90 Countries in Chinese 🌏 What Are Their Literal Translations?

90 Country Names in Chinese 🌏 PLUS Bonus States Names

Have you ever wondered what your country’s name looks like in Chinese and what its meaning is?

The literal Chinese translations of country names often results in some funny interpretations.

Many of the Hanzi writings of foreign countries are supposed to reflect a nice meaning and also be phonetically similar (trans-literation) to the original.

Countries in Chinese – Europe

Countries in Chinese – The Americas

Countries in Chinese – Asia + the Pacifics

Countries in Chinese – Africa

Countries in Chinese – Conversations about Countries

Countries in ChinesePosters 🆓

However, when translated from one language to Chinese and then to English, the meaning may be lost in translation and changed to something completely different.

I tried to choose some of the most interesting literal translations, but as with all translations there is a multitude of meanings and understandings, hence results may vary from translation to translation.

So, to be clear, these are not “literal translation of the Chinese names”, rather they are literally translations of characters used phonetically.

Countries in Chinese
Chinese + English = Chinglish 😲 You Must See To Believe Thumbnail

Chinese + English = Chinglish 😲 You Must See To Believe

Chinglish – Sometimes you have to see it to believe it. You will be amazed at some of these language mishaps that are made when translating to Chinese.

Countries in Chinese – Europe

country names in chinese france
France in Chinese

France: 法国, fǎ guó. Fa mimics “france”, and has connotations of lawfulness, orderliness.

Germany: 德国, dé guó. De mimics “Deutsch” (of Deutschland), and means virtue, righteousness.

Netherlands/Holland: 荷兰, hélán. Lotus Orchid, Helan sounds vaguely like Holland.

United Kingdom: 英国, yīng guó. Either “Brave land” or “Great country” however “英” is now a character associated with England/UK.

Also worth noting the UK translates to 联合王国 which is literally – United King Country – not far off!

Russia: 俄国 é guó. This one is an exception as the first character just means Russian now, and doesn’t correspond to the phonetic in any way.

Belgium: 比利时, bǐ lì shí. “Time to compare profits”. Let the games begin!

Iceland: 冰岛, bīng dǎo. Same as its native etymology –  “ice island”

Belarus: 白俄罗斯, bái’è luó sī. “white Russia” convenient as Belarus means white Russia in Belarus as well.

Montenegro: 黑山, hēi shān. Black mountain which is the same as its native etymology

Switzerland: 瑞士, ruì shì “Lucky gentleman”. This is one of the names that gets people asking about the etymology of place names. The Chinese name for Switzerland, comes from the ancient Roman province of Raetia (also spelled Rhaetia).

Chinese Humour = Italy “Expecting Big profits”

Hungary: 匈牙利, xiōng yá lì. “Hun teeth profit”. In Cantonese, 匈 is pronounced as “hung” and 牙 is pronounced as “nga”.

Could also be a reference to the myths that the Hungarians are descended from the Huns and the Xiongnu, a perennial northern rival of ancient Chinese dynasties, are the same as the Huns.

Italy: 意大利 , yì dà lì. “Hoping for/expecting big profits”. Sounds like 一大粒, “one big lump”.

Spain: 西班牙, xī bān yá. “Western class teeth” the sound is supposed to mimic Hispania.

Greece: 希腊, xī là. “Hope for BBQ”. Well, no, but “longing for cured meat” doesn’t sound as snappy. 腊 can also refer to the twelfth month of the Chinese calendar, so “hoping for the 12th month of the year” is another possibility.

Ireland: 爱尔兰, Ài’ěrlán. “Love your Orchid”. This is based on the sound of ‘Ireland’.

If you like funny translations, check out our blog all about Chinglish:

Countries in Chinese – The Americas

Canada: 加拿大, jiā ná dà. “Add grab big”

Mexico: 墨西哥, mò xī gē. “Ink west older brother”.

Haiti: 海地, hǎi dì. “Sea land”.

Guatemala: 危地马拉, wēi dì mǎ lā. “In the land of danger, the horse pulls”. This is the transliteration used in Mainland China. The Taiwanese use “瓜地马拉”: “In the land of melons, the horse pulls”.

Brazil: 巴西, bā xī. “Next to the West”

Chile: 智利, zhì lì. “Favourable Wisdom”

Peru: 秘鲁, bì lǔ. “Unfriendly Secret”

America: 美国, měi guó. Beautiful country, first character means “beauty” on its own, that Chinese think America is a beautiful country, but again, don’t be fooled, its only because of the sound “mer” in “America”.

Now we all know America is big so here’s the translations of each and every single state for you as well, aren’t we good to you!

Countries in Chinese – Asia + The Pacifics

China: 中国, zhōng guó. “Middle kingdom” Through out Chinese history China and its people believed that they were the middle kingdom of earth.

Japan: 日本, rì běn. “Land of the Rising Sun” or “The suns origin”

Korea: 高丽, gāo lí. “Goryeo” This was the dynasty that ruled Korea from 900 AD to 1400

  • South Korea: 韩国, hán guó. This is the name that Koreans call themselves
  • North Korea: 北朝鲜, běi cháo xiǎn. “North Joseon” Joseon was the dynasty that ruled Korea from 1400’s-1910

Australia: 澳大利亚, ào dà lì yǎ “Big bay, inferior profits”.

ANOTHER BONUS – Who knew Australia was also a monster of a country!

So here’s the states of Oz for you as well!

India: 印度 , yìn dù. “The degree of printing”

Singapore: 新加坡, xīn jiā pō. “Newly added slope”

Vietnam: 越南, yuè nán. “More south” Due to Vietnamese position to China and their long history.

Yemen: 也门, yě mén. “Also door”.

Israel: 以色列, yǐ sè liè. “According to color, list”, or “list according to color”.

Bhutan: 不丹, bù dān. “Not red”

Cambodia: 柬埔寨, jiǎn pǔ zhài. “Letter to the plain of the stronghold”

Malaysia: 马来西亚, mǎ lā xī yà.”Horse comes to West Asia”. Which is funny, because they are in Southeast Asia.

Thailand: 泰国  tài guó. Literally means  “Country of peace”.

New Zealand: 新西兰 xīn xī lán. “New west orchid” or “New west orchid flowers”.

Indonesia: 印度尼西亚 yìn dù ní xī yà. “Print degrees Buddhist nun West Asia”. It’s a bit of a mouthful, so sometimes it’s simply shortened to 印尼 (yìn ní). “Print Buddhist nun”.

Philippines: 菲律賓 Fēi lǜ bīn “Fragrant law guest”

Countries in Chinese – Africa

country names in Chinese gabon
Gabon in Chinese

South Africa: 南非, nán fēi. Fei is from the name for Africa ‘feizhou’, means literally south Africa.

Chad: 乍得 zhàdé ” Sudden Morality”.

Egypt: 埃及, āi jí.  “Catching up to dust”.

Central African Republic: 中非共和国 zhōng fēi gònghéguó. This one is a direct translation. 中 means central, 非 means Africa, and 共和国 is Republic.

Cape Verde: 佛得角 fó dé jiǎo. “Buddha’s Virtuous Horn” or “Buddha’s Virtuous Cape” – Cape here as in promontory or headland rather than the garment.

Namibia: 纳米比亚, nà mǐ bǐ yǎ. “Comparing extremely small profits”.

Djibouti: 吉布提 jí bù tí. ” Carry the lucky cloth”

Gabon: 加蓬 jiā péng. “Add Fleabane” or “Add daisies”. Fleabane is a type of plant in the daisy family.

Transliterated Names Section

This section covers the countries in Africa whose names are transliterated, meaning that their characters were chosen for their readings and not the meaning.

Algeria: 阿尔及利亚 ā ěr jí lì yà.

Angola: 安哥拉 ān gē lā.

Libya: 利比亚 lì bǐ yà.

Nigeria: 尼日利亚 ní rì lì yà.

Zambia: 赞比亚 zàn bǐ yà.

Mali: 马里 Mǎlǐ.

Niger: 尼日尔 ní rì ěr.

Guinea: 几内亚 jǐ nèi yà.

Botswana: 博茨瓦纳 bó cí wǎ nà.

Tanzania: 坦桑尼亚 tǎn sāng ní yà.

Kenya: 肯尼亚 kěn ní yà.

Ethiopia: 埃塞俄比亚 āi sài é bǐ yà.

Somalia: 索马里 suǒ mǎ lǐ.

Sudan: 苏丹 sū dān.

Morocco: 摩洛哥 mó luò gē

WANT MORE? How about checking out some city names in Chinese next?

Quick Conversation: 你是哪国人?

nǐ shì nǎ guó rén?
你是哪国人?
What country are you from?  

wǒ shì xīn xī lán rén.
我是新西兰人。
I am from New Zealand. 

Countries Poster

Interested in Learning Chinese in China? Check out our language courses or get a head start and study Chinese online!

Or if you love learning about country names in different languages why not check out our big guide to learning the countries of the world in Japanese too!


Countries in Chinese – FAQ’s

How do you say China in Chinese?

China in Chinese is 中国, zhōng guó. This literally means Middle Kingdom.

How do you say the UK in Chinese?

United Kingdom in English is 英国, yīng guó. This actually translates to great country or brave land!

To delve deeper:

England is 英格兰 yīng gé lán

Scotland is 苏格兰 sū gé lán

Wales is 威尔士 wēi’ěr shì

Northern Ireland is 北爱尔兰 běi ài’ěr lán

How do you say USA in Chinese?

America in Chinese is 美国, měi guó which translates to beautiful country.

How do you say Germany in Chinese?

Germany in Chinese is 德国, dé guó.

How do you say Russia in Chinese?

Russia in Chinese is 俄国 é guó. This has no literal translation and just means Russia!

How do you say South Africa in Chinese?

South Africa in Chinese is 南非, nán fēi. Fei is from the name for Africa ‘feizhou’, means literally south Africa.

How do you say Brazil in Chinese?

Brazil in Chinese is 巴西, bā xī. Literally it’s “Next to the West”.

How do you say Vietnam in Chinese?

Vietnam in Chinese is 越南, yuè nán. Literally this is “More south”. It’s due to Vietnams position to China and their long history.

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