In Chinese, looks can kill – and it’s a good thing!

The term “杀 (shā)” is used to indicate causing the death of someone or something, akin to the usage of “kill” in English.

杀人(shārén): v. kill/murder


shārén fànfǎ
It’s illegal to kill.

tā shārén le.
He killed someone.

Given the popularity of the game 王者荣耀(wángzhě róngyào) in recent years, there’s a large chance you’ve heard the announcement, “双杀(shuāng shā) Double kill!” or “三杀(sān shā) Triple kill!” blare from someone’s phone when multiple enemies in a row were killed.

However, despite the announcement being in English, Chinese characters appeared on the screen.

双杀(shuāng shā): double kill

三杀 (sān shā): triple kill


wǒ yóuxì zhōng dì yī cì shuāngshā le, wǒ zhēnshì tài kāixīn le.
I got my first in-game double kill, I was so happy.

“杀” is also found in other contexts. The word also means to put an end to something, like a film sequence or project, e.g. Although the announcement is in English, Chinese characters popped up on the screen.

杀青(shāqīng): v. wrap up


zhè bù piānzǐ jìhuà xià zhōu shāqīng.
The movie is scheduled to wrap up next week.

Over the years, new expressions and usages of “to kill” have emerged, with connotations that are quite different from the English meanings.

For example, phrases like, “眼神杀(yǎnshén shā)”, “摸头杀(mōtóu shā)”, and “侧颜杀(cèyán shā)”; the “killing” here is charming, rather than alarming, and even tongue-in-cheek depending on the situation.

眼神杀(yǎnshén shā): killing with one’s eyes

This expression primarily describes an actor’s eyes during a performance – indicating superb and entirely convincing acting.

摸头杀(mōtóu shā): killing with a head touch

This refers to a gentle touch of a girl’s head by a boy, and has been popularized in soap operas and anime. The actual gesture involves a combination of gentle rubbing while touching, and many believe it can captivate a girl’s heart instantly.

侧颜杀(cèyán shā): killing with one’s profile

This is used to refer to those who look amazing, and it is mostly used for celebrities. It means that a person’s profile is very, very beautiful, almost to an unbearable degree.

Have you used any of the above Chinese expressions about “killing”?

HSK 3 quiz

Please read the dialogue and answer the question.
Tina: This movie is finally finished.
Tom: Congratulations, now you can rest for a while!
The above dialogue describes ______ .

A. 杀青(shāqīng)

B. 杀人(shārén)

C. 眼神杀(yǎnshén shā)

You May Want to Learn More :

In Chinese, looks can kill – and it’s a good thing!”
“Food, Virus, and “A Little Soldier””
“An “Interesting” Explanation of “有趣(yǒuqù)” and “有意思(yǒuyìsi)””

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