Chinese Idioms

This is a list of some idioms that I’ve come across through my translation projects. I thought it would be fun to keep a collection of them for anyone else who enjoys them too! The definitions come from the yabla dictionary, by the way.

If you click on the idiom, it will take you to the chapter where I found it. Then you can scroll to the footnotes at the bottom of the page to find the idiom and click on the footnote number. This will take you to where it is used in the chapter.

狼心狗肺 – láng xīn gǒu fèi
“heart of a wolf, lungs of a dog”; cruel and unscrupulous, ungrateful and heartless, etc.

锦衣玉食 – jǐn yī yù shí
“brocade garments, jade meals”; life of extravagance/luxury; 2

心惊胆战 – xīn jīng dǎn zhàn
“heart alarmed, trembling in fear”; scared witless

魂飞魄散 – hún fēi pò sàn
“soul flies away and scatters”; frighted stiff/terror-stricken

打草惊蛇 – dǎ cǎo jīng shé
“beat the grass and startle the snake”; inadvertently alert the enemy/punish somebody as a warning to others; 2

兵荒马乱 – bīng huāng mǎ luàn
“soldiers mutiny and troops rebel”; turmoil and chaos caused by war

失而复得 – shī ér fù dé
“to lose something and then regain it”

尘埃落定 – chén āi luò dìng
“the dust has settled”; get sorted out/be finalized

横冲直撞 – héng chōng zhí zhuàng
“bashing sideways and colliding straight on”; to push through shoving and bumping/to charge around violently

无事不登三宝殿 – wú shì bù dēng sān bǎo diàn
“One doesn’t visit a temple without a cause”; to visit somebody with an ulterior motive (especially to ask for something); having a hidden agenda

有钱能使鬼推磨 – yǒu qián néng shǐ guǐ tuī mó
“money will make the Devil turn millstones”; you can do whatever you want if you have money

单枪匹马 – dān qiāng pǐ mǎ
“single spear and horse”; single-handed or unaccompanied

老气横秋 – lǎo qì héng qiū
“old and decrepit”; proud of one’s age and experience

御驾亲征 – yù jià qīn zhēng
“the emperor leads his troops into battle”; to take part personally in an expedition

心平气和 – xīn píng qì hé
“tranquil and even-tempered”; calmly and without stress

若无其事 – ruò wú qí shì
“as if nothing happened”; calmly, nonchalantly

察言观色 – chá yán guān sè
“to weigh somebody’s words and observe their facial expression”; to discern somebody’s thoughts from their body language

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