A List of the Most Common Mandarin Chinese Words

Arranged Alphabetically By Pinyin

Aerial view of Shanghai
Fei Yang / Getty Images

There are many frequency lists which show the relative frequency of Mandarin Chinese characters being used. For example, the Chinese Text Computing web page has several lists of popular Chinese characters compiled from various sources.

However, Chinese words are often composed of more than one character, so lists of single characters can be deceiving.

Here is a list of the most common Mandarin words, as opposed to individual characters. Some of the entries are individual characters, but the majority are character compounds which form Mandarin words. Adapted from the Steering Committee of the Test of Proficiency - Huayu.

a

Traditional: 啊
Simplified: 啊
Pinyin: a

Meaning: Interjection showing surprise, doubt, approval, or consent. Can be pronounced in any of the four tones.

Sample sentence: 
太好吃啊! (​tài hào chī a): So delicious!

ăi

Traditional: 矮
Simplified: 矮
Pinyin: ăi

Meaning: short (not tall)

Sentence sample:

他很矮 (t​​ā hěn ǎi): He is very short.

āyí

Traditional: 阿姨
Simplified: 阿姨
Pinyin: āyí

Meaning: aunt; auntie

ānquán

Traditional: 安全
Simplified: 安全
Pinyin: ānquán

Meaning: safe; secure; safety; security

Sentence sample: 

晚上安全吗 (wǎn shàng ān quán ma): Is it safe at night?

ba

Traditional: 吧
Simplified: 吧
Pinyin: ba

Meaning: modal particle indicating polite suggestion; ...right?; ...OK?

Sentence sample:

下雨了,我们留在家里吧? (Xià yǔle, wǒmen liú zài jiālǐ ba): It's raining, let's stay at home okay?

Traditional: 八
Simplified: 八
Pinyin: bā

Meaning: eight; 8

Sentence sample: 

一个团队有八个人 (y​ī gè tuán duì yǒu bā gè rén): A team has eight people.

Traditional: 把
Simplified: 把
Pinyin: bă

Meaning: (a measure word); (marker for direct-object); to hold; to contain; to grasp; to take hold of

Sentence sample:

我要一把筷子  ( wǒ yào yī bǎ kuài zi): I want one chopstick.

bàba

Traditional: 爸爸
Simplified: 爸爸
Pinyin: bàba

Meaning: (informal) father

bái

Traditional: 白
Simplified: 白
Pinyin: bái

Meaning: white; snowy; empty; blank; bright; clear; plain; pure; gratuitous

Sentence samples:

她穿白色的裤子 (t ā chuān bái sè de kù zi): She is wearing white pants.

白天那么漂亮 (b ái tiān nà me piào liang): It's so pretty during the daytime.

băi

Traditional: 百
Simplified: 百
Pinyin: băi

Meaning: hundred

băihuògōngsī

Traditional: 百貨公司
Simplified: 百货公司
Pinyin: băihuògōngsī

Meaning: department store

bān

Traditional: 班
Simplified: 班
Pinyin: bān

Meaning: team; class; rank; squad; a work shift; a measure word; (a surname)

Sentence sample:

她在班上排名第一 (tā zài bān shàng páimíng dì yī): She is ranked number one in her class.

你想下一班 公共汽车 ​(nǐ xiǎng yào xià yī bān gōnggòng qì chē): You want the next bus.

bān

Traditional: 搬
Simplified: 搬
Pinyin: bān

Meaning: remove; transport; move (relatively heavy items)

Sentence sample:

我要搬家 (wǒ yào bānjiā): I am moving places.

深层清洁房间就要把钢琴搬出去​​ (​​shēn céng qīng jié fáng jiān jiù yào bǎ gāngqín bān chū qù): Deep cleaning a room requires the piano to be moved out. 

bàn

Traditional: 半
Simplified: 半
Pinyin: bàn

Meaning: half; semi-; incomplete; (after a number) and a half; half

Sentence sample:

她吃了一半的饼干 (tā chī le yī bàn de bǐnggān): She ate half a cookie.

bànfă

Traditional: 辦法
Simplified: 办法
Pinyin: bànfă

Meaning: means; method; way (to do something)

bàngōngshì

Traditional: 辦公室
Simplified: 办公室
Pinyin: bàngōngshì

Meaning: office

bāng

Traditional: 幫
Simplified: 帮
Pinyin: bāng

Meaning: to assist; to support; to help; group; gang; party

bāngmáng

Traditional: 幫忙
Simplified: 帮忙
Pinyin: bāngmáng

Meaning: help; give (lend) a hand; do a favor; do a good turn

Sentence sample:

你需要帮忙吗? (n​ǐ xū yào bāngmáng ma): Do you need help?

bàng

Traditional: 棒
Simplified: 棒
Pinyin: bàng

Meaning: a stick; club or cudgel; smart; capable; strong

Sentence sample:

我的记忆棒已满 (wǒ de jìyì bàng yǐ mǎn): My memory stick is full.

bàngqiú

Traditional: 棒球
Simplified: 棒球
Pinyin: bàngqiú

Meaning: baseball

bāo

Traditional: 包
Simplified: 包
Pinyin: bāo

Meaning: to cover; to wrap; to hold; to include; to take charge of; package; wrapper; container; bag; to hold or embrace; bundle; packet; to contract (to or for)

Sentence sample: 

地铁很挤,他紧紧的抱着背包 (dì tiě hěn jǐ, tā jǐn jǐn de bào zhe bèi bāo): The subway was so packed, he hugged his backpack tightly.

bāozi

Traditional: 包子
Simplified: 包子
Pinyin: bāozi

Meaning: steamed stuffed bun

Sentence sample:

这些包子很好吃 ( zhè xiē bāozi hěn hào chī): These steamed stuffed buns are so delicious.

băo

Traditional: 飽
Simplified: 饱
Pinyin: băo

Meaning: to eat till full; satisfied

Sentence sample:

吃饱了 (chī bǎo le): I'm full.

bào

Traditional: 抱
Simplified: 抱
Pinyin: bào

Meaning: to hold; to carry (in one`s arms); to hug or embrace; surround; cherish

Sentence sample:

拥抱我 (yǒng bào wǒ): Hug me

bàozhǐ

Traditional: 報紙
Simplified: 报纸
Pinyin: bàozhǐ

Meaning: newspaper; newsprint

bēi

Traditional: 杯
Simplified: 杯
Pinyin: bēi

Meaning: cup; a measure word

Sentence sample:

我要一杯冰水 (wǒ yào yī bēi bīng shuǐ): I want a glass of cold water.

bēizi

Traditional: 杯子
Simplified: 杯子
Pinyin: bēizi

Meaning: cup; glass

Sentence sample:

给我你的杯子 (gěi wǒ nǐ de bēi ​zi): Give me your cup

běi

Traditional: 北
Simplified: 北
Pinyin: běi

Meaning: north

bèi

Traditional: 被
Simplified: 被
Pinyin: bèi

Meaning: by (marker for passive-voice sentences or clauses); quilt; blanket; to cover; to wear

Sentence sample:

钱包被坏人抢走了 (qiánbāo bèi huàirén qiǎng zǒule) The wallet got stolen by the bad guys.

这个被子很舒服 (zhè ge bèizi hěn shū fú) This blanket is very comfortable.

běn

Traditional: 本
Simplified: 本
Pinyin: běn

Meaning: roots or stems of plants; origin; source; this; the current; root; foundation; basis; (a measure word)

Sentence sample:

他是本地人 (tā shì běndì rén): He is a local

běnzi

Traditional: 本子
Simplified: 本子
Pinyin: běnzi

Meaning: book; notebook; edition

Traditional: 筆
Simplified: 笔
Pinyin: bǐ

Meaning: pen; pencil; writing brush; to write or compose; the strokes of Chinese characters

Traditional: 比
Simplified: 比
Pinyin: bǐ

Meaning: (particle used for comparison and "-er than"); to compare; to contrast; to gesture (with hands); ratio

Sentence sample:

上海比大理热闹多了 (shànghǎi bǐ dàlǐ rènào duōle): Shanghai is much more lively than Dali.

bǐjiào

Traditional: 比較
Simplified: 比较
Pinyin: bǐjiào

Meaning: compare; contrast; fairly; comparatively; relatively; quite; rather

Sentence sample:

我比较喜欢咖啡 (wǒ bǐ jiào xǐ huan kāfēi): I prefer coffee.

bìxū

Traditional: 必須
Simplified: 必须
Pinyin: bìxū

Meaning: to have to; must

biān

Traditional: 邊
Simplified: 边
Pinyin: biān

Meaning: side; edge; margin; border; boundary

biàn

Traditional: 遍
Simplified: 遍
Pinyin: biàn

Meaning: a time; everywhere; turn; all over; one time

biăo

Traditional: 錶
Simplified: 錶
Pinyin: biăo

Meaning: watch

bié

Traditional: 別
Simplified: 别
Pinyin: bié

Meaning: leave; depart; separate; distinguish; classify; other; another; do not; must not; to pin

biérén

Traditional: 別人
Simplified: 别人
Pinyin: biérén

Meaning: other people; others; another person

bīngxiāng

Traditional: 冰箱
Simplified: 冰箱
Pinyin: bīngxiāng

Meaning: icebox; refrigerator; freezer

bǐnggān

Traditional: 餅乾
Simplified: 饼乾
Pinyin: bǐnggān

Meaning: biscuit; cracker; cookie

bìng

Traditional: 病
Simplified: 病
Pinyin: bìng

Meaning: ailment; sickness; illness; disease; fall ill; sick; defect

bìngrén

Traditional: 病人
Simplified: 病人
Pinyin: bìngrén

Meaning: sick person; [medical] patient; invalid

búcuò

Traditional: 不錯
Simplified: 不错
Pinyin: búcuò

Meaning: correct; right; not bad; pretty good

búdàn

Traditional: 不但
Simplified: 不但
Pinyin: búdàn

Meaning: not only (... but also...)

búkèqì

Traditional: 不客氣
Simplified: 不客气
Pinyin: búkèqì

Meaning: you`re welcome; impolite; rude; blunt; don`t mention it

búyòng

Traditional: 不用
Simplified: 不用
Pinyin: búyòng

Meaning: need not

bú;bù

Traditional: 不
Simplified: 不
Pinyin: bú;bù

Meaning: (negative prefix); not; no

bùhăoyìsi

Traditional: 不好意思
Simplified: 不好意思
Pinyin: bùhăoyìsi

Meaning: feel embarrassed; be ill at ease; find it embarrassing (to do sth)

bùyídìng

Traditional: 不一定
Simplified: 不一定
Pinyin: bùyídìng

Meaning: not necessarily; maybe

Traditional: 擦
Simplified: 擦
Pinyin: cā

Meaning: to wipe; to erase; rubbing (brush stroke in painting); to clean; to polish

cāi

Traditional: 猜
Simplified: 猜
Pinyin: cāi

Meaning: to guess

cái

Traditional: 才
Simplified: 才
Pinyin: cái

Meaning: ability; talent; endowment; gift; an expert; only (then); only if; just

cài

Traditional: 菜
Simplified: 菜
Pinyin: cài

Meaning: dish (type of food); vegetables

càidān

Traditional: 菜單
Simplified: 菜单
Pinyin: càidān

Meaning: menu

cānjiā

Traditional: 參加
Simplified: 参加
Pinyin: cānjiā

Meaning: to participate; to take part; to join

cāntīng

Traditional: 餐廳
Simplified: 餐厅
Pinyin: cāntīng

Meaning: dining-hall

cānzhuō

Traditional: 餐桌
Simplified: 餐桌
Pinyin: cānzhuō

Meaning: dining table

căo

Traditional: 草
Simplified: 草
Pinyin: căo

Meaning: grass; straw; draft (of a document); careless; rough; manuscript; hasty

căodì

Traditional: 草地
Simplified: 草地
Pinyin: căodì

Meaning: lawn; meadow; sod; turf

cháng

Traditional: 常
Simplified: 常
Pinyin: cháng

Meaning: always; ever; often; frequently; common; general; constant

chángcháng

Traditional: 常常
Simplified: 常常
Pinyin: chángcháng

Meaning: frequently; usually; often

chànggē(ér)

Traditional: 唱歌(兒)
Simplified: 唱歌(儿)
Pinyin: chànggē(ér )

Meaning: sing; to call loudly; to chant

chāojíshìchăng

Traditional: 超級市場
Simplified: 超级市场
Pinyin: chāojíshìchăng

Meaning: supermarket

chăo

Traditional: 吵
Simplified: 吵
Pinyin: chăo

Meaning: to quarrel; to make a noise; noisy; to disturb by making a noise

chènshān

Traditional: 襯衫
Simplified: 衬衫
Pinyin: chènshān

Meaning: shirt; blouse

chéngjī

Traditional: 成績
Simplified: 成绩
Pinyin: chéngjī

Meaning: result; score; mark; achievement

chéngshì

Traditional: 城市
Simplified: 城市
Pinyin: chéngshì

Meaning: city; town

chī

Traditional: 吃
Simplified: 吃
Pinyin: chī

Meaning: eat

chībăo

Traditional: 吃飽
Simplified: 吃饱
Pinyin: chībăo

Meaning: to eat till full; satisfied

chídào

Traditional: 遲到
Simplified: 迟到
Pinyin: chídào

Meaning: to arrive late

chū

Traditional: 出
Simplified: 出
Pinyin: chū

Meaning: to go out; to come out; to occur; to produce; to go beyond; to rise; to put forth; to occur; to happen; (a measure word for dramas, plays, or operas)

chūguó

Traditional: 出國
Simplified: 出国
Pinyin: chūguó

Meaning: country; state; nation

chūlái

Traditional: 出來
Simplified: 出来
Pinyin: chūlái

Meaning: to come out; to emerge

chūqù

Traditional: 出去
Simplified: 出去
Pinyin: chūqù

Meaning: (v) go out

chúfáng

Traditional: 廚房
Simplified: 厨房
Pinyin: chúfáng

Meaning: kitchen

chuān

Traditional: 穿
Simplified: 穿
Pinyin: chuān

Meaning: to bore through; pierce; perforate; penetrate; pass through; to dress; to wear; to put on; to thread

chuán

Traditional: 船
Simplified: 船
Pinyin: chuán

Meaning: a boat; vessel; ship

chuāng/chuānghù

Traditional: 窗/窗戶
Simplified: 窗/窗户
Pinyin: chuāng /chuānghù

Meaning: shutter; window

chuáng

Traditional: 床
Simplified: 床
Pinyin: chuáng

Meaning: bed; couch; (a measure word)

chuī

Traditional: 吹
Simplified: 吹
Pinyin: chuī

Meaning: to blow; blast; puff; boast; brag; end in failure

chūntiān

Traditional: 春天
Simplified: 春天
Pinyin: chūntiān

Meaning: spring (season)

Traditional: 次
Simplified: 次
Pinyin: cì

Meaning: nth; number (of times); order; sequence; next; second(ary); (measure word)

cōngmíng

Traditional: 聰明
Simplified: 聪明
Pinyin: cōngmíng

Meaning: intelligent; bright

cóng

Traditional: 從
Simplified: 从
Pinyin: cóng

Meaning: from; obey; observe; follow

cóngqián

Traditional: 從前
Simplified: 从前
Pinyin: cóngqián

Meaning: previously; formerly

cuò

Traditional: 錯
Simplified: 错
Pinyin: cuò

Meaning: mistake; error; blunder; fault; cross; uneven; wrong

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Su, Qiu Gui. "A List of the Most Common Mandarin Chinese Words." ThoughtCo, Sep. 17, 2017, thoughtco.com/most-common-mandarin-words-2279655. Su, Qiu Gui. (2017, September 17). A List of the Most Common Mandarin Chinese Words. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/most-common-mandarin-words-2279655 Su, Qiu Gui. "A List of the Most Common Mandarin Chinese Words." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/most-common-mandarin-words-2279655 (accessed November 19, 2017).