The Meaning of Good


You’ve no doubt heard people say nǐ hǎo … meaning hello, hi or how are you?

It literally means ‘you good’ in Mandarin Chinese.  This greeting is a more formal one for visitors who may be new to your establishment.

Hǎo, meaning good, is a wonderful word often found nestled in with others.  It can also be said alone.  You say it like a rounded ‘how’ when you’d like to say something affirmative such as ok, fine or done among other uses. 

The meaning is intriguing too. The hǎo character  is made up of 2 radicals-femaleand male .  In Hong Kong I would often get the thumbs up and ‘hóu’ (Cantonese) when telling people I had one son and one daughter, seen as the essence of good.

On the other hand, my Mandarin teacher from the one-child era of Mainland China insisted that the components of hǎo 好 epitomised a mother with her only son.

Hǎis a great word to use, no matter which variation of the deeper meaning is understood.

Together with a smile and a little nod of your head, this affirming, positive word definitely is a handy one to use with visiting Chinese tourists.

Guest writer:Pamela Murphy is a CQ (Cultural Intelligence) Certified Advanced Professional