Chinese & Korean Words

Updated August 5, 2020 | Infoplease Staff

Asian loan words in English

by Ann-Marie Imbornoni

Asian Loan Words

Words derived from:

Amoy (eastern China)

  • pekoe, a type of tea.
  • tea, originally pronounced like "tay," can be traced to Dutch thee, from Malay and Amoy.

Cantonese (southern China, Hong Kong)

  • bok choy, meaning "white vegetable."
  • chop chop, means "hurried."
  • chop suey, from a word meaning "miscellaneous bits."
  • chow, related to chop in chop suey, from a word meaning "food, miscellany."
  • chow chow, means "doggie."
  • ketchup, from a word meaning "tomato sauce."
  • kumquat, a small citrus fruit.
  • typhoon, from the words for "great wind."
  • wok, meaning "cauldron."
  • yen, meaning a "yearning" or "strong desire."

Mandarin (Beijing, China; official national standard)

  • gung ho, a motto used by the Chinese Industrial Cooperative Society, from words meaning "work together." It was picked up by U.S. Marines during World War II.
  • kow-tow, from words meaning "to knock [one's] head."
  • kung fu, from gong fu, meaning "skill, art."


  • tae kwon do, meaning "trample-fist-way."

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