The Two Meanings of “Chī Cù” in Chinese: Eating Vinegar and Jealousy

Hope you do not 吃醋 right now! This article explains the meaning


Another expression with a double meaning… Kungfucius trigger warning: Again, we will have a food-related expression. Check out the other articles about eating papaya in Chinese and eating tofu in Chinese.

So, another culinary and not so culinary example is “吃醋” (chī cù), which literally translates to “eating vinegar” but also has a metaphorical meaning related to jealousy. In this article, we will explore the two meanings of “吃醋” and their cultural significance.

  1. The Literal Meaning: Eating Vinegar

吃 (chī) means “to eat” or “to consume,” and 醋 (cù) refers to “vinegar.” When taken literally, 吃醋 (chī cù) simply means to eat or consume vinegar. Vinegar is an essential ingredient in Chinese cuisine and is used in various dishes, particularly in pickles and sauces. The literal interpretation of 吃醋 (chī cù) is quite straightforward and does not require further explanation.

Interestingly, the character 醋 (cù) is formed by combining a wine radical 164 that forms a part of the character for alcohol 酒 (jiǔ) and the phonetic cùo which has a sun in it and often means something like former or ancient. The character 醋 (cù) is also a Japanese Kanji.

  1. The Figurative Meaning: Jealousy

In addition to its literal meaning, 吃醋 (chī cù) has a metaphorical significance related to jealousy, particularly in the context of romantic relationships. When someone is feeling jealous or envious of their partner’s attention or affection towards someone else, they are said to be

 “吃醋” (chī cù). This expression is commonly used in everyday conversations and can be heard in various contexts, such as:

  • 他看到女朋友和别的男人聊天就吃醋。(Tā kàn dào nǚ péngyǒu hé bié de nánrén liáotiān jiù chī cù.): He becomes jealous when he sees his girlfriend chatting with other men.

The origin of this figurative meaning is not entirely clear, but one theory suggests that it is related to the sour taste of vinegar, symbolizing the bitterness and discomfort experienced when feeling jealous. Just as vinegar leaves a sour taste in one’s mouth, jealousy brings a sense of unease and dissatisfaction.


Understanding the two meanings of “吃醋” (chī cù) is a basic feat for Chinese learners. While the literal meaning refers to the consumption of vinegar, its metaphorical significance highlights the complex emotions associated with jealousy. 

Also be aware of the other expressions that Kungfucius highlighted in articles about eating tofu and eating papaya.