Thoughts on 宅 zhái

homestead-149897__480Yes, my thought bubbles are boiling! Especially after days of memorizing the information to pass two exams I set as the goal for myself in this summer, my brain is on fire like a volcano ready to erupt! Of these two challenges that I picked to go along with my committed working schedule, one is for my driving license and one is for the mastery of the AXIS system for data management. So, as you may see, I have a lot of memorization, understanding and thinking to do for the next two months.

This is alright for me when the Beijing weather is all hot, gloomy and smoggy. It’s not that great outside anyway, so why bother to explore for a little bit outdoor fun? But these days it’s a different story! The air is so good, breeze cool and refresh, that it all becomes a complete distraction for me.

I looked at my calendar, realizing for weeks I have been juggling among books, computer and my phone. That translates to too much indoor time of mine that is brain demanding. Then I thought of this word 宅 zhái, formally understood in English as residence/house as a noun and in the informal context equivalent to the English word nerdy as an adjective.

The word 宅 zhái has extended meanings if you dig a little deeper to its origin. I’m not going to do that here, instead mainly to introduce its informal use in today’s Chinese. Its informal meaning has become more of a trendy word that is widely adopted to describing people who tend to dwell at home. Now I think宅女 zháinǚ (女is woman in Chinese) is a word to name me much appropriate if not the most. I guess our lifestyle of today’s society where more individuals spend time on working from home, playing internet games or on social media etc. has a lot to do with it. After all, the development of any language is a constant-evolving process, isn’t it? It’s noteworthy of mentioning that unlike the English nerdy, 宅 zhái can be viewed as a neutral word of choice in emotion. As much as 宅 zhái has its origin of a word with negative meaning, I’m happy to call myself 宅女 zháinǚ—-or 宅男 zháinán if I was a guy (as you would have guessed, 男 nán is man in Chinese) —-since these words has been well-accepted by the Chinese speakers especially among the mainlanders in China and that its connotation is heavily depends on the context.

If you are learning Chinese or have had the experience of learning a new language, chances are you will also think that the best way to master an unfamiliar word is through using it in sentence. So, here it comes in case it helps.


I’m a woman who dwells at home a lot.

Or I’m a nerdy woman (but without any negative meaning).


I stay indoors a lot.

Writing up to this point, I start to think perhaps I should let off steam to have some outdoor fun! You know what, I think I’m going to do just that after this post!

Alright, as usual, you can always click the audio play below to hear the Chinese term’s pronunciation. Any thoughts? Welcome to leave your comments!


4 thoughts on “Thoughts on 宅 zhái

  1. I have a question that may illustrate how little I know about your language. I was under the impression that Chinese had very few words that had multiple meanings. Am I wrong? (it’s OK, that happens a lot). If I’m not wrong (that happens occasionally) is this a modern trend toward trendy words?


    1. A great question to ask! 🙂 In fact, Chinese has many words with multiple meanings. Like the one in this post, 宅 zhái means house, residence or a word to refer to a habit that someone stays at home a lot.

      Nonetheless, this feature is the drive for the meaning of words to evolve, I think. In the case of 宅, the character does have the origin to describe people who are socially awkward, but now in the word 宅男or 宅女, it’s not necessarily the case any more. People start using the term without indicating the idea of isolation today.

      Thanks for the question! It’s a very interesting angle to look at it. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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