"of or pertaining to China," 1570s, from China + -ese. As a noun from c. 1600. Chinee (n.) is a vulgar back-formation from this word on the mistaken notion that Chinese is a plural. As an adjective, Chinian, Chinish also were used 16c. Chinese fire-drill "chaotic situation of many people rushing around futilely" is attested by 1962, U.S. military slang, perhaps with roots in World War II U.S. Marine Corps slang. The game Chinese-checkers is attested from 1938. Chinese-lantern is from 1825.
updated on November 13, 2017