The Dual Connotations of “Eat Papaya” in Chinese

Another fruity subject. Who should eat papaya? Let's have a look here!

Language is a fascinating tool that can convey different meanings and emotions, and the Chinese language is no exception. That being said, let’s come to another juicy, fruity topic…

One intriguing phrase, “吃木瓜” (chī mùguā), which translates to “eat papaya,” embodies both positive and negative implications. 

In the last article, Kungfucius explained the duality of eating Tofu and the hormonal consequences thereof. Now, let’s delve into the two aspects of eating papaya.

The Positive Side: Relishing a Nutritious Fruit

At first glance, “吃木瓜” (chī mùguā) refers to the act of eating papaya, a tropical fruit known for its delightful taste and numerous health benefits. Rich in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, papaya is enjoyed across the globe for its nutritional value. Luckily, this is one of the many delicacies from Maya and other 墨西哥 / Mesoamerican cultures created and that is now shared around the world. 

When used in this context, the phrase carries a positive connotation, as it suggests enjoying a tasty and wholesome treat. For instance, someone might say, “我喜欢吃木瓜” (wǒ xǐhuān chī mùguā), meaning “I like eating papaya.”

The Negative Side: A Suggestive Innuendo

Surprisingly, “吃木瓜” (chī mùguā) can also hold an alternative, more suggestive meaning in Chinese. In this sense, it is often used as a metaphor for a woman’s breasts. 

ChatGPT, which Kungfucius consulted about such a mundane topic as eating Papaya suggested that this metaphor is due to the similar shape and size of papaya and woman’s breasts – I leave that to the reader to decide if that is accurate or if ChatGPT just lacks experience when it comes to female anatomy. 

Anyways, when employed in this context, the phrase eating papaya takes on a negative connotation associated with objectifying women or making inappropriate remarks about their bodies.

For example, someone might say, “他在说她的木瓜” (tā zài shuō tā de mùguā), which means “He is talking about her breasts” or “He is making inappropriate comments about her body.” It’s crucial to consider the context and tone when interpreting this phrase to prevent misunderstandings or causing offense. 

More often, it is rather understood in a slightly different context: If a man suggests a woman to eat papaya that might mean she should do so to increase breast size. 

Cultural Significance

The dual meaning of “吃木瓜” (chī mùguā) offers a window into Chinese culture and highlights the intricacies of the Chinese language. You see, wordplay and idiomatic expressions abound in Chinese, and understanding their nuances allows for a more profound appreciation of the language and culture. And none-understanding might lead you to get a free Kung-Fu lesson instead. 


So, when you encounter or use the phrase “吃木瓜” (chī mùguā), be mindful of its dual meanings and the context in which it is used. While it may simply refer to savoring a delicious and nutritious papaya, it could also carry a more negative implication related to objectifying women. Being aware of these subtleties is essential when learning and using the Chinese language, as it fosters more accurate communication and a richer understanding of the culture.

Learn also about eating Tofu in this article here.