Bragging and Showing Off

This week’s Chinese semantic field is all about showing off – that is, to proudly demonstrate one’s skill, talent, possessions, achievements, etc before others – and bragging – the expression of these characteristics in spoken form. There are a truckload of translations here, so forgive me for not providing example sentences. (At least I tried to supply collocation and register information.)

To show off

The four most common translations for “show off” in written (书面语 shūmiànyǔ) Chinese are:

  1. 炫耀 xuànyào: The “one-size-fits-all” translation. Can be used to show off one’s ability (本领 běnlǐng), achievements (成就 chéngjiù), possessions (所有物 suǒyǒuwù), power (权势 quánshì), wealth (财富 cáifù), knowledge (知识 zhīshi), superiority (优势 yōushì), appearance (外表 wàibiǎo) and so on.
  2. 炫弄 xuànnòng: This usually collocates with showing off one’s ability or knowledge.
  3. 搬弄 bānnòng: This usually collocates with showing off one’s ability or superiority.
  4. 招摇 zhāoyáo: This usually collocates with showing off one’s ability, wealth or superiority.

In addition, there are nine colloquial (口语 kǒuyǔ) ones in Mandarin:

  1. 卖弄 màinong: This more colloquial version of 炫耀 usually collocates with showing off one’s ability or knowledge only.
  2. 露一手 lòuyīshǒu: This slightly more negative word exclusively refers to showing off one’s abilities.
  3. 出风头 chūfēngtou: This intransitive verb, often translated as “to be in the limelight”, means to show off one’s abilities or knowledge and is often preceded by 爱 ài (“to love…”).
  4. 逞 chěng: This flexible word can be used to refer to showing off one’s abilities, achievements, power, wealth, knowledge or superiority.
  5. 逞能 chěngnéng: Means to to parade one’s ability.
  6. 逞强 chěngqiáng: Means to do something beyond one’s abilities in order to show off.
  7. 显弄 xiǎnnòng: Collocates with showing off one’s ability, achievements, wealth and knowledge.
  8. 显摆 xiǎnbai: This Northern slang can collocate with the showing off of almost any characteristic and is often preceded by 臭 chòu (“stinking”).
  9. 露富 lòufù: Means to show off one’s riches.

To brag

And here are five translations for “brag” in written (书面语 shūmiànyǔ) Chinese:

  1. 自夸 zìkuā: The most common word for “brag”.
  2. 吹嘘 chuīxū: Same as 自夸, except it is also commonly used in conversation.
  3. 吹擂 chuīléi: Same as 吹嘘, except it usually only refers to bragging about one’s abilities and is especially prominent in military contexts since 擂 refers to the beating of a war drum.
  4. 矜 jīn: Highly educated, literary form, usually expressed as 自矜 zìjīn.
  5. 诩 xǔ: Ditto above, often expressed as 自诩 zìxǔ.

And five more translations in vernacular Mandarin (口语 kǒuyǔ):

  1. 吹 chuī: Very common and useful word expressing the basic action of “bragging”, and may be extended as  吹牛chuīniú, 吹牛皮 chuīniúpí or 吹大牛 chuīdàniú.
  2. 说大话 shuōdàhuà: Same as 吹 but intransitive; meaning “to talk big” (by extension, “to brag”).
  3. 夸 kuā: Can mean “brag”, but can also mean “exaggerate” depending on the context. However if it is extended as 吹夸 kuākǒu (or its stronger version, 夸海口 kuāhǎikǒu) then we are obviously referring to the former.
  4. 瞎吹 xiāchuī: More expressive; “to blindly brag.”
  5. 胡吹 húchuī: Even more expressive; “to recklessly brag.”

Any more?

Yep. Even after coming up 23 possible translations, I have also stumbled upon a dozen or so more. For example, there are two words in Mandarin – 夸耀 kuāyào and 标榜 biāobǎng – which can mean both “to show off” and “to brag” (they are also both 书面语 shūmiànyǔ). In addition there are a number of regional slang words (e.g. 跩/拽 zhuǎi and 谝 piǎn), the usefulness of which are questionable. Lastly, there are countless idioms related to bragging or showing off, which I have narrowed down here to the top nine most common ones:

  1. 沾沾自喜 zhānzhānzìxǐ – To be pleased with oneself.
  2. 耀武扬威 yàowǔyángwēi – To show off one’s strength.
  3. 招摇过市 zhāoyáoguòshì – To show off in public to get attention.
  4. 自吹自擂 zìchuīzìléi – To blow one’s own horn.
  5. 班門弄斧 bānménnòngfǔ – To show one’s skill before an expert.
  6. 耍嘴皮子 shuǎ zuǐpízi – To talk big (Northern Chinese slang).
  7. 夸多斗靡 kuāduōdòumǐ – To show off one’s studying or articles one has written.
  8. 自我吹嘘 zìwǒ chuīxū – To glorify oneself.
  9. 卖弄口舌 màinong kǒushé – To show off one’s wit.


3 Comments to "Bragging and Showing Off"

  1. 24/12/2011 - 1:31 pm | Permalink

    Excellent post, as always!

    There’re two minor issues, however.

    露一手 is perhaps neutral, e.g. 你就把你的厨艺露一手给我们瞧瞧嘛!

    If a person 露富, the wealth might be made known to others by accident. To show off your wealth, it is to 炫富.

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