Here is what I think and how it is named: In Google translate it says it means "virtue country".

My guess is probably wrong but here it is:

China is an alliy of America, and America boosted up the nuke technology and sped up the surrender of the Japanese by Germany. Is it correct, if it is not truth, then how come it was named the virtuous country?

  • 德国 virtuous country 法国 justice country 英国 heroic country 美国 beauty country 俄国 tilt country 泰国 peaceful country 韩国 wall country 中国 middle county
    – DQN
    Commented Oct 9, 2012 at 22:59
  • DQN was jokying.
    – Tang Ho
    Commented Jul 26, 2021 at 16:07

5 Answers 5


德 is phonetic transcription of Deutsche.

Similarly 法 in 法国 is phonetic transcription of France, not "the country of law".

  • +1 to clearing this out
    – mko
    Commented Sep 7, 2012 at 6:55

From Wikipedia (bolding added):

The Chinese name is probably a phonetic approximation of the German proper adjective. The Vietnamese name is based on the Chinese name. The Japanese name is a phonetic approximation of the Dutch proper adjective. Noticeably, the characters with which the Chinese name is written have a flattering connotation while the Japanese characters are degrading. This is consistent with naming patterns of the two countries during the nineteenth century. The Korean name is based on the Japanese name. This is explained in detail below: The common Chinese name (Traditional: 德國, Simplified: 德国, Pinyin: Déguó) is a combination of the short form of 德意志 déyìzhì, which approximates the German pronunciation [ˈdɔʏtʃ] of Deutsch ‘German’, plus 國 guó ‘country’. The character 德 by itself means "moral" and is thus consistent with the Chinese pattern names of choosing characters which are not only phonetically comparable with national names.

  • 4
    Vietnam is Chinese for "extreme south." Imagine how the Mexicans might feel if we referred to their country as the "extreme south."
    – Tom Au
    Commented Aug 18, 2012 at 0:48
  • 1
    Well, at this point, Vietnam is the Mexico of China... Commented Sep 4, 2012 at 16:19
  • 2
    Tom Au, no, 越南 is not like that. Historically the area of Guangdong province and the around was called 越, and 越南 simply means even south to 越
    – user58955
    Commented Sep 20, 2013 at 7:40

I am Chinese. Mr/Ms.Yozloy's answer is correct, and may I add something more here.

Here is what I know: some transcriptions of contries' names in Chinese came from Japanese (they share some same letters, which is called kanji, as you may know) in late 19th century. Here are some examples:

       Japanese / Modern Chinese

America 米利坚   /  美利坚

England 英吉利   /  英格兰

Deutsch 独逸址   /  德意志

France  佛朗西   /  法兰西

The changes may come from the misunderstands in second translation(European language--Japanese--Chinese)or just because translators (they are all knowladged people at that time in China)want to show these contries' strength so that we can courage ourselves to run after them——at that time, China is a very weak country.

Actually there are changes after 1949:at first we named Mozambique “莫三鼻给”,however, Premier ZhouEnlai said that 鼻(nose) is not a good word here——and now we call Mozambique “莫桑比克”.

  • English is 英吉利, England is 英格兰. The English channel is called 英吉利海峡 in Chinese.
    – user58955
    Commented Sep 20, 2013 at 7:41

Google translate translates "德国" separately, which is a wrong way. In Chinese, "德" is a word which means "Virtue", and "国" is also a word which means "country". So you get the result "德国=Virtue Country".

But the right way should be: you consider "德国" as a word. It means the country, German.


德国's 德 is from the Chinese word 德意志. Chinese people are used to use words with two characters, so we added a 国, which means nation, after 德.

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