Why don't we call a country the same thing everywhere? In China, China is called zhong guo 中国 and the U.S. is called mei guo 美国 which means beautiful country. Is there a logical reason we don't just China what they call it? I understand we were not always the U.S. Also things like Mcdonalds are different in diffent countries.

  • Welcome to EL&U, but this is hardly a question about English, as the speakers of no language surrender their naming of anything or anyone to speakers of another. I encourage you to take the site tour and review the help center for a better understanding of the topics we cover here.
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    Commented Jun 28, 2018 at 0:59

1 Answer 1


There is not a logical reason but there are historical/ phonetical reasons.

Chinese characters, unlike Roman alphabets, are based on meanings. So when they take foreign words, Chinese people cannot write the foreign word exactly as they would sound in the foreign language the word came from. They need to find Chinese characters that would make similar sounds so they can write it down in Chinese. America is Mei Guo. Because A"mer"ica sounds similar to "Mei", which means beauty. However, it has nothing to do with America actually being beautiful. "Guo" is added because it's a tradition to add "guo" for a country name although not every country is called **guo. Similar to how they call a country a "-stan" in Central Asia. EX) kazakh"stan", Afghani"stan", etc.

Historically, Chinese people also have never called their country China (ˈCHīnə ) but historically, there was a Chinese dynasty named "Qin" long ago which is pronounced "Chin". That's where the country name "China" came from. Because that's when the other parts of the world, probably far from china, maybe the Western world, or possibly the Middle East, started to notice the existence of a country called Qin. So the same sticked.

  • Names for foreign countries in a language have evolved over many centuries. Germany is an interesting case; they call themselves Deutschland, the French Allemagne, and the Scandinavians Tyskland. This is explained here quora.com/Why-is-Germany-called-Tyskland-in-Danish Commented Jun 28, 2018 at 8:10

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