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Chinese Character Bites – #34 – 要

Chinese Character Bites 34 - 要

Our character for today is 要

Simplified Chinese character: 要
Traditional Chinese character: 要
(The simplified character and the traditional character are the same)


This character is pronounced yào in the 4th tone, except in 要求 yāoqiú (demand)

What it means:

要 means to want, to wish, main, essential or will (indicating that something will happen in the near future)

You’ll see it in words like 想要 (to want) 需要 (to need) 主要 (main/principle) and 概要 (outline/summary).

Let’s break it down:

This character originally came from another character with a similar pronunciation 腰 (waist) and showed two hands pointing to a woman’s waist, with the radical for flesh on the left hand side.

It was borrowed for the present meaning due to its sound.