What’s up with Shower?

I always say (and hear) “xǐzǎo” 洗澡 for “to take a shower.”

One time, I wanted to ask at a hotel if the room had a shower. So I asked if they had a “yùshì” 浴室. The front desk worker said, “xǐzǎo ma?” 洗澡吗. Ok, sure. So, I guess it’s a noun too?

If you’d be so kind as to leave a comment, I’d like to do a little poll:

1. What word(s) do you say for “a shower” (n.) and “to take a shower” (v.)?

2. Does your favorite dictionary have “xǐzǎo” 洗澡 under the English definition for “shower”?

3. What dictionary was that you just checked?

If I hear back from anyone, the results of this poll will help inform an upcoming article I’m writing.

Thanking you in advance.

31 Replies to “What’s up with Shower?”

  1. CEDICT says:

    to bathe

    Yes, this one makes me confused as well.

    My wife says “我要去洗澡“, and I just copied her. I do wonder from time to time what the noun for that box in the corner of our bathroom is, but I never got around to following this up.

  2. My Mandarin is terrible but I am fluent in Japanese. In Japanese there are tons of nouns that are turned into verbs by adding the simple verb “to do” (する suru). Your 洗澡 conundrum strikes me as having a similar grammatical construction, and doesn’t particularly surprise me (though maybe it should).

    Japanese happens to use the English loan word for “shower” (シャワー shawā), so I can’t comment specifically on “洗澡.”

  3. Just to clarify, I’m not so much baffled by how a word can be a noun and a verb (nothing new there in Chinese). I’m more interested in what word people use (given the many choices) and whether dictionaries list that word under “shower.”

  4. 洗澡 is a verb. 浴室 is the place for 洗澡.
    洗澡吗?”, the receptionist said, means “Take a shower?”
    When you ask Chinese someplaces for do something, for example “有吃东西的地方吗?or 有饭店吗?(Is there some place for eating?)”, most of them will re-ask you “吃饭吗?”, or repeat the question you asked. It’s a kind of confirmation. When you heard our repeat or the action we said, you could say “No” and say want you really want to do.

    洗澡 is a verb.
    We say “我要去洗澡”. “+verb.” means “go and do sth”. If “+noun.”, the noun. is used to be a place, that means “go somewhere”.

    I’m not good at English, and hope you will understand my explanation for my English.:)

  5. My copy of the Pocket Oxford Chinese Dictionary (3rd Ed., 2003) does not list 洗澡 at all.

    For the noun, shower, it presents 阵雨 (zhènyǔ).

    The word used in “to have a shower” is línyù, and I can’t even find the proper character for yù in my Chinese Input Editor.

  6. “xǐzǎo ma?” 洗澡吗? 洗澡is a verb phrase, meaning ‘you want to take a bath?’, in which case the subject is omitted.

    In Chinese, whether a word is a noun or verb can hardly be predetermined without a given sentence because a word which can be used as a noun can uaually be used directly (I mean, with no inflection or fusion) as a verb.

    When followed by a 吗?,the symbol of interrogative sentences, the word (in case there are no other words) is definitely a verb because a sentence can’t fuction without a verb in Chinese.

  7. Up here in the Wild Wild Northeast, there are 旅店 (lǚdiàn; hostel, motel, [“love hotel” would probably be the best translation based on what people really use them for]) all over the place. Most of them have a sign in the front that says what amenities they offer: cable TV, shower, etc. They always use 淋浴 for shower.

    Can 淋浴 be a noun meaning an instance of the act of showering? If so, then you should be able to put in front of it. Then search on Baidu:

    个淋浴” 35,700 hits, many of them preceded by verbs like and . So yes, no problem there. Of course 洗澡 cannot be used as a noun; searching for “个洗澡” produces 13,400 hits, but with one strange exception on the front page (probably a typo), all of which are in modifier position, usually followed by .

    If I wanted to ask someone if there was a shower in a hotel room, I would say “有淋浴吗?”. For “take a shower”, I would just say “洗澡” or “洗个澡”.

    The FLTRP-Collins English-Chinese Chinese-English Dictionary has no noun for the act of showering.

    Also, I think it’s notable that even in English, the “noun” for shower is the result of the light verb construction: take a shower, where the light verb “take” turns the verb “shower” into a noun.

  8. I have always heard 浴室 used to mean showeror rather, a bathroom containing a shower, as opposed to a bathroom with just a toilet. Literally it is the “bathing room”, but I think the assumption has come to be that there is a shower (not a bath, since that is unusual). When I looked up shower using the dictionary on mandarintools.com, it gave me the word in Chinese for rain showers. When I looked up 浴室 it is translated as “bathroom”, not shower. But again I think the assumption is that means there is a shower.
    In the hotel situation where they respond with 洗澡吗?This is a case of what you describe as “stating the obvious”. The person is saying “Ah, so you want to bathe, right?” Maybe the correct response would be “对,我想在浴室里面洗澡, 房间里面有吗?

  9. 浴室 means bathroom. means “room”, just like “办公室(office)”卧室(bedroom)”. That’s the place for taking a bath.

    In the hotel situation, 洗澡吗? does mean “An, so you want to bathe, right?” But we just use the response instead of a long sentence. In oral language, it is the simpler the better. Because everybody know we take bath in the bathroom, we needn’t say “在浴室里洗澡”. If you say like that, we will feel a little bit strange, and we will think you imply something.

  10. Thanks for all the insight (and for confirming my theory that most dictionaries don’t have “xizao” under “shower.”

    Maybe that hotel girl said, “xizao, dui ma?” Would that change anything?

  11. 1. What word(s) do you say for “a shower” (n.) and “to take a shower” (v.)?

    >>> a shower means “”(noun)however if you only say “” to any of a chinese, none of them can understand what it mean. usually, we use “洗澡” together as a verb or noun, that depends on the situation. for example, 我要去洗澡(I want to take a shower), “洗澡”is a verb. 洗澡有益于健康(take a shower is good for your healthin this sentence, “洗澡” is a specialized noun, means such kind of action.

    2. Does your favorite dictionary have “xǐzǎo” 洗澡 under the English definition for “shower”?

    >>> in KingSoft’s “金山词霸”e-dictionary, if you type the “洗澡 it shows the following words:”swab down/tub/wash”

    3. What dictionary was that you just checked?

    >>>Haven’t use the softcopy dictionary more than 20 years, only ues the English-Chinese e-dictionary 金山词霸.

  12. I talked to my secret Chinese sources and here’s what I’ve figured out about the shower thing…

    As you know, both my Lenny and Chubby have LINYU listed in English to Chinese for shower.

    If you rip the word LINYU apart, it comes apart like this (I know you know, just I’m explaining my thought path to you):

    LIN means to have water drip onto something.
    YU means a bath. So literally, to have a dripping bath.

    This word apparently is a PRE-1949 word. (Have you heard of this sort of thing before?) Along with cleaning up a war-torn, broken down nation, I guess the Chinese government also took it upon itself to clean up some of the language and make it more modern and “easier to use.” (To quote my secret Chinese speaker source.)

    Old LINYU was a word created to deal with the modern world’s invention of a dripping bath/shower. New XIZAO just cuts to the chase and is BATHING (the act of cleaning).

    XIZAO shows China is NOT an out-of-date country chasing to deal with the modern world with old measures. XIZAO is a little bit of, ‘We are now a modern country and can deal with the modern inventions, no problem.’

    If you know the commonly used word for shower(POST 1949), XIZAO in the reverse way, Chinese to English, I think the secret to the difference can be found.

    Chubby tells us XIZAO is to ‘have a shower/bath’ and Lenny tells us it means ‘bathe/shower/bathing’.

    If we rip apart XIZAO:

    XI means to wash/to clean.

    The problem is the ZAO, which even my secret Chinese speaker source could not define. It really stumped my source.

    So, I got to ripping apart the character for ZAO on my own (well, with Lenny and Chubby together). It’s a three part character.

    The first part of the ZAO:

    Other characters with the same first part mean things like: Sweat, converge, dirt, sink, sand. Oh, I can see where this is going already!

    The second part of the ZAO is PIN (three little squares), which together mean an item. The PIN character does not usually stand alone and is often used to mean a product/person’s character or quality (see words like PINDE and PINZHI).

    The last part of the ZAO character is MU, wood/tree. This character is also used with words like, rinse, sauna, to relax…

    So together something like, DIRT + ITEM + RINSE. Maybe it’s a bit of a long shot, but it seems to all sort of come together, don’t you think? Maybe I’m stretching the clues too far.

    Anyhow, LINYU is in the dictionary because it’s the old, traditional, proper way to refer to a shower, but modern day China uses the modern word which is XIZAO.


  13. Chinese speakers generally converse at a higher level of abstraction than English speakers. For example, a Chinese speaker will typically say 坐车(ride a vehicle) where we would say “take a bus”. The Chinese speaker would not specify “bus” if it was clear from context or common sense what sort of vehicle he meant. Even if it wasn’t clear, he still might not be specific unless he felt that the type of vehicle was important for the listener to know.

    I think洗澡 (wash up) and 淋浴 (to shower) or 浴室 (a bath room in the literal sense) reflect this same habit of speech. My Chinese wife always uses the general term 洗澡 when she’s going to take a shower. For the first year or so of our marriage, I would say 淋浴. I finally realized that I was speaking Englese (“Chinese with English characteristics”) — using a specific term where the Chinese would not. Since then I’ve gotten into the habit of saying 洗澡. Of course, 洗澡 does not mean the same thing as “shower”, and that’s why the two terms are not listed as equivalents in most dictionaries. But 洗澡 is the normal term to use to talk about one’s daily ablutions, and 淋浴or 浴室 would not be used unless there were some compelling reason to be so specific.

    Learning to speak at a higher level of abstraction is one of those things that makes Chinese difficult for English speakers (and vice versa). It’s not as hard as it sounds, though. For example, I’m perfectly comfortable talking about the tree in my front yard, without specifying whether it’s a maple or a pine. We just have to acquire that same comfort level when we’re talking about riding a bus or taking a shower (and myriads of other subjects). And the way to do that, of course, is to talk to Chinese people as much and as often as you can.

  14. Michael:

    冲凉 is the standard word for shower (v.) in Cantonese. I don’t think too many Mandarin speakers would understand it, let alone use it.

    Contrary to what the character seems to imply, 冲凉 does not have to refer to a cold shower. You could say ()热水凉 to specify that you are talking about a hot shower, or, similarly, ()冻水凉 for a cold shower.

  15. All right, here is the take.

    I use 漢英詞典 (1978) 商務印書館,
    Ricci (french) and my own understanding of the language.

    and both mean the action of washing yourself.

    洗澡 is a verb meaning to wash yourself, with no indication that it is in a tub; I would use 洗澡 if I was washing out of a cooking pan.

    洗澡閒 or 浴室 is the place where you wash, whatever it contains.

    This means that all of the above can be used to refer to showers, without being specific. Although E/C dictionaries do not give 洗澡 to translate shower, 99% of the time it is the term to use.

    Now if you want to make it clear that it is shower and not bath:

    淋浴 is a verb/noun meaning the action of taking a shower.
    淋浴器 is the apparatus for taking a shower.
    淋浴 is not an old-fashioned, pre-49 word; it simply is a technical word, more rarely used
    (nadina, you should not listen to people expounding theories they just made out of their head for the benefit of 大鼻子)

    I can attest to 沖涼 being used in Taiwan Mandarin; it specifically means a shower, taken because you are hot, not dirty. It can be cold or hot, nobody will come and check…

    nice site, Albert, lots of fun.

  16. and now I think I can come up with the perfect words to say ‘to take a shower’
    Both are verbs, and refer specifically to shower, not bath.
    And both are in dictionaries AND have been heard in real life.

    Well, Albert, now you have no excuse. Where is this upcoming article of yours?

  17. Greetings from Guilin! Just want to confirm what others are saying here, according to my Chinese sources; 淋浴 is out-of-date Mandarin that isn’t used anymore.

  18. Da4 jia1 chi1 le5 ma5? (probably a fake greeting, since I’ve never heard it before)

    A Chinese-speaking linguist in Shanghai named Ingar told me once “The Chinese don’t use language for communication.” I think he was at least partially right.

    Cheng2 Yang2 in Puiching/Peizheng

    BTW, the “5” (“neutral tone”) in Chinese might actually be two tones. So, 5 and 6. A quick relatively high tone after a low “tone”, or a quick relatively low tone after a high “tone”. “Tone” meaning “tone or inflection”.

  19. Jim Mahlers comment is basically spot on. Xizao is what is typically used for showering, or bathing, or a shower etc. Although in some situations other words are more appropriate but as a learner its impossible to know when so just go with xizao.

  20. I’m from Singapore and these hokkien terms are commonly used here:
    The above I found off a baidu webpage. You’d be surprised how many ways there are to say ‘shower’ just using the dialect of one province.
    Also, 冲凉 is equally common.

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