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According to Pleco dictionary the popular name for Pandas is 熊猫, while the "original" name is 猫熊.

Its characters meaning order change from:

  • popular: bear cat
  • original: cat bear
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Popular perspective : “猫熊”变“熊猫”

抗日战争期间,在重庆举办了一次动物标本展览,正式对公众展出了“猫熊”这种动物的标本。当时人们写汉字的顺序还是从右到左,可是写“猫熊”时,却依了英文的书写顺序,从左到右了。结果,“猫熊”让观众念成了“熊猫”。这次展览,是熊猫首次在大众面前亮相,影响很大,“熊猫”之名也传播开了。

[ In 1940s, at an exhibition of panda specimen, the name of panda is written from left to right as 猫熊 in accordance with the English name. But at that time people were used to reading from right to left, so it was read as 熊猫, and became popular little by little. ]

Another perspective : 談“熊貓”和“貓熊”

“熊貓”語源上可能還是出自“小熊貓”
大熊貓太像熊了 (熊頭、熊身、短尾), 小熊貓太像貓了 (貓頭、窄身、長尾)。因此小熊貓應該稱“熊貓”, 大熊貓應該稱“貓熊”才是!而早期熊貓、貓熊的混淆, 其源頭可能就是在於小熊貓!

[ 熊猫 might come from (be confused with) 小熊猫 (lesser panda/red panda). ]

  • 1
    Translations were helpful. – marcanuy Feb 17 '16 at 10:09

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