Chinese honorifics (Chinese: 敬語; pinyin: Jìngyǔ) and honorific language are words, word constructs, and expressions in the Chinese language that convey self-deprecation, social respect, politeness, or deference.[1] Once ubiquitously employed in ancient China, a large percent has fallen out of use in the contemporary Chinese lexicon. The promotion of vernacular Chinese during the New Culture Movement (新文化運動 or 五四文化運動) of the 1910s and 1920s in China further hastened the demise of a large body of Chinese honorifics previously preserved in the vocabulary and grammar of Classical Chinese.[2]

Although Chinese honorifics have simplified to a large degree, contemporary Chinese still retains a sizable set of honorifics. Many of the classical constructs are also occasionally employed by contemporary speakers to convey formality, humility, politeness or respect. Usage of classical Chinese honorifics is also found frequently in contemporary Chinese literature and television or cinematic productions that are set in the historical periods. Honorific language in Chinese is achieved by using honorific or beautifying alternatives, prefixing or suffixing a word with a polite complement, or by dropping casual-sounding words.[3]

In general, there are five distinct categories of honorific language:

See also


  1. ^ ""尊稱"的解釋 | 漢典". (in Chinese (China)). Retrieved 2022-10-18.
  2. ^ Chow, Tse-tsung (1960). The May Fourth Movement: Intellectual Revolution in Modern China. Stanford University Press.
  3. ^ "謙稱敬稱" (PDF). Civil Service Bureau (Hong Kong). p. 5. Retrieved 18 October 2022.

Further reading