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女字旁 Nv zi pang: The Female Radical

Radicals are the building blocks of Chinese characters and show us the meaning or sometimes pronunciation of a character. If you’re interested in learning to read and write Chinese characters, radicals are an integral part of the learning process, and you can check out our article, The Radical Truth, to find out why learning radical is important.

You can read some other articles from our ‘radical’ series here.

I want to focus on another one of these radicals, 女字旁 (nǚ zì páng), or the ‘female radical’. While most often associated with characters that label female relatives, this radical can also be seen in other words, some positive and some not so positive. Here are a few very common ones:

1. 好 (hǎo)

(hǎo) = good / well / proper

This one is pretty self-explanatory. If you have a woman () and (zǐ), or son, then everything is good.

Example: 他是个好人,大家都很喜欢他。(Tā shìgè hǎorén, dàjiā dōu hěn xǐhuan tā) = He is a good man and everyone likes him very much.

2. 她 (tā)

(tā) = she

Example: 她希望当一个好妈妈。(Tā xīwàng dāng yīgè hǎo māma) = She hopes to be a good mother.

3. 妈妈 / 媽媽 (mā ma)

妈妈 (mā ma) = mama / mommy / mother

For those (like me) who may be offended by the (mǎ = horse) in this character, I have been assured many times that it is only there for pronunciation.

Example: 当一个好妈妈真不容易。(Dāng yīgè hǎo māma zhēn bù róngyì) = To be a good mother is not very easy.

4. 奶奶 (nǎi nai)

奶奶 (nǎi nai) = (informal) grandma (paternal grandmother)

Example: 我的奶奶很疼我。(Wǒ de nǎinai hěn téng wǒ) = My grandmother loves me.

5. 姐姐 (jiě jie)

姐姐 (jiě jie) = older sister

Example: 我的姐姐是一名老师。(Wǒ de jiějie shì yī míng lǎoshī) = My older sister is a teacher.

6. 妹妹 (mèi mei)

妹妹 (mèi mei) = younger sister

Example: 她的妹妹很勤劳。(Tā de mèimei hěn qínláo) = Her younger sister is very diligent.

7. 妻子 (qī zi)

妻子 (qī zi) = wife

Example: 这个男人并不喜欢他的妻子。(Zhège nánrén bìng bù xǐhuan tā de qīzi) = This man really does not like his wife.

8. 妙 (miào)

(miào) = clever/wonderful

Example: 这个主意妙极了! (Zhège zhǔyi miào jíle) = This idea is fantastic!

Here are some not so positive words that use 女字旁:

9. 奴隶 / 奴隸 (nú lì)

奴隶 (nú lì) = slave

Example: 工人们不愿意做地主的奴隶。(Gōngrénmen bù yuànyì zuò dìzhǔ de núlì) = The workers don’t want to be the slaves of the landlord.

10. 奸 / 姦 (jiān)

(jiān) = traitor / crafty and evil person / rape

Example: 这个男人因为强奸女人被判进了监狱。(Zhège nánrén yīn wéi qiángjiān nǚrén bèi pàn jìnle jiānyù) = This man was sentenced to serve in jail because he raped a woman.