25 Ghost Words (“鬼词”)

I’m particularly fond of affix characters in Chinese, and what more vibrant an example than 鬼 guǐ (“ghost; devil”)?

  1. 魔鬼 móguǐ (“evil devil”) – demon
  2. 懒鬼 lǎnguǐ (“lazy devil”) – lazybones
  3. 酒鬼 jiǔguǐ (“alcohol ghost”) – alcoholic; drunkard
  4. 醉鬼 zuìguǐ (“drunk devil”) – drunkard
  5. 烟鬼 yānguǐ (“smoke devil”) – opium addict; chain smoker
  6. 调皮鬼 tiáopíguǐ (“naughty devil”) – naughty child
  7. 捣蛋鬼 dǎodànguǐ (“make-trouble devil”) – same as #6
  8. 吸血鬼 xīxuèguǐ (“suck-blood devil”) – vampire
  9. 鬼佬 guǐlǎo (“devil old-guy”) – foreigner (usually derogatory)
  10. 胆小鬼 dǎnxiǎoguǐ (“small-gut devil”) – coward; chicken
  11. 二鬼子 èrguǐzi (“two-ghost-thing”) –  a “banana” – someone yellow (Asian) on the outside but white (Caucasian) on the inside (derogatory)*
  12. 短命鬼 duǎnmìngguǐ (“short-life devil”) – someone who dies at a young age
  13. 赌鬼 dǔguǐ (“gambling ghost”) – gambling addict
  14. 饿鬼 èguǐ (“hungry ghost”) – someone who is always hungry; someone with a big appetite
  15. 机灵鬼 jīlingguǐ (“clever ghost”) – clever person
  16. 胡涂鬼 hútuguǐ (“confused ghost”) – someone who often seems confused and/or stupid
  17. 色鬼 sèguǐ (“lust ghost”) – lecher; person who engages in sexual excess (no exact word for this in English perhaps?)
  18. 厉鬼 lìguǐ (“terrible ghost”) – evil spirit
  19. 馋鬼 chánguǐ (“gluttonous ghost”) – pig (someone who eats too much)
  20. 催命鬼 cuīmìngguǐ (“prodding ghost”) – someone who keeps pushing people to do things; a nagger
  21. 死鬼 sǐguǐ (“dead ghost”) – a negative but playful term used between spouses
  22. 鬼子 guǐzi (“devil-thing”) – foreign devil (derogatory)
  23. 鬼怪 guǐguài (“ghost-monster”) – ghosts and monsters
  24. 见鬼 jiànguǐ (“see ghost”) – go to Hell!
  25. 鬼知道 guǐ zhīdào (“ghost knows”) – Heaven knows!

* Wenlin also lists “Chinese who collaborated with the Japanese” but I can’t confirm this.

Have I missed any common ones?

11 Comments to "25 Ghost Words (“鬼词”)"

  1. hanmeng's Gravatar hanmeng
    05/12/2010 - 3:29 am | Permalink

    Yes, the 汉语大辞典 also says 【二鬼子】抗日战争时期人民群众对汉奸伪军的蔑称。(Compounds, but not single characters from the dictionary, are accessible at http://cd.kdd.cc/ online, but only using IExplorer, and it will open an annoying pop-up window.)

    I’ve only heard 鬼子 as 洋鬼子 (referring to people of European ancestry, and even then half-jokingly) and 日本鬼子. There’s also 假洋鬼子, for people who slavishly imitate foreigners.

    鬼佬 is arguably Cantonese, like 鬼婆, 鬼仔, and 鬼妹. I’m not sure about 鬼 preceded by 黑. I seem to remember someone saying these didn’t have such a negative connotation in Cantonese.

    死鬼 can be used playfully, but also angrily.

  2. 05/12/2010 - 4:18 am | Permalink


  3. 05/12/2010 - 7:59 pm | Permalink

    Great post Carl! This time I actually reposted it… something went wrong last time.

  4. 06/12/2010 - 3:30 am | Permalink

    yeah, I think most people would associate 鬼子 with the Japanese.
    and 搞鬼 for good measure

  5. klz's Gravatar klz
    06/12/2010 - 10:53 am | Permalink

    #17 – “sex addict”?

  6. eric's Gravatar eric
    06/12/2010 - 12:43 pm | Permalink

    The more common usage of 餓鬼 is as an actual ghost:

    見鬼 is usually an exclamation when something strange happens. 比喻離奇古怪。如:「好端端的人會突然不見,真是見鬼了。」

    Another common one: 小鬼–kids

  7. 26/12/2010 - 11:50 am | Permalink

    Just discovered 黑鬼 today, apparently the Chinese “version” of nigger.

  8. Joe's Gravatar Joe
    09/05/2011 - 2:00 am | Permalink

    鬼仔 is the Cantonese version of a young male 鬼老. 鬼妹 is the version for a young girl

  9. 19/05/2011 - 11:12 am | Permalink

    你好 你中文很棒啊:)

  10. Anni's Gravatar Anni
    22/03/2012 - 5:08 pm | Permalink

    Well, 见鬼 here is more commonly used as some kind of interjection, like “Oops!”, “Crap!”, “Holy!” because people use it when something unexpected (usually not in a good way) or weird happens
    Eg:1. 见鬼!我的钱包丢了!

  11. Richard's Gravatar Richard
    19/12/2013 - 6:08 am | Permalink

    小气鬼 cheapskate
    活鬼 literarly living ghost, I heard this used once to mean something like low life type person
    色鬼 pervert perhaps? (好色 perverted)
    见鬼 WTF

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