Denotation vs. Connotation


[chahy-nuh-muh n] /ˈtʃaɪ nə mən/
noun, plural Chinamen.
Older Use: Usually Offensive. a term used to refer to a Chinese or a person of Chinese descent.
(lowercase) Archaic. a person who imports or sells china.
(often lowercase) Political Slang: Usually Offensive. a person regarded as one's benefactor, sponsor, or protector:
to see one's chinaman about a favor.
a Chinaman's chance, Usually Offensive. the slightest chance:
He hasn't a Chinaman's chance of getting that job.
Origin of Chinaman
1765-75; China + -man
Usage note
Historically, Chinaman was a neutral compound word, similar to Irishman or Englishman, but it began to take on negative connotations in the 19th century, when many Chinese immigrants went to work in the American West. The expression a Chinaman's chance originally made reference to these Chinese laborers, though the exact origin of the phrase is disputed. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the Web for Chinaman
Historical Examples
  • He could hear the Chinaman talking in his bland way to the villains.

  • He can command the Chinaman, and that––Besides, all this is not to the point.

    The Heart of Thunder Mountain Edfrid A. Bingham
  • The cue of the Chinaman is equally as acceptable as hairs from the mane of the English lion.

    Buffalo Land W. E. Webb
  • When I looked at the Chinaman in charge there, I gave up my idea of questioning him.

  • The Chinaman, it appeared later, when he was able to give his tale, had merely feigned to be hit.

    The Hero of Panama F. S. Brereton
  • From time to time the Chinaman used to ask Davidson about the white man.

    Victory Joseph Conrad
  • The Chinaman did his part acceptably, but the next morning he appeared before his mistress.

  • Heyst yelled to the Chinaman, who was running with the crowbar in his hand.

    Victory Joseph Conrad
  • The girls are left to their fate, a Chinaman thinking it rather an advantage to lose a daughter or two occasionally.

    A Voyage in the 'Sunbeam' Annie Allnut Brassey
  • I was about to say, are you sure you have no reason to think that the Chinaman has been in this room tonight?

    Victory Joseph Conrad
British Dictionary definitions for Chinaman


noun (pl) -men
(archaic or derogatory) a native or inhabitant of China
(often not capital) (cricket) a ball bowled by a left-handed bowler to a right-handed batsman that spins from off to leg
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for Chinaman

1711, "native of China," from China + man (n.). Also in 18c., "dealer in china wares" (1728).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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Slang definitions & phrases for Chinaman



  1. A sailor who works in a ship's laundry (1950s+ Merchant marine)
  2. A police officer's patron and influential political friend; rabbi: police officer needed a Chinaman, or sponsor (1970s+ Police)
The Dictionary of American Slang, Fourth Edition by Barbara Ann Kipfer, PhD. and Robert L. Chapman, Ph.D.
Copyright (C) 2007 by HarperCollins Publishers.
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