Why is the movie named

"crouching tiger hidden dragon"?

This is mainly a question about present and past participle.

Why can't it be "crouching tiger hiding dragon"? Since the dragon must've been hiding voluntarily, instead of being hidden by others, I think "hiding"is more appropriate.

As the first answer presents, dragons, meaning talent people, don't take a deliberate action to hide, so "hidden" is more proper; However, tigers here are also indicating talent people, so why would they deliberately hide/crouch? (though it may have something to do with "crouch" being intransitive)

As the second answer points out, Why not "crouched tiger, hidden dragon" then?

Another question, which is asked by a user under the second answer, is isn't "crouched" the same formation as "hidden", while "crouching" is the same formation as "hiding". I also think they have -ing and -ed each has the same formation, but they would mean different things when one verb takes the -ing form while the other takes the -ed form?

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    Maybe because "crouching tigger hiding dragon" sounds like the tiger that is crouching is hiding a dragon?
    – Josh Part
    Commented Feb 6, 2021 at 15:50
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    Hidden does not imply "hidden by somebody else". Anything that is in hiding is "hidden" whether it did that itself or whether someone else did that to it. "Crouched tiger" does sound like somebody else did that to the tiger, though.
    – stangdon
    Commented Feb 6, 2021 at 19:46
  • But isn't it a general rule to say that past participle always indicate a passive voice? Commented Feb 7, 2021 at 3:21
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    Might be a better fit for Linguisitcs.SE, since it's not so much about English, but rather a literal translation from Chinese. Commented Feb 8, 2021 at 18:54
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    In regards to ELL, this movie title is bad English to try to learn any lessons from. The 4 words alone are not a sentence, no punctuation, ambiguous if it's a list of "things" lacking a predicate, or a subject and predicate lacking linking words. Is "crouched tiger" the name of the hidden dragon or vice versa? It's unknowable without context. Changing any one word can't "fix" it because it's still not a meaningful arrangement of English words, and rating the 'correctness' of a proposed word swap is impossible because the intention of the words is completely absent. Commented Feb 8, 2021 at 19:41

4 Answers 4


Something that is hiding is taking some deliberate action to hide. Something that is hidden is just not in view (literally or figuratively), possibly due to outside factors.

The book/film title derives from a Chinese idiom:

The name "Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon" is a literal translation of the Chinese idiom "卧虎藏龙" which describes a place that is full of talented or extraordinary people who remain hidden and undiscovered, or simply means "talented or extraordinary people hidden from view".

So "hidden" is better here because the dragon is said to be overlooked rather than attempting to hide.

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    Also, "crouching tiger, hiding dragon" could be taken to mean that the dragon is cowardly. Commented Feb 6, 2021 at 17:39
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    To me, at least, the -ing implies volition. That is, the tiger is deliberately crouching, perhaps preparing to spring at you, while the dragon is hidden from you but not because it's deliberately choosing to hide.
    – jamesqf
    Commented Feb 6, 2021 at 17:44
  • @ Andrew Morton in the same line of thought, why wouldn't "crouching tiger" be taken as meaning the tiger is cowardly? Commented Feb 7, 2021 at 3:24
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    @Phantomwagerwallowgiltopus because a tiger crouches to leap on a victim. Commented Feb 7, 2021 at 6:21
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    @jamesqf: Or, in line with the warning implied in the idiom, the tigers are those who would actively hurt "you", while the dragons currently bear no active malice but it would be a mistake to disturb or endanger them.
    – sharur
    Commented Feb 7, 2021 at 7:09

Yeah, basically, what TypelA said in their answer.

But then there is also the issue of grammar, I think. In "crouching tiger hidden dragon", both "crouching" and "hidden" are adjectives; they are modifying/describing the beasts. "Hiding" wouldn't work here, because that would sound as if it's being used as a transitive verb (i.e., someone is purposefully hiding a dragon instead of the dragon hiding itself). Compare "hiding dragon" with "finding nemo".

One interpretation of the title is "hidden talents that have not been discovered" (wiki). So it is important to make a distinction between "talents that haven't been discovered yet" and "talents that have been kept hidden deliberately". That is why "hiding dragon" doesn't work here - it is ambiguous.

Another question is, Why not "crouched tiger, hidden dragon" then?

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    "sound as if it's being used as a transitive verb" but it can also be a intransitive verb, meaning to go somewhere where you hope you will not be seen or found, just like "crouch" is intransitive. Commented Feb 6, 2021 at 9:38
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    @Phantomwagerwallowgiltopus "Crouch" and "hide" both have intransitive verb forms: "The tiger crouched - ready to attack" and "He hid under the bed". However, "crouching" in "The crouching tiger" is not an intransitive verb; it is an adjective using the -ing form of the verb "crouch". "Hiding" in "The dragon is hiding from the hunters" is an intransitive verb. But in "The hiding dragon", "hiding" isn't an intransitive verb. It has the same form as "that's boiling water, she's an amazing woman, an exciting movie" - all adjectives. The adjective form of "hide" is "hidden".
    – AIQ
    Commented Feb 6, 2021 at 11:27
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    @AIQ isn't "crouched" the same formation as "hidden", while "crouching" is the same formation as "hiding"? Commented Feb 6, 2021 at 19:27

The reason it is not "Crouched Tiger Hidden Dragon" is already included in TypeIA's answer. Unlike the dragon, the tiger is taking a deliberate action to crouch. There is a tiger that is crouching, out of view but ready to pounce, and a dragon that is somewhere you can't see it.

There is also just the fact that "crouching" is much more common than "crouched" when used in front of the noun like that, while "hidden" is much more common than "hiding" in that position. A native English speaker would expect to see it that way and would not expect parallelism.

Added later, in response to a comment: As I reread TypeIA's answer, I see that it doesn't really support the idea that the the original Chinese expression envisions the tiger deliberately crouching, ready to pounce. So maybe I was wrong to say that my answer was already in TypeIA's. But I still think the expression tends to convey the sense of a tiger that poses a threat.

  • Crouched would be interpretated as past tense. Whereas crouching and hidden can be both be interpretated as present participles.
    – charmer
    Commented Feb 9, 2021 at 13:59

We do not want to repeat the -ing sound, and the -en in hidden is a rhyme with the -o in dragon (because both the -en and -on are pronounced the same).

It sounds better.

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    Dubious. Repetition of sounds is often pleasing (rhymes?). Alliteration and assonance are important literary devices. Are you sure it doesn't "sound better" in this case just because it's the title you're used to?
    – TypeIA
    Commented Feb 6, 2021 at 8:59
  • @TypeIA no, it really does just roll off the tongue better than alternatives, particularly vs using crouched tiger. Ugh. movies have multimillion dollar advertising budgets, they focus group all these things.
    – eps
    Commented Feb 6, 2021 at 17:47
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    @eps the movie was based on a book with the same title, and that title is a literal (word-for-character) translation of a Chinese idiom. Nothing was focus-grouped here! I think you would need to make a more objective argument about why this sound change is more or less pleasing to Anglophone ears in order to convince me. Lacking such an argument, I really think it's just what you're used to.
    – TypeIA
    Commented Feb 6, 2021 at 18:00
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    Native speaker here. Try saying "Crouching Tiger Hiding Dragon" five times fast. Heck, I can barely say it once without stumbling over the "Hiding", and it ends up sounding like "hidden" anyway.
    – K. A. Buhr
    Commented Feb 6, 2021 at 23:00
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    @KABuhr I have no trouble at all saying it five times fast. Also native speaker.
    – TypeIA
    Commented Feb 7, 2021 at 7:25

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