Chuckle-worthy Chinese Funny Expressions You Need to Know

Elly Kim11 min
Created: May 8, 2024Last updated: May 15, 2024
Chinese Funny Expressions

Good laughter is a key to success in any process, and language learning is no exception. If you’re studying Mandarin right now, reading a few Chinese funny expressions can help you relax a little bit, have fun, and still contribute to your studies. And we are here to help! In today’s article, we’ll talk about the most hilarious Mandarin words, phrases, and idioms with surprising meanings. Keep reading if you don’t want to miss them!

Silly and Funny Chinese Phrases for Different Occasions

Since the Chinese language significantly differs from English, many words and expressions might look quite unusual to people learning this tongue. It especially works for idioms and slang phrases – in some cases, their literal meaning is just hilarious.

Funny Expressions Related to Animals

For starters, let’s explore some common and funny Chinese expressions related to animals. There are plenty of them, so we’ve collected the most exciting examples in the list below.

  • 沉鱼落雁 (chén yú luò yàn) – sinking fish and falling geese.

Before we explain anything, what do you think this expression means? We were surprised that this phrase actually describes a woman of such stunning beauty that her appearance might cause fish to sink and birds to fall in awe.  We would’ve called it drop-dead gorgeous. Although it is not quite widespread nowadays, these are still some of the most funny Chinese words we’ve heard.

电影中的女主角美得让人惊叹, 真是沉鱼落雁. (Diànyǐng zhōng de nǚ zhǔjiǎo měi dé ràng rén jīngtàn, zhēn shì chén yú luò yàn.)

The actress in the movie was so stunning that she could make fish sink and birds fall.

  • 自吹自擂 (zì chuī zì léi) – blow one’s cows.

Once again, it makes no sense at first glance. However, if you think about it, it is quite familiar to the English expression “blow one’s trumpet,” except here, the one blows poor cows. So, as you might guess, this phrase refers to someone who often brags or boasts about themselves without modesty. 

每次开会他都要自吹自擂, 真让人听腻了. (Měi cì kāihuì tā dōu yào zì chuī zì léi, zhēn ràng rén tīng nì le.)

Every time we have a meeting, he has to blow his own trumpet, which really gets tiresome.

  • 露马脚 (lòu mǎ jiǎo) – show the horse’s hoof.

When in English, we let the cats out of the bags; in Chinese, they expose horse’s legs. Although the poor animals didn’t do anything wrong, their figures in both languages are used to describe the inevitable revealing of a flaw or a secret that was supposed to be hidden.

他试图掩盖真相, 但最终还是露出了马脚. (Tā shìtú yǎngài zhēnxiàng, dàn zuìzhōng háishì lòu chū le mǎ jiǎo.)

He tried to cover up the truth, but eventually, he showed his true colors.

  • 摸鱼 (mō yú) – touching fish.

This one is probably our favorite funny expression in Chinese. It is a modern slang, derived from an older idiom, that now humorously refers to slacking off at work, especially when doing so under the guise of being busy.

今天工作不忙, 我在办公室摸鱼. (Jīntiān gōngzuò bù máng, wǒ zài bàngōngshì mō yú.)

Today isn’t busy at work, so I’m slacking off in the office.

  • 拍马屁 (pāi mǎ pì) – pat the horse’s butt.

And here is the horse again! This animal is definitely popular in Chinese expressions. This one, for example, describes a person who’s brown-nosed or sucking up to someone in authority. 

他总是对老板拍马屁, 希望能得到晋升. (Tā zǒng shì duì lǎobǎn pāi mǎ pì, xīwàng néng dédào jìnshēng.)

He’s always sucking up to the boss, hoping to get promoted.

Hilarious Phrases Related to Food 

In addition to animal phrases, there are numerous hilarious expressions related to food. But before moving on to them, we want to remind you that we only consider these Chinese phrases funny because of their literal translation; yet, we still appreciate the richness and the creativity of the language. After all, it is quite exciting to explore how our universal human experiences are described in different tongues.

  • 炒鱿鱼 (chǎo yóu yú) – stir-fried squid.

Sounds quite delicious, huh? Well, yes, but only when you don’t know that this is actually a humorous way to say someone has been fired or dismissed from their job.

他因为经常迟到, 最终被公司炒鱿鱼了. (Tā yīnwèi jīngcháng chídào, zuìzhōng bèi gōngsī chǎo yóu yú le.)

He was frequently late and eventually got fired by the company.

  • 落汤鸡 (luò tāng jī) – drenched chicken.

In English, you are wet as a drowned rat, but in Chinese, you are drenched as a chicken. But the meaning is quite the same – it describes someone completely soaked, usually in the rain, looking miserable and helpless.

下了一场大雨, 他整个人看起来像个落汤鸡. (Xià le yī chǎng dàyǔ, tā zhěnggè rén kàn qǐlái xiàng gè luò tāng jī.)

After the heavy rain, he looked like a drenched chicken.

  • 傻蛋 (shǎ dàn) – silly egg.

This one sounds quite cute! It is a simple and light-hearted insult used to call someone a fool or idiot somewhat affectionately.

别生气了, 我只是开玩笑, 傻蛋. (Bié shēngqì le, wǒ zhǐ shì kāiwánxiào, shǎ dàn.)

Don’t be mad, I was just joking, you silly egg.

  • 装蒜 (zhuāng suàn) – act garlic.

Huh, what? Why do we need to pretend to be garlic? It simply means acting like a fool ​​and pretending not to know something, feigning ignorance.

每当有人问他为什么迟到, 他就开始装蒜. (Měidāng yǒurén wèn tā wèishéme chídào, tā jiù kāishǐ zhuāng suàn.)

Whenever someone asks him why he’s late, he starts playing dumb.


Funny Chinese Sayings and Idioms

As you can see, plenty of hilarious Chinese expressions have meanings that are difficult to predict. Moreover, there are so many of them that we’ve decided to make a whole compilation of such sayings to expand your vocabulary and just for kicks and giggles. So, here’s a list of funny Chinese sentences in English and their meanings.

  • 画龙点睛 (huà lóng diǎn jīng) – paint the dragon, dot the eyes.

It is no secret that dragons take a significant place in Chinese culture, so it’s no surprise that this expression exists. But what does it mean? Well, it is used to describe “finishing touches,” simple details that make a significant difference, bringing the task to perfection.

在她的演讲快结束时, 她讲了一个感人的故事, 真是画龙点睛. (Zài tā de yǎnjiǎng kuài jiéshù shí, tā jiǎng le yī gè gǎnrén de gùshì, zhēn shì huà lóng diǎn jīng.)

At the end of her speech, she told a touching story that really put the finishing touches on her presentation.

  • 吃瓜群众 (chī guā qún zhòng) – melon-eating crowd.

Who are they? People who actually like melons? A crowd where each person has a sweet tooth? Absolutely not! It is used to describe those who enjoy watching the drama unfold without being involved.

这场名人离婚案引来了不少吃瓜群众在网上讨论. (Zhè chǎng míng rén lí hūn àn yǐn lái le bù shǎo chī guā qún zhòng zài wǎng shàng tǎolùn.)

The celebrity divorce case has attracted many onlookers discussing it online.

  • 长舌妇 (cháng shé fù) – long-tongued person.

Well, this one kind of speaks for itself. The English word “big mouth” is familiar and is used to describe a busybody or someone who likes to gossip and spread rumors.

小心那位长舌妇, 她总爱把小道消息传来传去. (Xiǎoxīn nà wèi cháng shé fù, tā zǒng ài bǎ xiǎodào xiāoxī chuán lái chuán qù.)

Be careful around that busybody; she always loves to spread rumors.

  • 缘木求鱼 (yuán mù qiú yú) – to climb a tree to catch fish.

Makes no sense, right? Well, that’s the point! This funny expression is used when talking about something impossible to do or achieve, just like catching the fish on a tree.

你还在试图说服他改变主意? 真是缘木求鱼. (Nǐ hái zài shìtú shuōfú tā gǎibiàn zhǔyì? Zhēn shì yuán mù qiú yú.)

Are you still trying to convince him to change his mind? That’s like trying to catch fish from a tree.

  • 你吃错药了吗?(nǐ chī cuò yào le ma?) – Did you take the wrong medicine?

This Chinese idiomatic expression is a humorous way to ask someone if something is wrong with them, especially when they are acting strangely.

你今天怎么这么奇怪, 你吃错药了吗? (Nǐ jīntiān zěnme zhème qíguài, nǐ chī cuò yào le ma?)

You’re acting so strange today, did you take the wrong medicine?

  • 开挂 (kāi guà) – cheat code.

Originally, this expression belonged to gaming, where people used it to refer to cheating. However, it found its way into daily conversations and is now humorously used to imply someone is achieving something incredible as if they had supernatural help.

看他考试得那么高分, 简直像是开挂了. (Kàn tā kǎoshì dé nàme gāofēn, jiǎnzhí xiàng shì kāi guà le.)

Seeing him score so high on the test, it’s as if he had a cheat code.

  • 三脚猫 (sān jiǎo māo) – three-legged cat.

If you know someone who has plenty of superficial knowledge but lacks any skills in the professional area, remember that Chinese people would call such person a tree-legged cat. Why? Because such cats are good at catching mice but terrible at walking.

他的电脑技术就是三脚猫, 遇到真正的问题就束手无策. (Tā de diànnǎo jìshù jiù shì sān jiǎo māo, yù dào zhēnzhèng de wèntí jiù shù shǒu wú cè.)

His computer skills are superficial; he’s helpless when facing real problems.

  • 画蛇添足 (huà shé tiān zú) – draw a snake and add feet.

This one is quite hilarious as well. It’s used to describe unnecessary actions that spoil the whole effort, similar to the English phrase “gilding the lily.”

报告已经很完美了, 再加信息只会画蛇添足. (Bàogào yǐjīng hěn wánměi le, zài jiā xìnxī zhǐ huì huà shé tiān zú.)

The report is already perfect, adding more information would just be overdoing it.

  • 见光死 (jiàn guāng sǐ) – die upon exposure to light.

The last expression on our list has appeared in recent years. It is used to describe a specific situation when you meet a person online and have a crush on them, but the real-life encounter makes you disappointed, and all the feelings fall apart. So, its literal meaning makes sense – your romantic feelings are being killed once exposed to the light of real life.

网恋终于见面, 结果却见光死, 真是太失望了. (Wǎng liàn zhōngyú jiànmiàn, jiéguǒ què jiàn guāng sǐ, zhēn shì tài shīwàng le.)

After meeting my online crush in person, the magic died; it was very disappointing.

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Summing up, we can say that learning funny expressions in any language, including Chinese, is a good practice to spice up your studying process. However, it’s essential to remain mindful and appreciate cultural diversity rather than make fun of the language itself.


Are there any funny Chinese slang words or phrases?

Absolutely! Our favorite example is the phrase 种草莓 (zhòng cǎo méi), which literally translates to “planting strawberries.” Yet, it has nothing to do with gardening! This slang expression means to give someone a hickey.

What are the benefits of learning funny sayings in Chinese?

First and foremost, it makes your language learning experience more enjoyable and entertaining. Funny sayings add flavor to your vocabulary and help you connect with native speakers on a more personal level. Understanding humor in another language allows you to better grasp its cultural nuances and social context.

What should I know about Chinese humor?

Generally, the humor in this country ​​often relies on wordplay, puns, and cultural references that may not always be immediately apparent to non-native speakers. Also, it is important to note that it can vary greatly depending on several factors, like region, age group, or social context.

When is it appropriate to use funny Chinese phrases?

The only thing we can say is that context is key. While humor is a universal language, it’s essential to consider the situation and the people you’re interacting with. Using funny phrases with friends, family, or in casual settings is generally acceptable and can help strengthen your relationships with others. However, it’s vital to be mindful of cultural differences and to avoid using humor that may be inappropriate or offensive in certain contexts.