Synonyms in Chinese – Even Within the Same Word!

synonyms in Chinese

Word Structure: Parallel 并列式

Compound Words – Multiple Morpheme Words (合成词)

This is part 4 of an 8-part series exploring all 7 types of Chinese compound words. This is part 4 – Synonyms in Chinese. Click below for the other parts:

Part 1 – Part 2 – Part 3 – Part 4 – Part 5 – Part 6 – Part 7 – Part 8

Parallel 并列式

The different types of Chinese Parallels

The two morphemes in a Parallel word have equal value. The meaning of the two morphemes can be the same (相同), nearly the same (相近), opposite (相反), related to the same concept (相关), or one of the two morpheme’s meaning has disappeared (消失).

Parallel words in Chinese

Exactly the Same & Nearly the Same

(相同和相近) – Synonyms in Chinese

Exactly the Same & Nearly the Same (相同和相近)

朋友 péngyǒu

Friend. Both 朋 and 友 have the meaning of “friend.”

兄弟 xiōngdì

Brother or Brothers. Both 兄 and 弟 have the meaning of “brother.”

灰尘 huīchén

Dust, both 灰 and 尘 have the meaning of “dust.”

Further Examples of Synonyms in Chinese:

真正 zhēnzhèng


江河 jiānghé


均匀 jūnyún

Even, Well Distributed

道路 dàolù


离别 líbíe

Part (for a longish period); Bid Farewell

答应 dáyìng

To Promise

依靠 yīkào

To Rely On

如同 rútóng

As, Like

爱好 àihào


伟大 wéidà

Great, Mighty (as in a person’s ability or influence)

孤独 gūdú

Alone, Isolated

寒冷 hánlěng

Bitterly Cold

美丽 měilì


富裕 fùyù

Rich, Wealthy

Opposite (相反)

Opposite Synonyms

左右 zuǒyòu

Approximately or On Both Sides

Left 左 and Right 右 are opposite

进出 jìnchū

To Pass In & Out

Enter 进, and Exit 出 are opposite

多少 duōshao

How Much? or Some Amount

Many 多 and Few 少 are opposite

Further Examples of Opposite Juxtaposition 相反并列式:

父母 fùmǔ

Mother & Father

内外 nèiwài

Internal & External

上下 shàngxià

Above & Below

儿女 érnǚ

Sons & Daughters

子女 zínǚ

Sons & Daughters

黑白 hēibǎi

Black & White

大小 dàxiǎo

Size (like shoe size)

长短 chángduǎn

Length (long & short)

开关 kāiguān

Light Switch (open & close)

买卖- mǎimài

Do Business (buy & sell)

东西- dōngxī

Stuff (east & west)

出入- chūrù

Come In & Go Out (exit & enter)

来往- láiwǎng

(regarding human relationships) Come & Go (come & go)

得失 déshī

Success & failure (gain & lose)

生死 shēngsǐ

Life & Death (life & death)

呼吸 hūxī

Breath (exhale & inhale)

高低 gāodī

Height (high & low)

深浅 shēnqiǎn

Depth (deep & shallow)

反正 fǎnzhèng

In any case, anyway (against & for)

横竖 héngshù

In any case, anyway (horizontal & vertical)

迟早 chízǎo

eventually, sooner or later (late & early)

早晚 záowǎn

sooner or later (early & late)

先后 xiānhòu

being early or later: priority (beginning & end)

Related words

These words contain two morphemes that come from the same type of thing, but they aren’t the same. Also, worth noting that many of these are not a direct translation of the two morphemes’ original meaning. For example, 骨肉 gǔròu is made up of “bone” 骨 and “meat” 肉,but the definition is one’s children, parents, brothers, sisters or other blood relatives, not only bones and meat.

Examples for those Chinese synonyms:

中西 zhōngxī,中外 zhōngwài

中西 refers to the relationship between China (中) and the West (西).  中外 refers to the relationship between China (中) and any foreign country (外). These morphemes are not the same or opposites. However, they are in the same category of things (states and political entities).

母女 múnǚ

The relationship between a mother and daughter. Not the same or opposites, but in the same category (relations)

江湖 jiānghú

江 means river and 湖 lake, but the word 江湖 refers to all corners of the earth, so its an excellent example of a Parallel Related word where the meaning is only abstractly related to the morphemes.

Further Examples for Synonyms in Chinese:

母子 múzǐ

Mother & Son Relationship

父女 fùnǚ

Father & Daughter Relationship

父子 fùzǐ

Father & Song Relationship

骨肉 gǔròu

Blood relative(s) (bone & meat)

手足 shǒuzú

Movement or Brothers (hand & foot)

眉目 méimù

progress, the prospect of a solution (eyebrow & eye)

口齿 kóuchǐ

enunciation; ability to speak (mouth & teeth)

江山- jiāngshān

Country or State Power (river & mountain)

耳目- ěrmù

One who spies for somebody else (ear & eye)

领袖- lǐngxiù

Leader (of people) (collar & sleeve)

手脚- shóujiǎo

Movement of limbs (hand & foot)

嘴脸- zuíliǎn

somebodies ugly features or face (mouth & face)

口舌- kǒushé

dispute or misunderstanding caused by gossip (mouth & tongue)

心血- xīnxuè

painstaking care or effort (heart & blood)

One Meaning Disappears (消失)– Synonyms in Chinese

One Meaning Disappears

Some words have two morphemes, but one of the morphemes no longer expresses any meaning (it may have at some point in the history of Chinese, but in modern Chinese has disappeared.)


忘记 wàngjì

To Forget- (forget & remember, remember’s 记 meaning has disappeared)

国家 guójiā

Country (country & home, home’s 家 meaning has disappeared)

人物 rénwù

Person (person & thing, thing’s 物 meaning has disappeared)

窗户 chuānghu

Window (window & door, door’s 户 meaning has disappeared)

甘苦 gānkǔ

Hardships & difficulties experienced in work (sweet & bitter, sweet/s 甘 meaning has disappeared)

好歹 háodǎi

Mishap; disaster- (good & evil, good’s 好 meaning has disappeared)

是非 shìfēi

Quarrel; Dispute- (is & is not, is’ 是 meaning has disappeared)

So now you know more about synonyms in Chinese. Check out the rest of the series to learn even more.

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