Chengyu Explanations: 莫名其妙

莫名其妙 refers to something which causes ‘bafflement’ or a person who is ‘baffled’ by something. The following post describes the meaning of this 成语 in detail.


Characters 莫名其妙
Pin Yin mò míng qí miào
Pleco Definition 1. to be unable to make head or tail of something; to be baffled
2. without rhyme or reason; inexplicable; odd
HSK Level HSK 6


莫名其妙 literally means ‘unable to speak out the subtleties within’, from the characters 莫 ‘unable’, 名 ‘to name’ or ‘to speak out’, 其中 ‘within it’ and 奥妙 ‘subtle and profound’.

莫名其妙 may refer to something that is so strange that people cannot comprehend it or articulate the reasons behind it. As such, it can be used to describe a person who feels ‘baffled’ or a thing which causes ‘bafflement’.

莫名其妙 图片.jpgGrammatically, 莫名其妙 is a very versatile 成语. It may operate as an adjective which may be modified by 有一点 to indicate a limited degree or 真是 or 非常 to express a strong degree. It is often used in conjunction with the verb 感到 (e.g. 感到莫名其妙). As an adjective, it may also modify nouns such as 事, 事情 or 问题 (e.g. 莫名其妙的事).

莫名其妙 may also operate as an adverb to modify a verb (e.g. 莫名其妙地哭). Verbs modified by this 成语 often express human emotions or actions, with 莫名其妙 suggesting that the reason for the emotion or action was not apparent or discernible.

莫名其妙 may also be written as 莫明其妙 with an identical meaning, pronunciation and usage, although this latter form is less commonly seen.

Example Sentences

When she talked about breaking up, I was a little baffled.

That person is really strange. One minute she’s crying, the next minute she’s laughing. I can’t make head or tail of her!

While we were talking, he suddenly got angry for no discernible reason.

I have to tell you something I can’t get my head around.

References and Further Reading

1. 汉语成语学习手册 (2010), p. 125-126.
2. 成语词典 (新世纪版: 2011修订), p. 420.
3. 新HSK词汇突破: 6级 (2013), p.255.

One thought on “Chengyu Explanations: 莫名其妙

  1. Pingback: Mandarin Weekly #59 – Mandarin Weekly (每周中文)

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