8 Words for Popular in Mandarin

I’ve often pondered about how many words really exist in Mandarin for “popular” and so I’ve done my research and come up with what seems to be a pretty definitive list. For the purposes of this post, there is a distinction made between “popular” (known by many people) and universal (“affecting everyone/everything”), the latter of which is commonly translated as 普遍 pǔbiàn or 普及 pǔjí. I also left out 大众的 dàzhòng de and 民间的 mínjiān de, which are ideally conceptualised as “used by the people”, a little different to the essential meaning of “popular” in my opinion, but worthy of mentioning nonetheless. And now, onto the list…

1. 流行 liúxíng – The generic word for “popular”. Can be used in almost any context when talking about things – 流行音乐 (“popular music”), 流行设计 (“popular designs”), 流行游戏 (“popular games”), etc. It can also refer to people in some situations, e.g. 流行歌手 (“popular singers”).

2. 受欢迎 shòu huānyíng – Another common expression for “popular”, literally “received popularity”. The phrase 倍受欢迎 bèishòuhuānyíng – “enjoy great popularity” – is also common. Note that this word can refer to people, unlike 流行 liúxíng.

3. 走红 zǒuhóng – Literally, “walk [through] red”, this colloquial adjective commonly describes popular people, or “favourites” of superiors. Can also be abbreviated as just 红 hóng.

4. 火 huǒ – Another popular and extremely flexible colloquialism for popular. Literally, “fire”. Here’s an example sentence: 他的商店最近很火。— His shop has been popular as of late.

5. 时兴 shíxīng – Yet another colloquial word for “popular”, commonly used in Northern China. An example of usage: 现在这早就不时兴了。 — This has not been popular for a while.

6. 吃香 chīxiāng – This “popular” adjective most commonly collocates with professions and institutions, e.g. 这个行业比较吃香。— This profession is relatively popular.

7. 通俗 tōngsú – Usually restricted as an attributive in such collocations as 通俗小说 tōngsú xiǎoshuō (“popular fiction”) and 通俗文学 tōngsú wénxué (“popular literature”).

8. 盛传 shèngchuán – Relatively formal, 盛传  shèngchuán acts as a verb (“to make widely known”) and often collocates with certain media like articles, songs, etc, e.g. 最近网上盛传一首歌… This is literally parsed as, “Recently the Internet has made a song widely popular” – in idiomatic English, “A song has recently gained popularity on the Internet.”

15 Comments to "8 Words for Popular in Mandarin"

  1. Max's Gravatar Max
    18/04/2011 - 6:41 am | Permalink

    Is it possible that you’ve got the wrong bei4 in 倍受欢迎 in the 受欢迎 paragraph?

    Thanks for the great stuff! 😀

  2. 19/04/2011 - 12:45 am | Permalink

    These words are used in popularity rankings on websites:

    风云 (fēng yún, lit. “wind and clouds”, top position)
    热门 (rè mén, in high demand, popular)
    热点 (rè diǎn,, hot spot, top spot)

  3. 20/04/2011 - 8:31 am | Permalink

    Nice one! 你这个帖子肯定牛。And I think you’ve got the wrong, bei4 as another poster said.

  4. Sai Kee's Gravatar Sai Kee
    23/04/2011 - 8:59 am | Permalink

    More on “走红“
    – 红得发紫
    – 红透半边天

  5. sonic's Gravatar sonic
    14/03/2012 - 3:16 am | Permalink

    流行,can describe people, like 流行歌手

  6. 柏荣's Gravatar 柏荣
    27/09/2014 - 6:02 pm | Permalink


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