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The Chinese character 才 (cái) is a pictogram that depicts a sprouting plant. As a noun and an adjective, the character refers to ability, talent, or endowment.
Terms combining 才 with other characters include 才能 (cái néng) and 才幹 (cái gàn), talent, capacity, or ability; 天才 (tiān cái), genius or gift; 口才 (kǒu cái), eloquence; 才望 (cái wàng), noted ability, or ability and reputation; and 才智 (cái zhì), ability along with wisdom or intelligence.
才子 (cái zǐ) refers to a genius, a man of talent, or a gifted scholar, while 才女 (cái nǚ) is a talented woman.
德才兼備 (dé cái jiān bèi), where 德 (dé) indicates virtue, means possessing both high moral character and ability. 才貌雙全 (cái mào shuāng quán), where 貌 (mào) indicates appearance, describes a person endowed with both talent and beauty.
真才實學 (zhēn cái shí xué), in which 學 (xué) means studying or learning, conveys the idea of having genuine ability combined with solid learning.
棟樑之才 (dòng liáng zhī cái) refers to an individual of tremendous promise, or a pillar of society.
愛才若渴 (ài cái ruò kě), literally “love for talent as if thirsty,” describes a person who admires and cherishes talent and is as eager to obtain talent as a thirsty person eager for water.
As an adverb, 才 means only, just, or merely. The character can also serve as a conjunction, conveying the idea of only if, not until, or not unless.