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Chinaman

[chahy-nuh-muh n]
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noun, plural Chi·na·men.
  1. Older Use: Offensive. a term used to refer to a Chinese person or a person of Chinese descent.
  2. (often lowercase) Older Slang: Offensive. a person regarded as one's benefactor, sponsor, or protector: to see one's chinaman about a favor.
  3. (lowercase) Archaic. a person who imports or sells china.
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Idioms
  1. a Chinaman's chance, Older Use: Offensive. the slightest chance: He hasn't a Chinaman's chance of getting that job.
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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 The expression a Chinaman's chance originally made reference to these Chinese laborers, though the exact origin of the phrase is disputed.
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

British Dictionary definitions for chinaman's chance

Chinaman

noun plural -men
  1. archaic, or derogatory a native or inhabitant of China
  2. (often not capital) cricket a ball bowled by a left-handed bowler to a right-handed batsman that spins from off to leg
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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

Word Origin and History for chinaman's chance

Chinaman

n.

1711, "native of China," from China + man (n.). Also in 18c., "dealer in china wares" (1728).

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Idioms and Phrases with chinaman's chance

Chinaman's chance

Also, 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 ghost as an insubstantial shadow, dates from the mid-1800s. Also see the synonyms fat chance; not an earthly chance.

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The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.