top 1
0 1398837
other

Check out Humans of Hong Kong, our newest video series focused on telling Hong Kong stories!

Logo
Copyright © 2021 LOCALIIZ | All rights reserved

A look into Chinese New Year greetings & their meanings

By Grace Chong 8 February 2021

Header image courtesy of Lao Ma (via Shutterstock)

We’ve all been there—surrounded by aunties and uncles, all eyes trained on you as you stand in front of a set of beckoning red packets. All that stands between you and a little extra pocket money are a few phrases, a few Chinese New Year well-wishes, and you’re set! But in that moment, dressed in your new outfit, fingers and mouth still slightly oily from the radish cakes you just ate, your mind panics and no well-wishes come to mind. Well, let us not repeat that humbling experience this year—these Chinese New Year greetings and their meanings (as well as who to say them to) should help you along.

culture 2
0 292124
with-m

General greetings

Chinese New Year may be a time to spend with family, but we should share the festivities and good-will with everyone we meet! Here are some general Chinese New Year greetings that can be used to greet everyone, from your parents to security guards.

新年快樂

Pronunciation: San1 nin4 faai3 lok6; xīn nián kuài lè

Meaning: Happy new year!

牛年大吉

Pronunciation: Ngau4 nin4 daai6 gat1; niú nián dà jí

Meaning: Happy new year of the Ox!

萬事如意

Pronunciation: Maan6 si6 jyu4 ji3; wàn shì rú yì

Meaning: May everything go as you hope!

吉祥如意

Pronunciation: Gat1 coeng4 jyu4 yi3; jí xiáng rú yì

Meaning: I wish you good fortune on all of your desires.

心想事成

Pronunciation: Sam1 soeng2 si6 sing4; xīn xiǎng shì chéng

Meaning: May your heart’s desires come true.

Health & well-being

After a year of face masks and hand sanitisers, it’s no surprise that we’re all looking for a breakthrough in Covid-19 news. Together, we can fight the virus, starting with some Chinese New Year greetings focused around health and well-being. Hopefully, this year will bring us only health and happiness!

身體健康

Pronunciation: San1 tai2 gin6 hong1; shēn tǐ jiàn kāng

Meaning: May you have good health!

竹報平安

Pronunciation: Zuk1 bou3 ping4 on1; zhú bào píng ān

Meaning: May you only hear good and peaceful news.

Fun fact: The purpose of lighting firecrackers during Chinese New Year is to announce that the family is well and no tragic incident had befallen them during the past year. They were also lit to scare off demons and evil spirits at the start of the year. The modern firecracker is constructed of paper, but originally, they were made of bamboo (竹; zuk1). As such, this Chinese New Year greeting literally translates into ”Bamboo reporting peace!”

一帆風順

Pronunciation: Jat1 faan4 fung1 seon6; yī fān fēng shùn

Meaning: May you have smooth sailing in all your endeavours.

Fun fact: This Chinese New Year greeting emerged from sailors and travellers, reporting good winds for (literal) smooth sailing.

歲歲平安

Pronunciation: Seoi3 seoi3 ping4 on1; suì suì píng ān

Meaning: May you experience peace in the years to come.

出入平安

Pronunciation: Ceot1 jap6 ping4 on1; chū rù píng ān

Meaning: May you experience safety and peace wherever you go.

Family

In Chinese, the saying “家和万事兴 (gaa1 wo4 maan6 si6 hing1)”—“The family that lives in harmony will have prosperous affairs“—fully encapsulates the value of the family unit in Chinese culture. During the Chinese New Year season, it’s not uncommon to bestow words of well-wishing on someone’s entire family as part of your exchange. Here are some family-friendly Chinese New Year greetings! 

闔家歡樂

Pronunciation: Hap6 gaa1 fun1 lok6; hé jiā huān lè

Meaning: Happiness and joy for the whole family!

闔家幸福

Pronunciation: Hap6 gaa1 hang6 fuk1; hé jiā xìng fú

Meaning: Happiness and good fortune for the whole family

家宅安寧

Pronunciation: Gaa1 zaak6 on1 ning4; jiā zhái ān níng

Meaning: May your home be filled with peace and tranquillity!

笑口常開

Pronunciation: Siu3 hau2 soeng4 hoi1; xiào kǒu cháng kāi

Meaning: May your year be filled with laughter and smiles!

Fun fact: “哈哈大笑” (haa1 haa1 daai6 siu3) means to laugh heartily and loudly, and is an extension of the saying mentioned here. Its tones match up with traditional Chinese New Year dining, too, as families often eat shrimp (蝦; haa1) during this season of festivities. The Chinese word for shrimp is a homonym for “哈哈” (haa1 haa1), which is the Chinese equivalent of “Haha!”

家肥屋潤

Pronunciation: Gaa1 fei4 uk1 jeon6; jiā féi wū rùn

Meaning: May your family be prosperous!

Fun fact: The literal translation of this Chinese New Year greeting is “Family fat, house moist.”

Keep scrolling for the rest of the guide 👇

Elderly

The concept of filial piety, or respect for elders, is taught to children from a young age, so it should be no surprise that there are specific Chinese New Year greetings frequently used to wish our grandmas and grandpas a good new year! 

龍馬精神

Pronunciation: Lung4 maa5 zing1 san4; lóng mǎ jīng shén

Meaning: May you have the spirit and vitality of a horse or dragon!

龍精虎猛

Pronunciation: Lung4 zing1 fu2 maang5; lóng jīng hǔ měng

Meaning: May you have the spirit of a dragon and ferociousness of a tiger!

壽比南山

Pronunciation: Zau6 bei2 naam4 saan1; shòu bǐ nán shān

Meaning: May you live a long and prosperous life (as the Zhongnan Mountains).

Fun fact: This saying is actually part of a couplet: 福如東海 (fuk1 jyu4 dung1 hoi2),壽比南山 (zau6 bei2 naam4 saan1). The first half of the couplet means, “May your happiness and luck be as vast as the East China Sea (東海),” as water from here supposedly brought luck. The second half refers to the people who lived in Zhongnan Mountains (终南山), who supposedly lived longer and healthier lives. As such, this is a common couplet to say to the elderly, especially at birthdays.

福壽雙全

Pronunciation: Fuk1 sau6 soeng1 cyun4; fú shòu shuāng quán

Meaning: May you enjoy both longevity and good fortune.

身壯力健

Pronunciation: San1 zong3 lik6 gin6; shēn zhuàng lì jiàn

Meaning: May you be healthy and strong.

Students & children

It’s been a tough year for students as they grapple with online class and not being surrounded by peers. On top of lai see packets, give your youngest friends some encouragement as they finish the academic year strong! 

金榜题名

Pronunciation: Gam1 bong2 tai4 ming4; jīn bǎng tí míng

Meaning: I wish you success and top marks in your examinations.

Fun fact: The imperial examination was the civil servant entry examination system, and only the best and brightest of China could pass. Scholars who passed would have their names recorded on the jīnbǎng (金榜; gam1 bong2), a tablet with gold inscriptions with the names of those who passed the exam, signed by the emperor. This accomplishment brought great honour and status to their families and has become a saying for students today.

學業有成

Pronunciation: Hok6 yip6 jau5 sing4; xué yè yǒu chéng

Meaning: May you have academic success and achievements.

鵬程萬裡

Pronunciation: Paang4 xing4 maan6 lei5; péng chéng wàn lǐ

Meaning: May your future prospects be bright and brilliant.

Fun fact: The péng niǎo (鵬鳥; paang4 niu5) is a mythical bird that supposedly could reach up to 90,000 miles in altitude, and create waves that would rise up to 3,000 miles with a flap of its wings. This saying compares the future prospects of the recipient with the prowess of the bird. 

學業進步

Pronunciation: Hok6 yip6 zeon3 bou6; xué yè jìn bù

Meaning: May you have academic progress.

聰明伶俐

Pronunciation: Cung1 ming4 ling4 lei6; cōng míng líng lì

Meaning: May you be clever and quick-witted.

Businesses & work

Hong Kong is known as a hub for innovation and opportunities, and in a city of the hustle economy, we could all use some extra luck in our workplace and career this year! Here are some Chinese New Year greetings for professional success.

年年有餘

Pronunciation: Nin4 nin4 jau5 jyu4; nián nián yǒu yú

Meaning: I wish you an abundance/surplus year after year.

Fun fact: The character “餘” (jyu4) means “surplus,” and is a homonym of the word “魚” (jyu4), which means “fish.” As such, certain regions of China will fry two fishes before the new year, keep it in the fridge until after the new year before consuming, in a symbolic act of hoping the year provides a surplus of income and wealth.

招財進寶

Pronunciation: Ziu1 coi4 zeon3 bou2; zhāo cái jìn bǎo

Meaning: May wealth and prosperity be ushered in.

生意興隆

Pronunciation: Saang1 yi3 hing1 lung4; shēng yì xīng lóng

Meaning: I hope your business thrives and is prosperous.

和氣生財

Pronunciation: Wo4 hei3 sang1 coi4; hé qì shēng cái

Meaning: May amiability bring you wealth.

步步高升

Pronunciation: Bou6 bou6 gou1 sing1; bù bù gāo shēng

Meaning: Each step brings upward growth.

Fun fact: A Chinese New Year food staple is the new year pudding (年糕; nin4 gou1) and the radish cake (蘿蔔糕; lo4 baak6 gou1). The “糕” (gou1) is a homonym with “高” (gou1), and thus, these dishes are eaten to symbolise the phrase “步步高升!”

culture 2
1 195087
with-m

Grace Chong

Editorial intern

Having grown up in a creative community, Grace can often be found taking photos, journaling on train and bus rides, and writing poems to her friends. She is fond of asking friends, family members, and strangers personal questions about their happiness and mental health. If she could ask the whole world a question, it would be, “What was the last thing that made you laugh?” She is an avid fan of Radiolab, Mamamoo, volleyball, and Shin Ramen.

expand_less

Top