What Does “Wonton” Mean in Chinese?

Etymology and Literal Meaning

The term “wonton” originates from the Chinese language, specifically from the Cantonese dialect. It is composed of two characters:

  • 雲 (yún), meaning “cloud”
  • 吞 (tūn), meaning “swallow”

Together, these characters form the compound word “雲吞 (yúntūn)”, which literally translates to “cloud swallow.” This name aptly describes the appearance of wontons when they are cooked, as they float in broth like small clouds.

Historical Evolution

The term “wonton” has undergone various changes in pronunciation and spelling over time. In Mandarin, it is pronounced as “húntun,” while in Cantonese, it is pronounced as “wàhn tān.” The spelling “wonton” is a romanization of the Cantonese pronunciation.

Cultural Significance

Wontons hold a significant place in Chinese cuisine and culture. They are often served as a delicacy, enjoyed in soups, noodles, and as fried appetizers. The versatility of wontons has contributed to their widespread popularity both within China and internationally.

Variations and Regional Differences

Wontons exhibit regional variations across China, each with its unique characteristics:

  • Cantonese Wontons: Typically filled with shrimp and minced pork, served in soups or with noodles.
  • Sichuan Wontons: Known as “folded arms” wontons, characterized by their semi-pentagonal shape and served in a spicy sauce.
  • Shanghai Wontons: Filled with minced pork and shepherd’s purse, served in chicken soup.
  • Ningbo Wontons: Available in steamed and soup varieties, filled with pork and shrimp.
  • Jiangzhe Wontons: Large, ingot-shaped wontons, often served with a variety of fillings.

The term “wonton” holds a rich history and cultural significance in Chinese cuisine. Its literal meaning, “cloud swallow,” aptly captures the appearance of these delectable dumplings floating in broth. Wontons continue to be a beloved culinary staple, enjoyed in various forms across China and beyond.

Words Nearby won ton

Dictionary. Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, com Unabridged © Random House, Inc. 2024.

or won·ton

  • a dumpling that is typically boiled and served with soup, but is occasionally fried and served as a side dish in Chinese cuisine. It is filled with minced pork and spices.
  • a soup containing won tons.

What Do Mu Shu, Foo Young, Won Ton Really Mean in English?


What is a won ton in simplified Chinese?

A plate of steamed wontons
Traditional Chinese
1. 餛飩 2. 雲吞 3. 抄手
Simplified Chinese
1. 馄饨 2. 云吞 3. 抄手
Literal meaning
1. irregularly shaped dumpling 2. cloud swallow 3. crossed hands 4. clear soup

What does wonton mean in Chinese?

The word “wonton” itself is derived from the Cantonese pronunciation of the Chinese characters “云吞” (yún tūn), which means “swallowing clouds.” This name is said to have been inspired by the shape of the wonton dumplings, which resemble little clouds floating in the soup.

Why is it called a wonton?

Some claim that the name comes from the shape of the dough, resembling the shape of a cloud, or from the shape of the traditional Chinese coin called “yuan” which resembled a wonton. Others believe that the name originated from the Cantonese phrase “hundun,” meaning “cloud-like dumpling,” which was then adapted to “wonton” over time.

Are wontons Chinese?

Wonton, like potstickers, are another type of Chinese dumpling, but they differ in that they are made with a different dough, have a more ball-shaped shape, and are served in broth. You’re probably familiar with Hong Kong style, which is made with shrimp-containing wontons and served in soup. Are Wontons Authentic Chinese?

Why are wontons so popular in China?

That’s because wontons are a largely southern Chinese food, so when you go to the provinces of Northern and Western China, you’ll more easily find bao and dumplings filled the pork, beef, or lamb, but few wontons.

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