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In Chinese, there's a word to explain a state of relationship, '路人' originally means people on road, when something happened, '路人' is kinda character that won't join the trouble itself, but watching it.

But now, '路人' has a meaning of 'not friend', you may know him, or he know about you, but you won't have deep relationship, they just walk by your life, but not close to you. is there an English word to represent it?

looks like it's not 'acquaintance' because they may be stranger of each other.


some example of '路人'


侯门一入深如海,从此萧郎是路人。

After entering the aristocratic mansion, it was deep as sea, the one true love is _____(passerby?).

description: she can no longer find love because she became a slave.


他就是个路人,我都不认识他。

he's just a ____(randomer?), I don't know him.

description: someone is trying to clarify the relationship


路人局别太认真了。

don't be too serious when playing with ____(random teammates?).

description: game matching system sometimes gives you bad player.


为什么很多人分手后都成了路人?

why many people choose to be like ____(stranger?) after breaking up?

description: they choose to forget each other instead of continuing to be friends.


一堆不明真相的路人在那瞎起哄。

A bunch of _____(bystanders?) who doesn’t know the truth are squatting there.

description: a little bit derogatory.

  • Could you give the PinYin equivalent of the first character please? The second is obviously "rèn" but the first is unknown to me. – BoldBen Mar 4 at 11:16
  • @BoldBen it's 路lù 人rén – Zazck Mar 4 at 12:21
  • Zazck, see english.stackexchange.com/tags/single-word-requests/info There is a guidance about format of single-word-request question, e.g. there should be an example sentence with a ___ where the word will go. – k1eran Mar 4 at 15:59
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    @k1eran added some examples – Zazck Mar 5 at 12:23
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Two words that are most like your '路人' translation are "bystander" or "onlooker", but they may not be suitable in the sense that you want. If not, there is "neighbor" which is often used to mean neither an enemy or a friend. It can mean someone merely nearby. As others have suggested, I do want to recommend "acquaintance" as the best choice to use. It is probably the most common usage in English.

https://www.thefreedictionary.com/bystander

https://www.thefreedictionary.com/onlooker

https://www.thefreedictionary.com/neighbor

https://www.thefreedictionary.com/acquaintance

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An interesting word to add to your vocabulary is the word passerby, which means

A person who passes by, especially casually or by chance.

The word is not used frequently in the US, but it encapsulates quite nicely the elements of chance, transitoriness, and emotional distance.

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There is a phrase that comes to mind which uses the word nobody:

He is nobody to me.

We are nobody to each other.

That means we are not friends, not enemies, not acquaintances. Our lives simply do not intersect. Either one of us could vanish from the face of the earth and that would have no impact at all on the other. You may have seen each other in a public place, like a train station. You might take the same train into the city in the morning.

You could also say

We're perfect strangers to each other.

You've never ever seen each other before.

We're strangers to each other.

You may have seen each other before but have never spoken. You really know next to nothing about each other.

Perhaps that is more extreme than you are looking for. Your phrases "they just walk by your life" and "you won't have a deep relationship" suggests the phrase casual acquaintance, which might apply to someone you have seen on the commuter train platform in the morning for ten years with whom you have exchanged no more than a couple of words in all that time. Or perhaps you have a mutual acquaintance or your kids attend the same school in different years, and you were introduced once, but your paths have rarely crossed.

  • I could only take one word, so the answer is more like 'bystander', they may, or may not know each other, they won't make big impact to each other. For any side of them who acts colder, whatever the other side did, the other side is just a 'bystander' of his life. thanks for advice :D – Zazck Mar 4 at 10:26
  • But be aware that a bystander may be willing to look on, without getting involved, as some event unfolds. They are not completely disinterested and not going about their own business. An innocent bystander is someone who just happened to be in the vicinity, going about their own business. – TRomano Mar 4 at 11:34
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I think the closest in English is an "Acquaintance", defined as "a person that you have met but do not know well", or "a person one knows slightly, but who is not a close friend".

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If you are happy to use a modern and informal word consider - randomer.

randomer in British
noun informal
an unspecified person of no importance
Collins Dictionary

Note: In my personal experience (in the UK) it is used much more by teenagers than by older people!

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    Note that this can be a term of abuse: an upper-class person, or a member of a specific clique may, in a derogatory way, refer to a person who isn't as a "rando". – james Mar 4 at 10:37
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    '路人' is also used much more by teenagers in China, 'randomer' seems closer, and it's also a little bit derogatory – Zazck Mar 4 at 10:56
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    In the US this word is totally unknown. But relatedly 'rando' is common enough colloquially (short for 'random person'). – Mitch Mar 4 at 15:45
  • @Mitch I tried a second online dictionary - macmillandictionary.com/dictionary/british/randomer - and I see that one has a similar definition to Collins but says "IRISH INFORMAL" which I note ties in with your comment. – k1eran Mar 4 at 15:49
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    @k1eran Yeah, I don't doubt that some people use it, I'm just saying that if you use randomer in the US, people could probably figure it out from context, but they'll still say "What? Did you just say 'randomer'? What is that supposed to mean?". (Of course, as with every generalization here, I mean I've never heard it before, and I think I have enough years of experience with English (all of them?) to judge some kind of general negative pattern.) – Mitch Mar 4 at 16:06
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Apart from the already-mentioned acquaintance and peer, colleague also seems to fit.

Colleague - one of a group of people who work together. (oxford dictionary)

Of course not in all contexts, but colleague in general is a person you might know of but not necessarily know that person personally.

An alternative would be -mate, like class-mate, table-mate, street-mate. Usage might vary, with some being less popular, but going by oxford dictionary again: A fellow member or joint occupant of a specified thing - ‘his table-mates’.

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