This may be the newest coined word to be featured here, and get used to it, because you will be hearing it more and more in the next decade: taikonaut. Official English-language texts issued by the government of the People’s Republic of China use astronaut while texts in Russian use космонавт (kosmonavt). In official Chinese-language texts, the terms “yǔhángyuán” (宇航员, “sailing personnel in universe”) for cosmonaut and “hángtiānyuán” (航天员, “sailing personnel in sky”) for astronaut have long been used. The phrase “tàikōng rén” (太空人, “spaceman”) is often used in Taiwan and Hong Kong.
The term taikonaut is used by some English-language news media organizations for professional space travelers from China. The word has featured in the Longman and Oxford English dictionaries, the latter of which describes it as “a hybrid of the Chinese term taikong meaning space and the Greek naut meaning sailor; the term became more common in 2003 when China sent its first astronaut Yang Liwei into space aboard the Shenzhou 5 spacecraft. This is the term used by Xinhua in the English version of the Chinese People’s Daily since the advent of the Chinese space program. The origin of the term is unclear; as early as May 1998, Chiew Lee Yih (趙裡昱) from Malaysia, used it in newsgroups.
Welcome home, taikonauts, and congratulations on your successful mission!
Images courtesy the Chinese Space Agency. Definition courtesy Wikipedia under Creative Commons 3.0 license.