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[chahy-nuh-muh n] /ˈtʃaɪ nə mən/
noun, plural Chinamen.
Older Use: Offensive. a term used to refer to a Chinese person or a person of Chinese descent.
(often lowercase) Older Slang: Offensive. a person regarded as one's benefactor, sponsor, or protector:
to see one's chinaman about a favor.
(lowercase) Archaic. a person who imports or sells china.
a Chinaman's chance, Older Use: Offensive. the slightest chance:
He hasn't a Chinaman's chance of getting that job.
Origin of Chinaman
First recorded in 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 The expression a Chinaman's chance originally made reference to these Chinese laborers, though the exact origin of the phrase is disputed.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. 2018.
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British Dictionary definitions for chinaman's chance


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's chance



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's chance



  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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Idioms and Phrases with chinaman's chance

Chinaman's chance

ghost of a chance
. An extremely slim chance, a hopeless undertaking. Both versions are most often put negatively, as in
He hasn't a Chinaman's chance of finishing the work in time
, or
They haven't a ghost of a chance to get as far as the playoffs
. The first term, now considered offensive, dates from the late 1800s when many Chinese immigrants came to work in California and were resented because they worked for lower wages. Its precise allusion is unclear. The variant, which relies on the meaning of
as an insubstantial shadow, dates from the mid-1800s. Also see the synonyms
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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