea 柠檬茶 níng​méng​chá and a popular Chinese dish with lemon as ingredient is 柠檬鸡 níng​méng​jī lemon chicken or chicken in lemon sauce.

Grapes - 葡萄 pú​tao – when fermented you get 葡萄酒 pú​tao​jiǔ (grape) wine and when dried 葡萄干 pú​tao​gān or raisins.

Mango - 芒果 máng​guǒ – 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 guā​zǐ = melon seeds and 大傻瓜 dà​shǎ​guā 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 mù​guā – literally tree melon because unlike most of the other melon varieties that’s where it grows!
  • Honeydew Melon = 白兰瓜 bái​lán​guā. I believe 哈蜜瓜 hā​mì​guā 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 hā​mì​ sounds like honey.
  • Watermelon = 西瓜 xī​guā – 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 zhòng​guā​dé​guā​, zhòng​dòu​dé​dòu = 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 yē​zi – 椰奶 – yē​nǎi (coconut milk) while 椰丝 yē​sī 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 gān​jú / 橘子
júzi / 蜜柑 mì​gān…

Peach 桃子táo​zi and 桃色 táo​sè 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 yàn​rú​táo​lǐ lit. means beautiful as peach and prune. Figuratively speaking it refers to a “radiant beauty”.

Cherries 樱桃 yīng​táo = cherries and 樱花 yīng​huā = cherry blossoms.
Sample sentence from
The cherry blossoms come out in early April in Japan.
在 日本 ,樱花 在 四 月初 开花 。

Strawberry = 草莓 cǎo​méi and this can also refer to a hickey or love bite in Taiwan :)

Lime – 青柠 qīng​níng or 清柠檬 qīng​níng​méng or 酸橙 suān​chéng (lit. sour orange) and to refer to the colour you can use ‘青柠色 qīng​níng​sè’

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? |

Pineapple - 菠萝 bō​luó or 凤梨 fèng​lí

Litchi - 荔枝 lì​zhī

Apricot 杏子 xìng​zi

Pear 梨子 lí​zi

Nectarines 油桃 yóu​táo


Two useful words you need to know:

  • 成熟的水果 Chéngshú de shuǐguǒ refers to ripe fruit.
  • 未熟 wèi​shú (lit. not yet + ripe) or 不成熟 bù​ chéng​shú on the other hand would mean unripe when used with fruit.

Other fruit related vocabulary

  • 果子酱 guǒ​zi​jiàng marmalade / jellied fruit
  • 核儿 húr pit (stone of a fruit)
  • 果啤 guǒ​pí = fruit beer
  • 果蝇 guǒ​yíng = fruit fly
  • 果木 guǒ​mù = fruit tree
  • 禁果 jìn​guǒ forbidden fruit
  • 果农 guǒ​nóng = fruit farmer while 农夫 nóng​fū = peasant / farmer and 菜农 cài​nóng = vegetable farmer)
  • Dried fruit 干果 gān​guǒ 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.