9 Chinese Idioms About Covid-19

From January 2020 until now, Covid-19 has changed our world in ways we would have never expected.

Masks are a part of daily outfits and online coursework is just another Monday.

How can you describe these past few years in Chinese? This unique time in modern history can be captured by nine key Chinese idioms about Covid-19.

Trust us, idioms are the best way to take your Chinese from “good” to “Wow, you sound like a native speaker!” Incorporate these top Chinese idioms into your daily speech and writing to convey all the ups, downs, and in-betweens of the Covid-19 era.

焦头烂额 Jiāotóulàn’é (exhausted, burnt out)

Example sentences:

  • 焦头烂额抗疫 Jiāotóulàn’é kàng yì
    • Burnt out from fighting the pandemic
  • 他每天忙得焦头烂额。Tā měitiān máng dé jiāotóulàn’é.
    • He was exhausted from overwork every day

遥遥无期 Yáoyáo wúqí (far in the future, indefinite)

Example sentences:

  • 现在我国接种率已经超过87%,群体免疫依然遥遥无期。Xiànzài wǒguó jiēzhǒng lǜ yǐjīng chāoguò 87%, qúntǐ miǎnyì yīrán yáoyáo wúqí
    • Now my country’s vaccination rate is over 87%, but herd immunity is still a distant dream。
  • 对我来说,毕业的一天还是遥遥无期。Duì wǒ lái shuō, bìyè de yītiān háishì yáoyáo wúqí.
    • For me, graduation day is still a long way off。

千辛万苦 Qiān xīn wàn kǔ (go through many hardships, struggles)

Example sentences:

  • 历经千辛万苦,他终于回到了家乡. Lìjīng qiān xīn wàn kǔ, tā zhōngyú huí dàole jiāxiāng
    • After many hardships, he finally returned to his hometown.
  • 他千辛万苦,终于成了作家。Tā qiān xīn wàn kǔ, zhōngyú chéngle zuòjiā
    • He worked so hard and finally became a writer.

Tip: This idiom usually comes after a verb such as 历经, 经历,or 历尽 which mean “to experience.”

束手无策 Shùshǒuwúcè (both hands tied behind your back with no escape; lost in the face of a crisis)

Example sentences:

  • 大家都束手无策。Dàjiā dōu shùshǒuwúcè
    • Everyone is helpless.
  • 当我们遇见困难束手无策时,一定要给自己勇气。Dāng wǒmen yùjiàn kùnnán shùshǒuwúcè shí, yīdìng yào jǐ zìjǐ yǒngqì
    • When we encounter difficulties, we must give ourselves courage.

随机应变 Suíjī yìngbiàn (adaptable)

Example sentences:

  • 他随机应变的能力很强。Tā suíjīyìngbiàn de nénglì hěn qiáng.
    • He’s very adaptable.
  • 我们班的学生保持随机应变的态度。Wǒmen bān de xuéshēng bǎochí suíjīyìngbiàn de tàidù.
    • The students in our class maintain and adaptable attitude

Tip: You can use this idiom before the particle 的 and then another word such as 态度,能力,or 人–adaptable attitude, capabilities, or people.

一心移疫 Yīxīn yí yì (diligently confront the pandemic)

This idiom was originally written 一心一意 (yīxīnyīyì) meaning “single-minded.” However, the last two characters were replaced with 移疫 which means “remove the pandemic.”

Example sentences:

  • 我们小区要“一心移疫”,认真对待,不紧张。Wǒmen xiǎoqū yào yīxīn yí yì, rènzhēn duìdài, bù jǐnzhāng.
    • Our community should focus on tackling the pandemic, take it seriously, and not be nervous.

多灾多难 Duōzāiduōnàn (plagued with misfortune)

Example sentences:

  • 忘掉那多灾多难的童年吧. Wàngdiào nà duō zāi duō nàn de tóngnián ba
    • Forget those troubled childhood years.
  • 我们的祖国多灾多难. Wǒmen de zǔguó duō zāi duō nàn
    • Our motherland is plagued with disaster.

Tip:  多灾多难 is used to describe serious events and large time periods: a traumatic childhood, a lifetime of troubles, the misfortunes of entire countries or periods in history. Use it to describe 幼年 (childhood), 国家 (a country), 战役 (a battle), or 地球 (the world).

What causes a 多灾多难 situation? Again, large-scale issues such as sickness, war, climate change, or economic troubles.

波谲云诡 Bō jué yún guǐ (unpredictable situation)

Example sentences:

  • 在这个波谲云诡的世界里,我们应该学会适应各种环境带来的变化。Zài zhège bō jué yún guǐ de shìjiè lǐ, wǒmen yīnggāi xuéhuì shìyìng gè zhǒng huánjìng dài lái de biànhuà.
    • In this ever-changing world, we should adapt to environmental changes.
  • 那么多年过去了,世界疫情状况依然波谲云诡。Nàme duōnián guòqùle, shìjiè yìqíng zhuàngkuàng yīrán bō jué yún guǐ.
    • After so many years, the world epidemic situation is still unpredictable.

出手相救 Chūshǒu xiāng jiù (Come to the rescue, lend a hand)

Example sentences:

  • 家中贫困,没有钱救赎自己;朋友也不出手相救。Jiāzhōng pínkùn, méiyǒu qián jiùshú zìjǐ; péngyǒu yě bù chūshǒu xiāng jiù.
    • The family is poor, he has no money to redeem himself, and friends don’t step up to help.
  • 她需要帮助的时候,很多亲戚朋友们来出手相救。Tā xūyào bāngzhù de shíhòu, hěnduō qīnqī péngyǒumen lái chūshǒu xiāng jiù.
    • When she needed help, friends and family came to the rescue.

Learn More

If you already learned these Chinese idioms about Covid-19, check out our other resources:

10 Popular Chinese Idioms You Must Know!
9 Best Schools to Study Chinese in Beijing in 2022!
19 Unique Facts About Chinese History You Won’t Learn in Class!
Best FREE Ways to Self-Study Chinese Online in 2022

Find a Chinese Class

If you want to learn more than just these few Chinese idioms about Covid-19, and want to practice using them in a real-life conversation, you should check out our Chinese class options!

Savannah Billman has a master's degree in Chinese Law and Society at the Yenching Academy of Peking University. She holds a B.A. from NYU Shanghai and has also written for The World of Chinese, TechNode, SupChina, and Sixth Tone.
Savannah Billman
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