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Body Parts: The Names of the Fingers in Chinese

Dec. 23, 2015

five fingers
Read the Story:

“五个手指头的对话(Wǔ gè Shǒuzhǐtou de Duìhuà)” The Five Fingers’ Dialogue

Yìtiān wǎnshang, wǔ gè shǒuzhǐtou tǎng zài chuáng shàng liáotiān.
一天     晚上,     五  个   手指头        躺    在    床        上       聊天。
One night, five fingers laid on the bed chatting.

Zhōngzhǐ shuō: āiyō,   mǔzhǐ dàgē,  nǐmen bù zhīdào wǒ de shēnghuó yǒu duō kǔ, xiǎo zhǔrén
中指         说:“哎哟,拇指  大哥,你们  不  知道    我  的  生活         有   多   苦,小   主人
tiāntiān yòng wǒ xiězì,   lèisǐle.”
天天       用    我 写字,累死了。”
The middle finger said: “Ouch, finger brothers, you don’t know how much hardship I have in my life, every day little master uses me to write characters, I’m exhausted.”

Wúmíngzhǐ jiēzhe shuō: “Wǒ hái búshì yíyàng, xiǎo zhǔrén wúliáo de shíhou, jīngcháng niē wǒ, zhēn
无名指        接着    说: “我  还 不是   一样,小     主人    无聊    的  时候,  经常        捏  我,真
tǎoyàn.”
讨厌。”
The middle finger said: “It’s the same for me, when little master was bored, he constantly pinches me, what a nuisance.”

“Wǒ bǐ nǐmen gèng cǎn ne,”  shízhǐ shuō: “shàngcì xiǎo zhǔrén xiāo píngguǒ, bùxiǎoxīn jiù bǎ wǒ
“我   比  你们     更    惨  呢,” 食指  说:  “上次      小    主人    削    苹果,   不小心    就  把  我

gēshāng le,   hǎo tòng a!”
割伤      了,好   痛   啊!”
“I am more miserable than all of you,” said the index finger, “last time when little master was peeling an apple, he wasn’t careful and cut me, it’s so painful!”

“Nǐmen kàn wǒ,” xiǎomǔzhǐ shuō: “xiǎo zhǔrén jīngcháng liàn gāngqín, dōngtiān wǒ hǎo lěng a,    dōu
“你们     看   我,”小拇指        说:“小     主人     经常        练   钢琴,     冬天        我   好   冷  啊,都
dòng huài le.” Shuōzhe shuōzhe, xiǎomǔzhǐ kūqǐlái le.
冻      坏   了。”说着       说着,  小拇指    哭起来了。
“You guys look here,” said pinkie finger, “everyday little master practices the piano, in winter I am so cold, I freeze.” As pinkie finger said this he started crying.

Dàmǔzhǐ wèi xiǎomǔzhǐ cāgān le yǎnlèi shuō: “Nà yě méibànfǎ a,   sheí jiào wǒmen dōushì xiǎo zhǔrén
大拇指    为   小拇指      擦干   了 眼泪   说: “那  也  没办法  啊,谁  叫    我们     都是     小    主人
de hǎo bāngshǒu ne.”
的  好     帮手       呢。”
The thumb wiped pinkie finger’s tears dry and said, “There is nothing to be done, we are the little master’s good helpers.”

Yúshì,   zài dàmǔzhǐ de ānwèi xià,   wǔ gè shǒuzhǐtou yě jìnrù le mèngxiāng.
于是, 在  大拇指   的  安慰  下,五 个   手指头      也 进入了   梦乡。
Thus, under the thumb’s comforting words, the five fingers entered into dreamland.

Have you learned the names of the fingers in Chinese yet? Do you know why the fingers were given these names?

The thumb

As you already know, the thumb is the biggest and thickest of all the fingers. In Chinese, finger is “指(zhǐ)” and thumb, because of its size, becomes “大拇指(dàmǔzhǐ)” or “big finger.” There is a drinking game related to the second character in this word, called 拇战(mǔzhàn), and is a finger-guessing game.

拇战(mǔzhàn): Also called “划拳(huá quán)” or “猜拳(cāi quán),” this is a drinking game where two people hold up a certain amount of fingers at the same time. As they hold up their fingers, they also guess a number. Whoever guesses a number that is the same as, or closest to, the amount of fingers being held up wins!

The index finger

In Chinese, the word for this finger is quite different. The English word “index” means “to point out,” so the reasoning of this name is that this finger is used to point out things. Whereas, in Chinese, this finger is called “food finger,” or “食指(shízhǐ),” because it is the finger that is used to pick up food when there are no chopsticks to use or they aren’t necessary. Did you know there are things you shouldn’t do with chopsticks?

The middle finger

The Chinese and English are the same for this one, middle finger is “中指(zhōngzhǐ)” simply because it is in the middle of the hand. The character “中(zhōng)” means “middle” and is also used in words like China, “中国(zhōngguó)” meaning “middle kingdom.”
the ring finger

The ring finger

So called because it’s the finger the ring is placed upon, the ring finger is reserved for marriage. In Chinese this word is the opposite. Instead of being named for the ring that is placed upon it, it is named… after the lack of ring. After a person gets married, they change from a person with no status “无名分(wú míngfèn)” to a person with a status “有名分(yǒu míngfèn)”, aka married. Therefore, the ring finger is called “无名指(wúmíngzhǐ)” in Chinese after an unmarried person, although the word “无名指(wúmíngzhǐ)” itself is just used to refer to the ring finger.

The pinkie finger

This word in Chinese is much more straightforward than its English equivalent, as many may not know what “pinkie” means. As you may have guessed, pinkie finger is “小指(xiǎozhǐ)” in Chinese. You could also call this finger “小拇指(xiǎomǔzhǐ)” which is the opposite of the word for thumb.

Simply put, if you can remember the words for big, middle and small in Chinese, then you have three of the five fingers’ names down!

Examples:

Qǐng shùqǐ  nǐ de  dàmǔzhǐ.
请     竖起 你 的  大拇指。
Please hold up your thumb.

Chōuyān yòng de shǒuzhǐtou shì shízhǐ hé zhōngzhǐ.
抽烟        用    的   手指头      是  食指  和   中指。
The fingers used to smoke are the index finger and the middle finger.

Shēnzhí nǐ de xiǎomǔzhǐ.
伸直     你 的 小拇指。
Hold your pinkie finger up straight.

Related Post:

The Hand Game — Rock-Paper-Scissors

Chinese song: 五指歌 (Wǔzhǐgē) The Five Fingers Song

Quiz:

1. What is the measure word for finger?
A. 根(gēn)
B. 条(tiáo)
C. 只(zhī)

2. Which of these is not a word for finger?
A. 手指头(shǒuzhǐtou)
B. 手指(shǒuzhǐ)
C. 拇战(mǔzhàn)

See Answer Analysis

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Comments

No.1 is (a)
No.2 is (b)

Congratulations you got the right answer for the first quiz. But the answer of No.2 is C. As “拇战(mǔ zhàn)” is a game that people often play when drinking. It is not the word for “finger”. Feel free to let me know if you have any other questions.

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