Chinese Glossary

This glossary contains all the words used on this site that are special to the study of Chinese.

Homonym: A word spelt or pronounced like another but with a different meaning. In Chinese the use of tones distinguishes a word’s meaning. For example, mǎi (to buy) and mài (to sell). To practice distinguishing the tones try our pronunciation exercises.

Pinyin: Designed in the People’s Republic of China during the mid-1950s, pinyin (拼音)is a phonetic system of the Chinese language. It adopts the roman alphabet to represent phonetic sounds in Mandarin Chinese. There have been many different systems of transcription used for learning Chinese pronunciation. Whereas China’s capital was once called “Peking” in English, using pinyin it is now written “Beijing”. More on pinyin.