Do You Know the Real Meaning Behind the Chinese Character for Stinky 臭?

Two skunks explore outdoors by a fallen log.

Unlike in English, 'stinky' in Chinese does not refer to something that smells bad. (Image: Bryan Padron via Unsplash)

The word stinky tends to be used to describe rotten food or something that smells bad. But in Mandarin, it’s associated with a personal characteristic. The Chinese character for stinky is . It’s composed of the characters “oneself”  and “important” or “big” .

In Chinese, “oneself very important” 自大 means a person has a big ego and is very arrogant.

Subscribe to our Newsletter!

Receive selected content straight into your inbox.

When a person has a “stinky” character, other people try to avoid him or her, like something that smells bad. It’s a good reminder to be modest and humble.

The Chinese character for stinky in history

There is a story about the Chinese character for stinky  in history books.

During the Warring Period, the Qin army had to pass through an area that belonged to the King of Zhou. According to local custom, anyone who traveled through this region had to get off his horse and walk.

The Qin army soldiers got down and started walking through. But they became impatient after only walking a few steps, so they got back on their horses because they thought they were more powerful and would win.

The Chinese character for stinky refers to someone who is arrogant and has a big ego.
The Qin army did not respect the king’s rule and got back on their horses after only walking a few steps. (Image: Devanath via Pixabay)

They looked down on the King of Zhou, and showed no respect for his rules. A scholar who witnessed this incident said: “The Qin army will lose the battle.”

This turned out to be true — later, the Qin army was defeated and lost the battle.

Because the soldiers showed no respect for the king’s rule and didn’t behave as they should have, they had to pay for what they did.

According to the Book of War strategy,

pride comes before a fall.

If an army is conceited, it is doomed to failure. If a person is conceited, sooner or later he will suffer the consequences. This same is true both for a country and a family. This is all reflected in the Chinese character for stinky.

Research by Ming Yue

Follow us on Twitter, Facebook, or Pinterest

Recommended Stories

Artificial intelligence.

The Emergence of Artificial Intelligence and Its Benefit to Humanity

Every human has an innate nature that always seeks something that can improve everyone’s life ...

A martial artist practicing kung fu.

The Wisdom Behind Chinese Martial Arts

There is wisdom in Chinese martial arts. If you’ve always been curious about kung fu ...

Decluttering.

4 Reasons Why Decluttering Will Improve Your Mind, Body, and Soul

You’re not the only one who feels stressed out by a messy house, and the ...

Young woman looking longingly at chocolate pastries.

Is the Incentive for Emotional Eating the Same as for Binge Eating?

Finding comfort in food is quite common these days, and it is called emotional eating. ...

Chinese writing in a wok.

Most assume writing systems get simpler. But 3,600 years of Chinese writing show it’s getting increasingly complex

At this very moment, the words you are reading are entering your mind at the ...

The Fukushima Daichi Nuclear Power Station.

Fukushima Aftermath: Japan Set to Release Treated Radioactive Water into the Ocean

A top government spokesperson recently announced that Japan is taking steps toward discharging more than ...

The Oura ring.

How the Oura Ring Can Upgrade Your Health?

If you’ve heard about the Oura ring before, you aren’t the only one. This ring ...

A nuclear power plant.

Nuclear Fuel Alternatives After Fukushima Have Challenges Ahead

After the Fukushima disaster, research at The University of Manchester suggests that the preferred candidate ...

Painting of Antonio Straivari.

Stradivarius: The Most Valuable Violin You Can Own

Learning to play a musical instrument and becoming proficient at it is a skill that ...

Send this to a friend