We know that the Chinese language has one of the hardest writing systems since it is not based on a set alphabet. Instead, every meaning is assigned a character. Some characters can be simple, while others can be incredibly long and difficult. What is the longest Chinese word?
The longest Chinese word is the character Biáng. The character consists of 58 strokes in traditional form and 42 strokes in simplified Chinese. The word refers to a particular style of noodles, made thick and flat like a belt.
In this article, let’s explore the longest Chinese word in the world. We also discuss the question of Chinese words vs. characters and the other Chinese characters with an incredibly high number of strokes.
How Are Chinese Word And Characters Different?
Before we even explore the longest Chinese word, it may be important to distinguish between Chinese words and characters. This is because Chinese words are formed differently compared to English.
English is an alphabetic language. This means in the English language, you form a word by combining a series of English letters from the alphabet.
For example, the word ‘back’ combines 4 letters in the English alphabet – B-A-C-K.
However, you do not do this in Chinese writing. Instead, every Chinese word starts with a character. A character is a combination of individual lines written in a specific order.
These lines are called strokes (笔画, bǐ huà). For example, the Chinese character 王 (wáng, king) consists of four strokes. There are horizontal strokes and one vertical stroke.
A Chinese word can be formed in two ways. One is by using a single character (字, zì). For example, the character 经 (jīng) itself is a word meaning ‘scripture.’
The second way of forming Chinese words is by combining two or more Chinese characters. These are called compound words（词, cí). When you combine several Chinese characters, the meaning of the word changes.
Let’s use the same example again, with the character 经 (jīng). On its own, it means scripture. Now you combine the character with another character 济 (jì). Together, the compound word 经济 (jīng jì) means economy.
Some words may be formed by combining a lot more Chinese characters together. This is more common with translated words. For example, the Chinese word for the city of Las Vegas is 拉斯维加斯（lā sī wéi jiā sī).
How Do You Determine The Longest Chinese Word?
From the previous section, you can tell that Chinese characters and words are different concepts. This means we are now left with two ways to determine the longest Chinese word.
The first is to find the longest compound word. If we go this way, then our goal is to look for compound words with the most characters.
This means we are going to look for words with even more characters than Las Vegas (拉斯维加斯).
The second would be to look for a single Chinese character with the most strokes. This would mean looking for the most complex character ever.
If you look at both approaches, it may make sense to consider the longest Chinese word as a single character with the most strokes.
This is because in Chinese, ‘word’ is often translated into 字 (jì), which means character. It is not translated as 词 (cí), meaning compound words.
Another reason is that a long Chinese word should mean it is harder to write. This would be better reflected with a Chinese character with the most strokes.
In the end, a super long compound word is a combination of several characters. This means it is not as hard to remember as a single character with many strokes.
What Is The Longest Chinese Word?
The longest Chinese word /character would be bíang. This character is so complicated. It actually consists of 9 different characters written together. These characters include:
|幺||yāo||3||Tiny, small||Flanking the character 言 on left and right side|
|馬||mǎ||10||horse||Below 言 and 幺|
|長||cháng||8||Long, grow||Flanking the character 馬 on left and right side|
|月||yuè||4||Moon||On the left of the 言, 幺, 馬 and 長 combination|
|心||xīn||4||heart||At the bottom of the 言, 幺, 馬 and 長 combination|
|刂||dāo||2||knife||On the right of the 言, 幺, 馬 and 長 combination|
|穴||xué||5||Cave, cavity||At the top of the 言, 幺, 馬 and 長 combination|
|辶||chuò||4||walk||Written from the top left to the bottom right of the other characters.|
Combined, it takes 58 strokes to complete the word making it the longest traditional character. It is also the hardest character to remember and write.
Even after the introduction of Simplified Chinese, the simplified character still takes 42 individual strokes to complete.
What Does Biang Mean?
The word actually refers to a type of noodle dish found in Xian City, in the Chinese province of Shaanxi. The locals call it Biángbiáng Miàn, meaning you must write the character twice. You may see this word hanging around in noodle shops.
Biang biang mian are flat noodles but made thick, much like a belt. The noodle was said to have been made in that shape to save time. Noodle makers needed to make and cook the noodles faster to feed the industrial workers.
Biang may actually be an onomatopoeia, or a word made from sounds. In this case, the word biáng may come from the sound of noodles slapping each other.
The noodle makers do not have time to pull or cut the noodles thinly. Biang Biang noodles are surprisingly springy and chewy on the mouth, with a good texture. Biangbiang noodles are comfort food, popular with many in Mainland China too.
The funniest part about this character is that it does not even exist in modern Chinese dictionaries. It is, at best, an informal, casual, and funny Chinese character, such as the word duāng.
The character also does not exist in many CJK (Chinese, Japanese, Korean) based font systems. This also means you cannot type them into the computer, even if you get the Pinyin or the strokes correctly.
There have been attempts to have the word added for computer entry. As a result, the word is given the CJK code U+30EDD.
On another note, you may find characters with even more strokes than Biáng. However, it may not be comparable to Biáng, since they are ‘dead’ characters. This is because they are either no longer in use or scholars cannot find the meaning of the character.
What Are The Other Longest Chinese Words and Characters?
Aside from Biáng, there are also many complicated Chinese words and characters. These words usually also combine several Chinese characters written into a single character.
Since Chinese has a 5000-year-old writing tradition, many of these characters are rarely used today. Some have also become obsolete in use.
|齉||Nàng||36||Blocked or stuffy nose.|
|齾||Yà||35||Chipped, gapped tooth.|
|罐||Guàn||23||Jar, jug, pitcher. More commonly used to describe cans.|
䨻 is the character for thunder. The character basically consists of four 雷 (léi) characters arranged together. It takes 52 strokes to complete this character.
This is probably an obsolete character today. It is rarely used today, perhaps since it is a difficult character to write. Luckily the simplified form of the character is 雷 (léi), also meaning thunder.
The character 齉 is actually still in use in modern Chinese today. It is a 36-stroke character and a medical term, meaning a blocked or stuffy nose. It is actually a combination of two characters, 鼻 (bí) which means nose, and 囊 (náng), which means a bag or container.
The most common way of using this character would be to say ‘我有齉鼻子‘ (wó yǒu nàng bí zǐ, I have a stuffy nose.)
This character exists in modern dictionaries. As a result, it is not a dead word. However, it takes a lot of strokes to write them, which means they are not popular these days.
The character 齾 actually means a chipped or gapped tooth. It takes 35 strokes to complete writing the character too.
The character 矗 means upright and lofty. This makes sense since the character requires you to write the character 直 (zhí) three times. 直 actually means ‘straight,’ which may relate well with upright and lofty if you think of it.
This 24-stroke character is also not used frequently, perhaps only by those educated in Chinese.
The character 罐 may be the most commonly used character in this list. One good thing about this is that the character takes 23 strokes to write, which is not much compared to Biáng or 䨻.
The character 罐 basically means a jar or a can. For example, a glass mason jar in Chinese is written as 玻璃罐 （bō lí guàn). An aluminum can is written as 铝罐 (lü guàn).
We first discussed how it may not be straightforward to tell what is the longest Chinese word. Then we looked at the longest Chinese word or the Chinese character with the most strokes.
If you are looking to learn Chinese and found yourself reading this article, do not be scared away since these super hard-to-write Chinese characters are very few and far. Most characters do not cross 20 strokes, and hard-to-write ones are rarely used.
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