Introduction to Chinese Number Slang
Unless you’re a stickler for proper grammar and punctuation, you probably use texting slang such as BRB and LOL when chatting with your friends online.
In Chinese internet slang, abbreviations, acronyms and emojis are similarly used as a form of shorthand to express ideas with the least amount of effort. One of the most interesting forms of online Chinese slang is the use of numbers to represent similar-sounding phrases.
Let’s take a look at some popular examples of Chinese number slang.
First, here’s a recap of the numbers 0-9 in Chinese, which are most often used in Chinese numerical slang:
Zero: 零 (líng)
One: 一 (yī)
Two: 二 (èr)
Three: 三 (sān)
Four: 四 (sì) Considered an unlucky number in Chinese because it sounds like 死 (sǐ) – death.
Five: 五 (wǔ)
Six: 六 (liù)
Eight: 八 (bā)
Nine: 九 (jiǔ)
Interesting examples of Chinese number slang
520 – I love you
The numbers 520 (wǔ’èr líng) sound similar to the phrase 我爱你 (wǒ ài nǐ), which means ‘I love you’.
If you’re really serious about professing your love, you can also use 520 1314.
1314 (yī sān yī sì) sounds like 一生一世 (yī shēng yī shì), which means “one life, one world” or “forever”.
So, 520 1314 means ‘I love you forever’.
88 – Bye bye
The Chinese word for 8, 八 (bā) sounds like the English word “bye”.
88 (bābā) = 拜拜 (bái bái)
You can sign off messages with 88 or 886 (拜拜咯 – bái bái lo).
555 – Crying
555 (wǔ wǔ wǔ) is often used as a proxy for the onomatopoeic 呜呜呜 (wū wū wū), which imitates the sound of crying. For example:
I wanted to buy tickets for the BTS concert, but they were all sold out! 555!
666 – Good job!
Triple 6 may have a negative connotation in the West, but in China it’s used as a compliment.
666 (liù liù liù) sounds like 溜溜溜 (liù liù liù), which is slang for “excellent!”.
56 – Boring!
56 (wǔliù) sounds very similar to 无聊 (wú liáo), which means “boring” or “bored”.
995 – Save me!
995 (jiǔ jiǔ wǔ) stands for 救救我 (jiù jiù wǒ) or “save me”.
7456 – I’m so angry!
7446 (qī sì wǔ liù) is used in place of 气死我了 (qì sǐ wǒ le), which is an exaggerated way of saying “I’m angered (to death)”.
So, if you are too angry to even type, a quick 7456 will do the trick.
748 – Go die!
This is not a very nice one and obviously shouldn’t be used to insult random strangers on the internet.
748 (qī sì bā) represents 去死吧 (qù sǐ ba), which literally means “Go die!” but can also be used to express “Go to hell”.
233 – LOL
233 (èr sān sān) is used to express laughter, much like LOL. Unlike the other examples, 233 doesn’t sound like another word.
According to this handy guide on Chinese slang by ChineseClass101, 233 is the code for the laughing GIF emoticon on the social media platform 猫扑 (māo pū). So people just started using 233 as a shorthand.
918 – Come on!
You’re probably familiar with 加油吧! (Jiāyóu ba!) as a term of encouragement in Chinese.
918 (jiǔ yāo bā) can be used to represent 加油吧! The number one (yī) is sometimes pronounced as “yāo” to avoid confusion with seven (qī).
282: Are you hungry?
282 (èr bā’èr) = 饿不饿? (è bù è). This is a way of asking someone if they are hungry.
Check out this video by Off the Great Wall for more fun examples of Chinese number slang: