Decoding The Secret Messages in Chinese Domain Names


New Republic took a look inside the meaning of Chinese numerical domains. The rise of numerical domain values over the past 8 years has intrigued many a domain investor. It is no surprise that the majority of the buyers for these names have been Chinese. We are now seeing values rise, names which were mostly reg fee available a year or two ago are now fetching mid xxx. Some investors like the owner of this blog, recently completed two sales in the $4,888 range.

From the article:

Why the preference for digits over letters? It mostly has to do with ease of memorization. To a native English-speaker, remembering a long string of digits might seem harder than memorizing a word. But that’s if you understand the word. For many Chinese, numbers are easier to remember than Latin characters. Sure, Chinese children learn the pinyin system that uses the Roman alphabet to spell out Mandarin words (for example, the word for “Internet,” 网络, is spelled wangluo in pinyin). And yes, Arabic numerals (1-2-3) are technically just as much a foreign import as the Roman alphabet (A-B-C). But most Chinese are more familiar with numbers than letters, especially those who didn’t go to college. To many, “” might as well be Cyrillic.

Digits are even more convenient when you consider that the words for numbers are homophones for other words. The URL for the massive e-commerce site Alibaba, for example, is, pronounced “yow-leeyoh-ba-ba”close enough! Those digits can just as often have individual meanings. The video sharing site works because the word for “six” is a near-homophone for the word “to stream.” The number five is pronounced wu, which sounds like wo, which means “I.” The number one is pronounced yao, which with a different tone means “want.” So the job-hunting site sounds a lot like “I want a job.” Likewise, to order McDonalds’ delivery online, just go to, the “517” of which sounds a bit like “I want to eat.” (An English equivalent might be the old radio jingle, “How many cookies did Andrew eat? Andrew 8-8000.”)

This kind of number-language has become an infinitely malleable shorthand among Chinese web users: 1 means “want,” 2 means “love,” 4 means “dead” or “world” or “is,” 5 means “I,” 7 means “wife” or “eat,” 8 means “get rich” or “not,” and 9 means “long time” or “alcohol.” The numbers 5201314, for example, mean 我爱你一生一世,or “I will love you forever”; 0748 means “go die”; and 687 means “I’m sorry.” (See here for more examples.) Chinese has plenty of other number-based slang, such as erbaiwu, or “250,” which means “idiot,” or “38,” pronounced sanba, which means “bitch.” And of course there’s the association of certain numbers with good or bad luck, and the subsequent demand for addresses and phone numbers with lots of 8s (“get rich”) and minimal 4s (“die”). Back in 2003, a Chinese airline paid $280,000 for the phone number 88888888.

Read the full article here


  1. says

    Great post Raymond; With Chinese numerics, one has got to be just as careful as with pinyin. As your quoted article stated ’38’ can mean “Bitch”, this is derived from March(3), 8th International Women’s day, Many Chinese simply state this means a ‘women’ but it’s how you pronounce it I believe! On a positive note, as is often the case, ’38’ also means “Triple Prosperity” from 888.

    There are many positive/negative connotations in the Chinese language, however I still sometimes see the numeric ‘4’ included in .coms sold for high figures, which can have a negative as stated in the quoted article above, along with a positive, included in a chain .com.

    • Raymond Hackney says

      Thanks Howie, glad you liked it. It is tricky and you sometimes see a name with a 4 sell for more than you would think, and a name with an 8 maybe not sell as high.

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