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From Chinese Pidgin English. Calque of Mandarin , China +‎ -man. Applied also to ships by analogy with East Indiaman.


  • IPA(key): /'t?a?n?m?n/, /'t?a?n?m?n/


Chinaman (plural Chinamen)

  1. (dated, now offensive) A man who is Chinese, a Chinese man.
    • 1872, Mark Twain, Roughing It, 2007, page 169,
      A disorderly Chinaman is rare, and a lazy one does not exist. So long as a Chinaman has strength to use his hands he needs no support from anybody; white men often complain of want of work, but a Chinaman offers no such complaint; he always manages to find something to do. [...] Any white man can swear a Chinaman's life away in the courts, but no Chinaman can testify against a white man.
    • 1906, Hubert D. Russell (editor), Complete Story of the San Francisco Horror, 1906, 2003, page 251,
      Another favorite pastime of the Highbinder who is usually a loafer, is to levy blackmail on a wealthy Chinaman. [...] If it were not that the Chinamen kill only men of their own race and let alone all other men, the citizens of San Francisco would have sacked and burned Chinatown.
    • 1907, Barbara Baynton, Sally Krimmer; Alan Lawson, editors, Human Toll (Portable Australian Authors: Barbara Baynton), St Lucia: University of Queensland Press, published 1980, page 147:
      On the flat behind the mill, dawn-rising Chinamen shogged with nimble bare feet under their yoke-linked watering-cans. These busy brethren, meeting sometimes on the same narrow track, would pause, ant-like, seemingly to dumbly regard one another and their burdens, then, still ant-like, pass silently to their work.
    • 1941, George Ade, Stories of the Streets and of the Town: From the Chicago Record 1893 - 1900, reprinted as 2003, Stories of Chicago, page 163,
      In Clark Street, where all the nations of the earth dwell together in harmony, one has but to go downstairs to find a Chinaman. And when found he is washing.
  2. A sailing ship of the 18th and 19th centuries engaged in the Old China Trade
  3. (US, slang) Addiction from a narcotic, especially heroin. [from 20th c.]
    • 1952, William S. Burroughs, in Harris (ed.), Letters 1945-59, Penguin 2009, p. 140:
      Chinaman half in and half out of the door. Codeine and goof balls, and complete discouragement.

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