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Douglas Harper's Etymology Dictionary

system of Romanized spelling for Chinese, 1963, from Chinese pinyin "to spell, to combine sounds into syllables," from pin "put together" + yin "sound, tone." Adopted officially by the People's Republic of China in 1958. Outside China gradually superseding the 19c. Wade-Giles system (Mao Tse-tung is Wade-Giles, Mao Zedong is pinyin).


n. phonetic script; spelling n. (alternative spelling of Pinyin English)


Pinyin, or Hànyǔ Pīnyīn, is the official romanization system for Standard Chinese in mainland China, Malaysia, Singapore, and Taiwan. It is often used to teach Standard Chinese, which is normally written using Chinese characters. The system includes four diacritics denoting tones. Pinyin without tone marks is used to spell Chinese names and words in languages written with the Latin alphabet, and also in certain computer input methods to enter Chinese characters.

The Hanyu Pinyin system was developed in the 1950s based on earlier forms of romanization of Chinese. It was published by the Chinese government in 1958 and revised several times. The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) adopted pinyin as an international standard in 1982. The system was adopted as the official standard in Taiwan in 2009, where it is used for romanization alone (in part to make areas more English-friendly) rather than for educational and computer-input purposes.

The word means the spoken language of the Han people. literally means "spelled sounds".

Pinyin (disambiguation)

Pinyin (Hànyǔ Pīnyīn) is the official romanization system for Standard Chinese in China, Singapore and (since 2009) Taiwan.

Pinyin can also refer to other transcription systems used in China:

  • For varieties of Chinese:
    • Tongyong Pinyin, a derivative of Hanyu Pinyin used officially in Taiwan between 2002 and 2008
    • Wēituǒmǎ Pīnyīn, the Chinese name for the Wade–Giles system of Mandarin language romanization
    • Cantonese Pinyin, a standard romanization of Cantonese used in Hong Kong
    • Yēlǔ pīnyīn, romanization systems of Asian languages developed at Yale:
      • Yale romanisation of Cantonese
      • Yale romanisation of Mandarin
      • Yale romanisation of Korean
  • For other languages of China:
    • Tibetan pinyin, the official transcription system for Standard Tibetan in China
    • Uyghur pinyin, one of the official transcription systems for the Uyghur language in China

Usage examples of "pinyin".

This probably remains somewhat more familiar to Anglophone readers than Pinyin or Yale, and is no more inaccurate a rendition of ancient or regional pronunciations.