Forum Rocket Chinese Chinese Vocab Older sister/Jie jie as 姐姐 vs. 姊姊

Older sister/Jie jie as 姐姐 vs. 姊姊

Jo Jo

Jo Jo

Hi, I noticed that older sister, jie jie is listed at 姐姐 in 2.9 and 9.1 and that in 7.8 it shows the characters for older sister as 姊姊.  Are both characters correct/used older sister? Thank you in advance for any clarification! 



Hi Jojo,


Good eye! They are both correct and are interchangeable as “older sisters.”

Here's a more nuanced take if you'd like to dig deeper:

姐 is more general. Besides 姐姐 (jiějie), it also comes across as 小姐 (xiǎojiě)* “miss” or “madame;” 师姐 (shījiě), referring to a female with seniority over you in a group, esp. in a school or educational setting. 

姊 (jiě) or (zǐ) is more directed towards blood relatives. Your 表姊 (biǎojiě) or (biǎo zǐ) is your older female cousin on your mom's side; your 堂姊 (tángjiě) or (táng zǐ) is the older female cousin on your dad's side, who should share your last name. Moreover, your 姊夫 (jiě fū) is your “brother-in-law,” or “older sister's husband,” to be exact. 

To sum up, you can use both 姐 and 姊 when referring to “older sister” and other family members, but 姊 is the more exclusive choice. And when talking about someone outside the family, it's mroe common to use 姐.

Hope that answered your question. We wish you lots of fun learning this wonderfully complicated language!

* In some parts of China, 小姐 (xiǎojiě) could refer to “lady of the night,” so use it only in major Southeast/East coast cities like 上海 Shanghai , 深圳 Shenzhen, or 香港 Hong Kong. Say you're in 北京 Beijing or a rather rural region, and are looking for the term to address a young, unmarried lady, go for 姑娘 (gūniáng or gūniang) instead. And on the more formal side, 女士 (nǚshì) “ma'am” will be your best choice.

Jo Jo

Jo Jo

Hi, Eleanor!

This was a very helpful and informative reply!  I appreciated all the info and your time in sharing it!

Thank you!  :)

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