What are the different definitions for water in Chinese?

I know of 冰水, 开水, 白水, 温水, 全矿水 but still wonder on the exact differences. Does 温水 imply the water was boiled before? What is the different between 开水 and 白水?

What temperatures? Is there any expectation of filtered water?

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Hey Tyson,

I have to admit that I'm a bit lost: are theses all types of water that you might ask for while out or at a restaurant? 矿泉水 is how I've learned to say mineral water.  Are all the examples you gave ways to ask for mineral water too?  It wouldn't occur to me that 冰水 was simply water that was cold or with ice in it.  At any rate, probably best to get a native speaker in on this discussion.    

Goto the WCC Chinese-English Dictionary site and enter   and you will get hundreds of phrases that contain water just as in English:    http://dictionary.writtenchinese.com/      

Here are some examples:


lèi shuǐ



hot water


hǎi shuǐ


quán shuǐ

spring water

qīng shuǐ

fresh water / drinking water / clear water

jiāng shuǐ

river water

bái shuǐ

plain water

fèi shuǐ

boiling water


gǔn shuǐ

boiling water

tāng shuǐ

tonic water


níng méng shuǐ

Lemon water


One thing might be interesting to you is, in China, when people say about water/drinks  冷的(literally cold), it's air temperature; 冰的(literally icy) is cold/icy; 温的 is warm water; 热的 also warm water, may be warmer than 温的;  烫的 is very hot water, normally it means too hot to drink immediately.

So back to your question,

冰水:icy water/cold water

开水:boiled water, but it can be warm or hot

白水:or 白开水, any plain drinkable water.

温水:warm water

全矿水(I think it's 矿泉水):mineral water


纯净水:purified water/filtered water

If you are at a restaurant or bar, asking for any water, can just ask for 一杯水. They all gonna give you drinkable water, coz tap water is NOT drinkable in China, which means they will give you boiled tab water(白开水) or it can be 纯净水/矿泉水.

Oh, that's really interesting.  So how do most people drink water in their homes?  Do people boil the water?  Use water filters?  Buy bottled water (or water cooler style  - the kind the comes in the big barrel)?

Depends on where, if the place has better water quality, so you can just boil tap water and drink it. In Shanghai, some people drink purified water, some boil tap water if they don't care about the little smell after boiling. It's drinkable anyway.

You can buy purified water, or use filter. I had a filter before, now I buy purified water because I found it's too bothering changing filter element by counting days, and the prices are no big difference.

It's very common here to have this 5 gallon sized water machine in companies or families. I just buy 4L bottle type at home, and company has 5  gallon machine for more people.


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