Are You a Sucker? Know “冤大头 (yuāndàtóu)” and It’s Warning Signs


As the old English expression goes:
A fool and his money are soon parted.
Some people have “deeper pockets” than others. Often, those people with the deep pockets are surrounded by others who sense that heavy wallet and will take advantage of that person’s financial generosity. In English, this person may be called a “big spender”, which doesn’t sound so bad, or “gullible”, which has a more negative meaning. When the surrounding people or entrepreneurs are taking advantage of someone who is in the position to pay the bill or buy a product we have a word to describe the unfortunate “victim” of this greed. This kind of “sucker” could be called “冤大头 (yuāndàtóu)” in Chinese.
Often, the “sucker” gets stuck with the entire bill at a restaurant. Other diners at the table may sense that the “冤大头 (yuāndàtóu)” will be paying the check, so they may order expensive items from the menu. Maybe the “冤大头 (yuāndàtóu)” always ends up “buying too many rounds” at the bar. Perhaps on holiday, a tour guide or resort may expect the “冤大头 (yuāndàtóu)” to pay a lot more for food and services than the locals do, since the “冤大头 (yuāndàtóu)” is new to the country.
So, what exactly is a “

冤大头 (yuāndàtóu)


Let’s deconstruct “冤大头 (yuāndàtóu)”:

冤 (yuān) means: bad luck/enmity/injustice/wrong.
大 (dà) is a very common word meaning “big.”
头 (tóu) means head.
大头 (dàtóu) is the larger and thicker end of something; the largest share; the major part.
Originally, the phrase “冤大头 (yuāndàtóu)” referred to spending money unnecessarily. Today, it is used to refer to a person who is deceived or taken advantage of on account of his or her generosity. Of course, it can be referred to manipulated and bullied people who have wasted their money. In English, it’s not uncommon for this person to be referred to as a “sucker”.

Examples of “冤大头 (yuāndàtóu)” in a sentence:

Wǒ shénme shíhou dāng yuāndàtóu le?
我    什么      时候     当      冤大头    了?
When was I the sucker?

Jack jīntiān zuò le cì yuāndàtóu.
Jack   今天  做 了 次     冤大头。
Jack got ripped-off at the market today.

So, do you know a “冤大头 (yuāndàtóu)”? Do you suspect that you may be one? Share your thoughts with us!

HSK 3 quiz

1. You might be a “冤大头 (yuāndàtóu)” if you’re constantly:
A. sharing the bill equally with your friends
B. being invited to dinner parties and picnics
C. Bought a lot useless goods because the tourist guide suggested an overpriced souvenir shop
D. cooking dinner with friends

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2 thoughts on “Are You a Sucker? Know “冤大头 (yuāndàtóu)” and It’s Warning Signs”

  1. Its a very very helpful service. I appreciate ur kind efforts. I iften go through your posts & always end up liking each and every one.
    Am not poficient in speaking chinese, it would be great if u could assign someone for me please

    1. jennifer.zhu

      Hi Wangxi. Thank you for the comment. I’m glad you like our contents. If you have any questions, you can send us emails or you can follow us on WeChat(ID: eChineseLearning). Our Mandarin teachers will answer your Chinese questions there. (*^__^*)

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