yang

[ yahng, yang ]
/ yɑŋ, yæŋ /

noun

See under yin and yang.

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Definition for yang (2 of 2)

yin and yang

noun (used with a singular or plural verb)

(in Chinese philosophy and religion) two principles, one negative, dark, and feminine (yin), and one positive, bright, and masculine (yang), whose interaction influences the destinies of creatures and things.

Origin of yin and yang

First recorded in 1930–35, yin and yang is from the Chinese word yīn-yáng
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2020

VOCAB BUILDER

What else does yang mean?

Yang is a common Chinese surname.

It also refers to a cosmic force present in ancient Chinese philosophy, typically associated with masculinity, sunlight, and the color white.

Where does yang come from?

The origin of the surname Yang—one of the most common in mainland China—isn’t exactly known. Some sources say it comes from descendants of an emperor granted Yang as a prestigious title sometime during the Zhou Dynasty (1046–264 BCE). Other sources attribute the surname’s origin to the name of some territories in China, ruled by a different leader named Yang. Whatever its origins, the surname Yang was widely adopted by various Chinese and Korean peoples, spreading around the world due to migration.

The surname shares its name with the philosophical concept of yang, based on a Chinese word variously translated as “male,” “solar,” or “positive.” Yang reaches back to the third-century school of cosmology, Yin-yang. One of the school’s chief thinkers was Zou Yan, an alchemist who proposed that life had five basic elements: metal, wood, water, fire, and earth. These elements are dictated by yin and yang, a pair of counterbalancing yet indivisible forces that make up and influence all of life.

Yin corresponds to earth, negativity, femininity, and passivity and is represented by the color black. Yang represents heaven, positivity, masculinity, and activity and is represented by the color white. Each force increases as the other decreases, striking a perfect balance and harmony believed to govern personal, social, and cosmic order.

The concept of yin and yang is depicted as a circle, popularly known as the yin-yang symbol. It’s divided into two whorls, one black (yin) and the one white (yang), with an opposite-colored dot in each half to show each has an element of the other—a depiction of their dual, complementary, and interdependent forces.

In the West, yin and yang spread with popular interest in Taoist and Confucianist philosophy in the 20th century as well as martial arts practices like Tai Chi, all which draw on the concept.

How is yang used in real life?

Over 40-million people in China have the surname Yang, placing it among the top-ten most common surnames. One such notable Yang is Yang Zhenning, who won the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1957. Yang is also a somewhat common surname in Korea among Chinese-Korean people. While Yang as a last name is most common, it can also be a given name, usually designated for males, as yang can mean “male.”

For Westerners, yang usually calls up the philosophy of yin and yang. The concept and symbol have become so familiar that people might say someone is the yin to their yang, meaning their qualities nicely complement one another. Yang may also be used to assuage a setback, often as a substitute for expressions like “life’s ups and downs” or “take the bad with the good” (e.g., for every yin there’s a yang).

Among some practitioners of traditional Chinese or New Age medicine, yang is associated with high fevers and profuse sweating, in line with the force’s connection to the sun and heat. Such practitioners may advise a person with too much yang to alter their diet or lifestyle in some way to achieve more yin, restoring balance.

Note that in Chinese and Korean, among other East Asian languages, the surname is listed first, as in Yang Zhenning, who goes by Chen-Ning Frank Yang in the West. Also be mindful that Chinese is a tonal language and yang is a pinyin transliteration. Many other words in Chinese are rendered as yang for Westerners, but differences in tone and context can significantly change the meaning.

More examples of yang:

“Our Yang energy regenerates itself at night. Yang energy peaks during the day, and is strongest at noon; in the evening Yang gently gives way to Yin.’”
—Chris Tse, Blitz Conditioning, June, 2012

Note

This content is not meant to be a formal definition of this term. Rather, it is an informal summary that seeks to provide supplemental information and context important to know or keep in mind about the term’s history, meaning, and usage.

Example sentences from the Web for yang

British Dictionary definitions for yang (1 of 3)

Yang1
/ (jæŋ) /

noun

British Dictionary definitions for yang (2 of 3)

Yang2
/ (jæŋ) /

noun

Chen Ning (ˈtʃɛn ˈnɪŋ). born 1922, US physicist, born in China: with Tsung-Dao Lee, he disproved the physical principle known as the conservation of parity and shared the Nobel prize for physics (1957)

British Dictionary definitions for yang (3 of 3)

Yin and Yang
/ (jɪn) /

noun

two complementary principles of Chinese philosophy: Yin is negative, dark, and feminine, Yang positive, bright, and masculine. Their interaction is thought to maintain the harmony of the universe and to influence everything within it

Word Origin for Yin and Yang

from Chinese (Peking) yin dark + yang bright
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

Cultural definitions for yang

yin and yang

Two forces in the universe, according to a Chinese theory: yin is the passive, negative force, and yang the active, positive force. According to this theory, wise people will detect these forces in the seasons, in their food, and so on, and will regulate their lives accordingly.

The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.