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Old - Lao - Chinese Character Profile


The Chinese character 老 means old; aged; or experienced. It is commonly used as a prefix to the surname of a person to show affection or familiarity. It is also used to indicate birth order in a family. It is pronounced lǎo.

The character 老 is a radical, but is made up of two elements - 耂 and 匕. The first element, 耂, is also pronounced lǎo, and is simply a variant of the character 老. The second element is 匕 (pronounced bǐ) and means spoon, ladle; or knife. It also looks a little bit like a cane, so the character 老 could be imagined as an old man with a cane.

The character 考 (kǎo) is related to 老 because it originally meant "old". The modern meaning of 考 (kǎo) is to check; to verify; to test; to examine; to take an exam. Its radical is listed as 老 (lǎo).

There are very few characters based on the radical 老 (lǎo). They mostly have to do with aging, and include:

  • 耄 - mào - aged
  • 者 - zhě - -ist, -er (person); person (who does something)
  • 耆 - qí - man of sixty or seventy
  • 耋 - diè - aged; in one`s eighties

Mandarin Vocabulary With Lǎo

Traditional Characters Simplified CharactersPinyinEnglish
老師 老师 lǎo shī teacher
白頭諧老 白头谐老 bái tóu xié lǎo live to ripe old age in conjugal bliss; remain a devoted couple to the end of their lives
古老 古老 gǔ lǎo ancient/old/age-old
老百姓 老百姓 lǎo bǎi xìng ordinary people; the "person in the street"
老闆 老板 lǎo bǎn boss; business proprietor
老二 老二 lǎo èr the second child or brother (or sister)
老公 老公 lǎo gong (informal) husband
老婆 老婆 lǎo pó (informal) wife
老虎 老虎 lǎo hǔ tiger
老家 老家 lǎo jiā native place; place of origin; home state or region
老實巴交 老实巴交 lǎo shí bā jiāo honest; good natured
老鼠 老鼠 lǎo shǔ rat; mouse
聖誕老人 圣诞老人 shèng dàn lǎo rén Santa Claus
老撾 老挝 lǎo wō Laos
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