25 December 2010


There is a new word that is now being used widely in Taiwan: 霸凌 bàlíng, which is a borrowing from the English word bullying. You can hear it every day many times on the news, as they discuss the case of a school principle who failed to handle the cases of bullying in her school and was forced to step down.

Although there is already a Chinese word for 'to bully', 欺負 qīfù, this new word 霸凌 has a narrower meaning, referring specifically to bullying in school.

What is interesting about this word is that it is not just a new borrowing from English but it also carries meaning from the two characters. It is more usual for borrowings just to carry the phonetic value of the characters but not their meaning, so for example 巴士 bāshì ('bus') carries no meaning from the individual characters. However, for 霸凌, the two characters mean 'tyrant' and 'maltreat', so you might say that the word is both a borrowing and an indigenous coinage.