Let’s talk dragons. Yeah, those magnificent mythical creatures. Dragons are super popular in Chinese, so it is no surprise that many Chinese words contain the character dragon. To say dragon in Chinese, you say 龙 lóng, by the way.
If I asked you to think about words that had the character dragon in them in Chinese, you’d probably think of words like a dragon boat, a dragon fruit, and you’d be purrfectly right. But today, we’re here to talk about unusual dragon words. Words in Chinese you’ll be surprised to learn there’s a dragon in! So without further ado, here are unexpected words that contain the character dragon in
The following Chinese words, quite surprisingly, all have dragons in them. Which ones did you expect the least?
Dragon in Chinese phrase #1: Faucet
shuǐ lóng tóu
literally: a water dragon head
The name for faucet in Chinese is cool. It’s composed of:
水 shuǐ water
龙 lóng dragon
头 tóu head
What’s a Water-Dragon-head? Why, a “faucet” or a “tap”, of course! A little underwhelming, perhaps? Wait till you see this.
That’s why 水龙头 is our first word with a dragon in it!
Dragon word in Chinese #2: Boss
Bicycle handlebar; boss
literally: a dragon head
In the same (water) vein, you have 龙头 which means a bicycle handlebar (as well as a faucet).
Interestingly, it also means “boss” or “chief”. That one’s easier to picture as a dragon head.
Dragon in Chinese language word #3: 龙卷 Tornado
literally: a dragon roll
Literally dragon roll (doesn’t that make you hungry?), 龙卷 is how the Chinese say “Tornado” in their language. 龙卷 also means “Twister”.
No wonder Chinese CCTV called these nine tornados dragons.
Dragon in Mandarin word # 4: Tarragon
literally: dragon + lofty
Even the English name looks like it considered being a dragon, and then gave up halfway, only to come up with tarragon instead.
So way to go, the Chinese language, for being brave enough to include the word dragon in the name for tarragon in Chinese.
Yes, 龙嵩 is how to say tarragon in Chinese. You can also use 龙蒿 lóng hāo. Same dragon, same meaning.
Chinese Dragon word # 5: Lobster
literally: a dragon shrimp
Ah, the dragons of shrimp. We’re talking about lobsters, of course! Can you picture it? They are much bigger and badder than puny little shrimps!
So, 龙虾 is how you say lobster in Chinese.
Two other fish and shellfish also have a 龙 in their name.
小龙虾, xiǎo lóng xiā, crayfish
The delicious, soft-water crayfish gets the name: the small dragon shrimp. They’re so yummy we can’t complain.
龙利, lóng lì, sole
Flat like a dragon? Like a dragon took a trip to 2D and became a flatfish.
Dragon word in Chinese # 6: Decrepit, senile
literally: dragon clock; dragon bell
Okay, this one isn’t so nice, and as fierce dragon lovers and protectors, we protest. But a word’s a word, so 龙钟 is a way to say someone is senile in Chinese.
How did this word come to mean “decrepit, senile”? That’s a question even the Chinese ask themselves.
Perhaps because as we age, we start to resemble a bell with droopy dragon ears that can’t hear much anything? Care to venture a guess? Let us know in the comments.
Dragon word in Mandarin #7: Queue
a queue of people
literally: a people dragon
When picturing a long line of people, you might think more of a snake in English. But the Chinese are all about dragons, and we love them for that.
So when you want to talk in Chinese about a large group of people waiting in line, say, in front of the post office, you can say 人龙. That literally means people dragon, and when you see the length of some queues, you have no trouble imagining why.
人龙 is a queue of people in Chinese.
Dragon in Chinese word #8: 恐龙 Dinosaur
literally: fear dragon
Dinosaurs. Huge, powerful, mysterious creatures that roamed the Earth in ancient times called something close to dragons? Mm, that works for me. Fear dragons!
Fun fact: most dinosaur names in Chinese have a dragon in them!
A velociraptor in Chinese is 伶盗龙, líng dào lóng.
A triceratops in Chinese is 三角龙, sān jiǎo lóng, a 3 horn dragon. Nice!
Bonus: 4 Chinese Loanwords that also have a dragon in them
Borrowed for its beautiful “long” sound, the word Dragon in Chinese is also found in these words imported from other languages:
Dragon loanword #1: Nylon
What do you need to say nylon in Chinese? The Chinese character for a dragon, of course! Nylon in Chinese is 尼龙, ní lóng.
Dragon loanword #2: Salon
salon (phonetic loanword)
Similarly, the Chinese conjured up the characters “sand” and “dragon”, for their phonetic pronunciation of the word “salon”.
Salon in Chinese is 沙龙, shā lóng.
Dragon loanword #3: Macaron
mǎ kǎ lóng
macaron (phonetic loanword)
Macarons can either be, depending on your viewpoint, either sweet French delicacies or yummy coconut treats. In either case, they’re sugary bliss. So much so that the Chinese decided you needed:
A horse (马), your card (卡), and a dragon (龙) to get some quickly enough. Just kidding, these characters were all borrowed for their sounds, of course, to form the word “macaron”. 马卡龙, mǎ kǎ lóng, is a macaron in Chinese.
Dragon loanword #4: Upsilon (greek letter Yu)
yǔ pǔ xī lóng
Upsilon (phonetic loanword)
Lastly, Upsilon, the goatlike greek letter Yu was another excellent candidate for the character 龙. 龙 does indeed sound quite close to “Lon”.
宇普西龙, yǔ pǔ xī lóng is Upsilon in Chinese.
What did you think of these Chinese words? Unexpected to find dragons in them, right? Bet you wouldn’t have guessed all these words had a dragon in them! It shows how important dragons are in Chinese “animal culture”. So much so that they created lots of words with the Chinese character for dragon in them (128 in fact!).
Liked this article? Then you’re going to love this meowsome article on Five Words you didn’t expect to find a Cat in! Yeah, at Ninchanese, we’re all about cats, dragons, and learning Chinese.
The Nincha Team
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