Saturday, July 10, 2010

from: ian b.
date: Sat, Jul 10, 2010 at 8:41 AM
subject: Tattoo translation dilemma!

Good afternoon,

I found your blog by googling 'What does my Chinese symbol tattoo mean?'

I was perfectly happy that my Tattoo meant 'friendship' for over 10 years until i recently researched symbols on the Internet and discovered that mine doesn't appear to relate to which it was sold as.

Can you assist me in a true translation for my tattoo.

Thanks very much in advance.



does not mean "friendship" as Ian was first informed if it is read as Chinese. When read as Japanese, (なか), it is interpreted as "relation; relationship".


  1. This probably comes from Japanese, where it means "relationship." To have a good 仲 with someone (仲がいい) is to be friendly with, get along with, or be close to someone.

  2. Yes, and the opposite 仲が悪い (naka ga warui) means to be on bad terms with someone, or not get along with them.

    仲 by itself says nothing about whether one is a friend or enemy of the other person.

  3. Unless there's a 間 by its side...when you put one, it becomes 仲間 (Nakama) which has meanings like friend, companion etc.

  4. @Alan No, I think the default meaning would be 仲がいい. You wouldn't be enemies with your 仲間, would you?

  5. @Octafish - If someone wants a Chinese/ Japanese tattoo that unambiguously means "friend" or "friendship" then they should get 友, which has exactly this meaning in both languages.

    But 仲 by itself is ambiguous. It can mean either "friend" or "enemy." There is no "default meaning."

    It's just like determining the meaning of the letter "A": it could be short for "angel" or "a**hole" depending on the context.

    That is the risk of getting a tattoo of a single letter in a language you don't understand. It might have meanings you don't intend.