Reversible Chinese Words // 164 You MUST Know

What are Reversible Chinese Words?

Ever heard about Reversible Chinese Words?

The Chinese language, as you probably already know, is complex in its own way yet so fascinating to learn. 

Today, we’ll introduce a new concept that has nothing to do with grammar or sentence structure, but that is still intriguing to know about: Reversible Chinese Words

Have you ever noticed that sometimes two characters can be inverted and mean two completely different things?

It’s tricky for sure, and we’re here to teach you a few so you’ll know what to expect when you encounter them. 

Let’s go!

Reversible Chinese Words | Verbs, Adjectives & Nouns

Reversible Chinese Words | Similar Meaning

Reversible Chinese Words | Closely Related Meaning

Reversible Chinese Words | Loosely Related Meaning

Reversible Chinese Words | Totally Different Meaning

Reversible Chinese Words | Logical Reversals

FAQ’s

If you need to brush up on your character skills before, here’s a list of resources for you:

Verbs, Adjectives & Nouns

Let’s start this Reversible Chinese Words guide with a simple concept first, that could actually be super useful for daily life!

Each of these verbs and adjectives, when reversed, become nouns.

Pretty cool, isn’t it?

ChineseEnglish
虚空 xūkōngEmpty
煎熬 jiān’áoTo suffer
情痴 qíngchīTo be infatuated
报喜 bàoxǐTo announce
愿意 yuànyìTo wish for
适合 shìhéTo suit
年少 niánshàoYoung
忌妒 jìdùTo be jealous of
金黄 jīnhuángGolden
画图 huàtúTo draw
犯罪 fànzuìTo commit a crime
上楼 shànglóuGo upstairs
下楼 xià lóuGo downstairs
宵夜 xiāoyèHave a midnight snack
ChineseEnglish
空虚 kōngxūEmptiness
熬煎 áojiānSuffering
痴情 chīqíngInfatuation
喜报 xǐbàoAnnouncement
意愿 yìyuànA wish
合适 héshìAppropriate
少年 shàoniánYouth
妒忌 dùjìJealousy
黄金 huángjīnGold
图画 túhuàA drawing
罪犯 zuìfànCriminal
楼上 lóushàngUpstairs
楼下 lóuxiàDownstairs
夜宵 yèxiāoMidnight snack

Similar Meaning

When these characters are reversed their meanings are still very similar.

BONUS | below the table of vocabulary we also created some flashcards which you can download, share and keep to study 🙂

If you mix them up in a sentence, the message you are trying to convey won’t change too much, and the listener won’t have problems understanding you.

It’s always good to know about them though!

Keep reading for more interesting characters reversals.

ChineseEnglish
讲演 jiǎngyǎnGive a speech (v) / Lecture (n)
觉察 juécháTo perceive, to detect
夜半 yèbànMidnight
胆大 dǎndàBold, audacious
依偎 yīwēiTo snuggle up to, lean close to
喜欢 xǐhuanTo like, be fond of
累积 lěijīTo accumulate
互相 hùxiāngMutually, each other (adv)
代替 dàitìTo replace, substitute
问询 wènxúnTo inquire, interrogate
奋发 fènfāExert oneself
质朴 zhípǔSimple, unadorned
寂静 jìjìngQuiet, still, silent
情感 qínggǎnEmotion, feeling
别离 biélíTake leave of, leave
登攀 dēngpānTo climb, clamber, scale
并吞 bìngtūnTo annex, absorb
整齐 zhěngqíTidy, regular, neat
虫害 chónghàiCrop damage from insect pests
ChineseEnglish
演讲 yǎnjiǎngGive a speech (v) / Lecture (n)
察觉 chájuéSense, become aware
半夜 bànyèMiddle of the night
大胆 dàdǎnBold, daring
偎依 wēiyīTo snuggle/nestle up to
欢喜 huānxǐTo like, joyful (adj)
积累 jīlěiAccumulation (n)
相互 xiānghùEach other (adv), reciprocal (adj)
替代 tìdàiSubstitute for, replace with
询问 xúnwènTo ask (or inquire) about
发奋 fāfènWork energetically
朴质 pǔzhíSimple, plain
静寂 jìngjìQuiet, silent
感情 gǎnqíngSentiment, fondness
离别 líbiéTo leave, to part
攀登 pāndēngTo climb, clamber, scale
吞并 tūnbìngTo merge, annex
齐整 qízhěngNeat, uniform
害虫 hàichóngDestructive insect, pest

Closely Related Meaning

When reversed, these words have a closely related meaning, but do NOT signify the same thing.

You’ll quickly understand:

ChineseEnglish
牛奶 niúnǎiMilk
蜂蜜 fēngmìHoney
猪肉 zhūròuPork
菜油 càiyóuRapeseed oil
蛇毒 shédúVenom
鸡肉 jī ròuChicken (meat)
井水 jǐngshuǐWell water
笔画 bǐhuàBrush stroke
租房 zūfángRent an apartment
和平 hépíngPeace
语言 yǔyánLanguage
开放 kāifàngTo open
焰火 yànhuǒFireworks
雪白 xuěbáiSnow white
彩色 cǎisèMulticolour
云彩 yúncaiCloud
明天 míngtiānTomorrow
牙刷 yáshuāToothbrush
计算 jìsuànTo calculate
ChineseEnglish
奶牛 nǎiniúCow
蜜蜂 mìfēngBee
肉猪 ròuzhūPig for eating
油菜 yóucàiOilseed rape
毒蛇 dúshéViper
肉鸡 ròujīChicken (bird)
水井 shuǐjǐngWell
画笔 huàbǐBrush
房租 fángzūRent
平和 pínghéPlacid
言语 yányǔSpeech
放开 fàngkāiTo relase
火焰 huǒyànFlame
白雪 báixuěWhite snow
色彩 sècǎiColouring
彩云 cǎiyúnRosy clouds
天明 tiānmíngDawn
刷牙 shuāyáTo brush teeth
算计 suànjìTo reckon
Chinese Names 🤩 A Simple and Easy Guide to Understanding Names in China Thumbnail

Chinese Names 🤩 A Simple and Easy Guide to Understanding Names in China

Follow our guide to Chinese names to discover the most popular names in China (for boys and girls). Ever wanted your own Chinese name? We can help.

Loosely Related Meaning

The meaning of these reversed Chinese words are loosely related, so make sure to be precise when using them in a sentence to avoid any misunderstandings!

Let us know in the comments if you knew a few of them already, or if you know anymore.

ChineseEnglish
缓和 huǎnhéTo alleviate
质变 zhìbiànFundamental change
生产 shēngchǎnChildbirth
现实 xiànshíReality
中心 zhōngxīnHeart, centre, core
官宦 guānhuànOfficial
发挥 fāhuīTo develop
面相 miànxiàngFacial features
感动 gǎndòngTo move
调情 tiáoqíngTo flirt
动乱 dòngluànTurmoil
人情 rénqíngEmotion
乡下 xiāngxiàCountryside
当家 dāngjiāManage household
ChineseEnglish
和缓 héhuǎnTo relax
变质 biànzhíTo deteriorate, go bad, go off
产生 chǎnshēngTo give rise to
实现 shíxiànTo realise
心中 xīnzhōngIn one’s heart
宦官 huànguānEunuch official
挥发 huīfāVolatile
相面 xiàngmiànFacial divination
动感 dònggǎnDynamism
情调 qíngdiàoTone, mood
乱动 luàndòngTo meddle with
情人 qíngrénLover
下乡 xiàxiāngGo to countryside
家当 jiādàngFamily property
Chinese Proverbs || 11 of our Favourites (with Bonus Proverb Quiz) Thumbnail

Chinese Proverbs || 11 of our Favourites (with Bonus Proverb Quiz)

Chinese Proverbs (or Idioms) and sayings (谚语 yànyŭ in Chinese) are a great way to expand your Chinese vocabulary when you’re learning mandarin.

Totally Different Meaning

CAUTION | these reversible Chinese words are completely different when flipped around. Be careful not to get them mixed up!

Want an example of the type of slip-up you can make…?

You wouldn’t want to say you have 3 women, when you meant to say 3 children right??

ChineseEnglish
带领 dàilǐngTo guide
文盲 wénmángIlliterate
万一 wànyīJust in case
人名 rén míngName
上马 shàngmǎMount a horse
海上 hǎishàngMaritime
故事 gùshìStory
子女 zǐ nǚChildren
科学 kēxuéScience
天上 tiānshàngIn the sky
点视 diǎnshìTo count and verify
ChineseEnglish
领带 lǐngdàiNeck tie
盲文 mángwénBraille
一万 yīwànTen thousand
名人 míngrénCelebrity
马上 mǎshàngImmediately
上海 shànghǎiShanghai
事故 shìgùAccident
女子 nǚ zǐWoman
学科 xuékēSubject
上天 shàngtiānHeaven, God, Providence
视点 shìdiǎnPerspective

Logical Reversals

The Chinese language is actually very logical

This is how most people react when they see these examples.

Why though?

See how once reversed they actually describe the action! Clever right.

The most common ones to learn would likely be 门锁 and 牙刷.

ChineseEnglish
羊圈 yáng juànSheep pen
门锁 mén suǒDoor lock
风扇 fēng shànFan
鱼网 yú wǎngFish net
牙刷 yá shuāToothbrush
ChineseEnglish
圈羊 quān yángTo fence sheep
锁门 suǒ ménTo lock the door
扇风 shān fēngTo fan some wind
网鱼 wǎng yúTo net fish
刷牙 shuā yáTo brush teeth

That brings us to an end of our look at reversible Chinese words.

The more you study the Chinese language the more you will make connections between words and characters themselves, which will eventually make a lot of sense (or make things even more confusing?).

Let us know how many of these reverse Chinese words you knew already, or if we missed any, and we’ll add them to the list.

Are you thinking about taking Chinese classes?

This is your sign to start! You’ve made it this far down, so it means you are serious about your Chinese language studies.

Our Flexi Classes allow you to study on a very flexible schedule, as YOU choose when and what to study. Amazing, isn’t it?

REVERSIBLE CHINESE WORDS – FAQ’s

What are Reversible Chinese Words? 

Reversible Chinese Words are words wherein characters can be inverted.

For example, 牛奶 and 奶牛 (which mean milk and cow respectively) as well as 蜜蜂 and 蜂蜜 (bee and honey).

Some of them might retain a similar meaning, but others will be completely different.

Do we encounter Reversible Chinese Words often in daily life?

Encountering two reversible words in one sentence is not very common.

However, it is best to know about them and learn their correct meaning, so you don’t misunderstand a situation or a conversation.

How many Reversible Chinese Words are there?

A lot!

We didn’t count them all but you can find 164 of them in this article.

Can I download your infographics for personal use?

Yes you can.

However if you wish to share them, always make sure to credit us for our work.

You can find us on most social media platforms, our main ones being:

Instagram at @ltl_mandarin

Facebook at @LTL_School

Twitter at @LTL_School

TikTok at @ltl_mandarin

Do you teach Reversible Chinese Words in class?

Yes, whenever there are some in the lesson the teacher will explain every new word.

Did you take lessons on our Flexi Classes platform already?

If not, make sure to claim you 7 Day Free Trial here.

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