Guide: How to Say “Mean” in Mandarin

Welcome to this comprehensive guide on how to say “mean” in Mandarin! Whether you are learning Mandarin for travel, work, or personal interest, having the vocabulary to express yourself accurately is crucial. In this guide, we’ll explore formal and informal ways to convey the meaning of “mean” in Mandarin and provide you with valuable tips and examples.

Formal Ways to Say “Mean”

When you want to use a more formal tone to express the meaning of “mean,” you can utilize the following Mandarin words:

  • 刻薄 (kè bó): This term carries the meaning of “mean” in terms of being unkind, ungenerous, or petty. It depicts the character trait of someone who lacks empathy.
  • 苛刻 (kē kè): When you want to depict someone who is excessively demanding, strict, or critical, you can use this term to convey the notion of “mean.”
  • 刁难 (diāo nàn): This term signifies the act of purposely making things difficult for someone, often with malicious intent or ulterior motives. It suggests a mean-spirited behavior.

Remember, these are formal terms suitable for use in professional settings or when speaking politely to others. Now, let’s explore some informal and colloquial ways of expressing “mean” in Mandarin.

Informal Ways to Say “Mean”

When you are among friends, family, or in a casual setting, you can employ these informal Mandarin words to convey the meaning of “mean”:

  • 坏 (huài): This term carries the sense of someone being “bad” or having a negative disposition. It implies a slightly mischievous or naughty element.
  • 刻薄 (kè bó): While this term was mentioned earlier as a formal word, it can also be used informally. It portrays a more lighthearted sense of someone being “mean” or “stingy.”
  • 损 (sǔn): When describing someone as “mean” in a playful or teasing manner, you can use this term. It suggests a person who enjoys making jokes or teasing others.
  • 小气 (xiǎo qì): This term implies someone being “mean” in terms of being stingy or unwilling to share or give. It can be used humorously among friends or family.

Examples of Usage

Let’s now look at a few examples to help you understand how to use these words effectively in different contexts:

Formal Example:


(Tā duì ruò zhě kè bó wú qíng, cóng bù huì jǐ yǔ rèn hé kuān róng.)

Translation: He is mean and ruthless towards the weak, never showing any kindness.

Informal Example:


(Tā zhēn de tài sǔn le, yī zhí chuō wǒ de tòng chù.)

Translation: He is really mean, always finding ways to poke fun at my weaknesses.

Regional Variations

The Mandarin language is spoken across various regions, and sometimes there are subtle regional variations in vocabulary. However, in the case of “mean,” the terms mentioned earlier are universally understood in most Mandarin-speaking regions, including China, Taiwan, and Singapore.

It’s worth noting that Mandarin Chinese is often influenced by local dialects or accents that may introduce unique phrases or words to convey the same idea. If you encounter any such variation while conversing with native Mandarin speakers, embrace the opportunity to learn and adapt.


Congratulations on completing this guide on how to say “mean” in Mandarin! By now, you should have a good grasp of both formal and informal ways to express this concept. Remember to use the formal terms in appropriate settings and reserve the informal ones for casual situations. With the examples provided, you have valuable tools to express yourself accurately and confidently in Mandarin. Happy learning!

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Written by Jacqueline Ashley

Ni hao! I’m Jacqueline, a language enthusiast with an extensive background in Mandarin. As an author, I genuinely enjoy simplifying your Mandarin journey, providing educational guides on everything, from expressing emotions to naming physical objects, day-to-day conversations to travel-related terms. In fact, engaging in any Mandarin conversation feels just like playing my favorite netball, immersive and full of excitement! When I’m not spinning captivating learning narratives or indulging in my love for cosplay, you’ll often find me exploring culinary delights, a mirror of my gastronomy-inspired posts. Let's embrace the beauty of Mandarin together! Zai Jian!

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