How do Chinese talk about money – Chinese slang and vocabulary about “money” of all kinds

Posted by Grace Feng on November 16, 2012

How do Chinese talk about money - Chinese slang and vocabulary about "money" of all kindsI’m not going to help you recognize RMB coins and bills in this post.  I won’t talk about how to count money in Chinese language either. What I’m going to share with you in this post is how to talk ABOUT money in Chinese. I’m hoping this post can help you to understand “money talk” in Chinese better.

The two key characters that Chinese use to describe money are the first things you need to remember:


钱  qián  (money)   and    金  jīn (gold)

钱 qián is used to name money in general sense. 金 jīn usually refers to money that is used for certain purpose.

In ancient China, gold and silver were used as real money. That’s the reason why character 金 jīn  still refers to money in modern Chinese. Such as:

奖金 jiǎng jīn  (literal: reward gold) – bonus

基金 jī jīn (literal: foundation gold)  – funding, foundation

定金 dìng jīn (literal: confirmation gold)  –  deposit

押金 yā jīn (literal: deposit gold)  –  deposit

养老金 yǎng lǎo jīn (literal: support old gold)  –  pension


As for 钱 qián , it simply refers to money in general sense. However, you do need to have a good understanding on how 钱 qián  is “treated” or “nicknamed”  in Chinese language.  So you won’t get confused or confuse others in a real life coversation. Let’s go over the following Chinese slang and vocab about money together:

洗钱  xǐ qián  (literal: wash money)  –  money laundering

烧钱 shāo qián (literal: burn money)  –  to spend money in a crazy manner

扔钱 rēng qián (literal: toss money)  –  to spend money on valueless things

血汗钱 xuè hàn qián (literal: blood sweat money)  –  money that is earned through honest hard work

黑钱 hēi qián (literal: black money)  –  dirty money

卖身钱 mài shēn qián (literal: sell body money)  –  money that is earned through prostituting oneself or selling oneself into slavery


The last but not the least two basic money words that you should not forget are :

挣钱 zhèng qián  –  earn money

花钱 huā qián  –  spend money


If you know any money word that worth sharing here, please go ahead, thanks!


Related posts:

Short Chinese phrases that will do wonders for you
A Chinese expression to comfort people who just failed to achieve something that they've tried so ha...
The funny conversation between a Chinese learner and a native by extensively using word "意思&quo...


Category: Chinese vocabulary

Tags: , , ,


You can share this post here:
Visit Us On TwitterVisit Us On FacebookVisit Us On Google PlusCheck Our Feed

4 Responses to “How do Chinese talk about money – Chinese slang and vocabulary about “money” of all kinds”

  1. nothing


    11-17-2012 6:00 pm

    Good post Grace. The slang vocab is all new to me. I sometimes see/hear 赚钱, (zhuan4 qian2) is there a difference between that and 挣钱? Oh, and it is more common to say ‘money laundering’ rather than ‘money laundry’.


    • nothing

      Grace Feng:

      11-17-2012 9:32 pm

      Oops! “money laundering” was what I meant. Thanks for pointing this out, 白睿, I just got it corrected. :-)

      You’re right, 赚钱 (zhuan4 qian2) is also a very common way to express “to earn money”.

      赚钱 and 挣钱 mean the same thing in most cases. That being said, 赚钱 is a bit more ambitious than 挣钱:

      赚钱 implies to earn more than one need; 挣钱 is just to earn enough to live. The difference is subtle.


  2. nothing

    Thomas Doherty:

    10-26-2014 3:35 am

    Wǒ méiyǒu qián.
    I have no money.


    • nothing

      Grace Feng:

      10-27-2014 2:17 pm

      Tom, I’d say this one is very simple and useful. :-D



Leave Reply

Copyright © 2016 Just Learn Chinese