Fire Vocabulary

27 May 2014
火-red

Image via Wikimedia Commons

My daughter learned her first Chinese character at around the age of two, when she was obsessed with fire safety. That character was (fire). Now, at age two and a half, she’s voluntarily learning lots more characters. The as her starting point reminded me of something: there are a lot of cool words in Chinese that start with the character !

So here’s my list of relatively beginner-friendly nouns that start with the character , some literal character-by-character renderings for fun, and the English translations of the words.

Chinese Pinyin Literal English
火车 huǒchē fire car train
火鸡 huǒjī fire chicken turkey
火腿 huǒtuǐ fire leg ham
火山 huǒshān fire mountain volcano
火星 Huǒxīng fire star Mars
火球 huǒqiú fire ball fireball
火花 huǒhuā fire flower spark
火药 huǒyào fire medicine gunpowder
火箭 huǒjiàn fire arrow rocket

I can remember that learning words like these were an enormous part of the charm of just starting to learn Chinese. “Fire mountain”? “Fire arrow” for “rocket”? Awesome. It’s nice to get away from languages that just keep recycling Greek and Latin roots and dig into a language that mostly just uses itself as its own lexical building blocks.

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John Pasden

John is a Shanghai-based linguist and entrepreneur, founder of AllSet Learning.

Comments

  1. I agree, I’ve always been fascinated with the way Chinese tries to shoehorn new concepts into more familiar ideas. Vegetable names do this a lot—番茄,胡萝卜,西红柿,etc. Foreign eggplant, indeed!

    As for fire words, I’ve always liked 火鹤,huohe, fire crane,meaning “flamingo.”
    And 火石, huoshi, fire stone, meaning “flint.”
    And who could forget 火好似 huohaosi, meaning “brothel.”

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