Thursday, March 31, 2011

Is America beautiful?

Few posts ago, I asked “Why is America called美国 (Měi Guó)?” Just in case you already forgot, 美国 (Měi Guó) translates to beautiful country.

(Měi): beautiful

(Guó): state

Well, it could just be because the Chinese people think that America is beautiful. No matter how the Sino-US relations maybe, I have generally found a fondness for America among the Chinese people. I don’t really know why America was named 美国 (Měi Guó), but I think the explanation given by a friend of mine is worth sharing.

(Měi) from 美国 (Měi Guó) sounds very similar to the second syllable in America. And since (Měi) has a good meaning as well, the Chinese people decided to name America as 美国 (Měi Guó). And she gave me few other examples too, which really convinced me:

(Dé Guó): Deutschland (Germany)

(Dé): virtue, morals

(Yīng Guó): England

(Yīng): brave

(Fǎ Guó): France

(Fǎ): law


  1. Any idea what Ireland is called in Chinese?

  2. interesting! especially the translation of Germany...
    I think Ireland is called: 爱 尔 兰 [ài'ĕrlán]
    but I couldn't find the meaning...

  3. When I was introducing those country names to my students, I explained some of the characters in the same way you did. I have to say, part of the translation is based on the sound. However, since many Chinese characters share the same pronunciation, (I guess) Chinese translators picked the most elegant and appropriate characters.

  4. What could be a breakdown for Nepal then?

  5. I don't think 爱尔兰(àiĕrlán) has any meaning. It just sounds like Ireland.

    Nepal is called 尼泊尔(níbóěr). Maybe that's the closest they could come to sounding like Nepal.

  6. Very interesting. So, how would you say Angola? don't tell me land of oil! :)

  7. Can you tell me how Latvia is called in Chinese and how the word is constructed?

  8. Angola:安哥拉(Āngēlā)

    They both just sound similar to the respective country names. Actually most countries have Chinese names which sound similar to the actual name. Only few countries have names with special meanings.

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  10. I agree about the Sino-US relations. But maybe things were different when this name was given.