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

Popular perspective : “猫熊”变“熊猫”


[ 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”

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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