Are Chinese characters words?

Chinese characters can be stand alone words, but single character words are not the most common. In fact, Chinese words can be one or more characters and typically range up to four characters or even longer. Below is a chart showing word length in characters based on our online Chinese-English Dictionary, which contains nearly 120,000 words. Here is a break down of Chinese word length in characters:

Chinese word length in characters

As you can see from the above chart, only 11% of words are one character long, while nearly half are two characters in length and just under 20% each are three of four characters.

Words of six or more characters are grouped together in the above chart. Keep in mind that the dictionary does contain some proverbs and phrases, so many of the longer entries are not words but sentences.

Here are some examples of Chinese words of different lengths:

Word Length English Chinese
(Pinyin Pronunciation)
1 character dog māo
2 characters banana xiāngjiāo
3 characters taxi chūchē
(chūzū chē)
4 characters bus gōnggòngchē
(gōnggòng qìchē)