# How do native speakers of Chinese pronounce Latin characters?

I hear that "Windows XP" is commonly called "Chā P" because the letter "X" may be pronounced "Chā".

Are there other Latin characters that have similarly peculiar pronunciations?

• – hippietrail Feb 17 '14 at 10:17
• I've never heard of this acronym before. We always say "XP" – Daniel Cheung Apr 22 '16 at 7:49

There is no single way to pronounce a given letter in the Latin alphabet. The set of rules varies wildly depending on the speaker's geographical location.

That being said however, I have, a few years ago, compiled a list of common (more Northern I believe) pronunciations of Roman letters. You can find it on this subpage of my Wiktionary homepage: Roman Letters in Mandarin.

For your convenience, I am going to paste it here:

字母  漢語拼音標音                    同音字
A     ēi
B     bì                            閉
C     sēi                           塞（白讀）
D     dì                            地
E     yì                            意
F     ái fu                         癌副
G     jì                            既
H     éi chi
I     ài 或 ái                      愛 或 癌
J     zhèi                          這（口語）
K     kèi
L     ái lur                        癌露兒
M     ái mu                         癌木
N     ēn                            恩
O     ōu                            歐
P     pì                            僻
Q     kiùr
R     àr 或 ár                       二
S     ái si                         癌四
T     tì                            替
U     yōu                           幽
V     wēi（聲母多為唇齒音 IPA: /ʋ/）    微
W     dá bu liu                     達不六
X     ái ke si                      癌克四
Y     wài（聲母多為雙唇音 IPA: /w/）    外
Z     zèi


Just on your specific example, chā is certainly possible as X resembles the cross. I have never heard of people pronouncing XP like this before though.

• I assumed ChinesePod's vocabulary wasn't too obscure, perhaps they included this one just for fun, then. – Matthew Rudy 马泰 Jan 23 '13 at 13:42
• I'd add more: 'H -> ai chi' 'G -> zhei (yes. the same as J)' 'K -> kai' 'L -> ai le(r)' – Mike Manilone Jan 28 '13 at 4:57
• You are welcome to edit my answer. Just make sure you add intonations. – deutschZuid Feb 12 '13 at 7:54
• This is terrible... Nobody really intends to say that... Everyone intends to say the letters as they are in English (Z is called zed), but many have an accent... In primary school, the pupils are taught a different system (a certainly very different one from above), but no one really uses it beyond that particular lesson. – user58955 Sep 24 '13 at 6:05
• It's an approximation and yes some people do say it like that. I am not sure how much you've mingled with people from various parts of China/different working classes/education levels, but you sound like you've heard it all which I highly doubt. I've already mentioned that there is no single way of pronouncing it and the table I presented is only one way of representing the letters. – deutschZuid Sep 24 '13 at 21:44

Reading X as cha1 is definitely informal, almost online talk. It is only because X resembles a cross (叉) and cha1 is easier to pronounce.

This kind of meme is highly local and may not last long. Some other commonly used ones are actually from poker card names:

A: 尖 (pointy)
J: 钩 (hook)
Q: 圈 (circle), 蛋 (egg) or 皮蛋 (preserved egg)


This 'nicknaming' is not limited to Latin characters, but also symbols and signs, e.g.

Windows icon: 飘 ((flag) waving). E.g. 飘悠悠 (Windows key, U, U) means 'shut down your PC'.


Again these are highly geographical and may go away at any time like any other urban catchwords.

• Interesting. I've seen the J=钩, Q=(皮)蛋 before, but not the other ones. How do people say "apple" key? – Stumpy Joe Pete Jan 23 '13 at 5:53
• @StumpyJoePete I am not aware of any nicknames for the apple key. Some 果粉 may know:) – NS.X. Jan 23 '13 at 7:57
• That's pretty interesting. I'm surprised ChinesePod didn't mention the 叉 reference (I should double check). – Matthew Rudy 马泰 Jan 23 '13 at 13:35
• @NS.X. this is the answer I was looking for, but it seems I phrased my question wrong. Should have said "Why is X sometimes pronounced Cha1, and are other letters treated similarly?". But given the title I gave JamesJiao's answer is the right one. – Matthew Rudy 马泰 Jan 23 '13 at 13:48
• @StumpyJoePete Apple key is just called 苹果键 (píng guǒ jiàn) – Victor Jan 18 at 16:58

Chinese people pronounce "X" as "Chā" because "X" is not easy to pronounce (at least is harder than "Chā") and "X" looks like a cross, and a cross is pronounced as "Chā" (叉) in Chinese. Chinese people also pronounce "XCode", a code editor on apple Mac, as "Chā code".

As this "custom" derives from the difficulty of pronunciation, I think there may be some other similar "customs" for other Latin characters. However, as far as I, who is a native Chinese speaker, know, "X" is the only special case.

• I don't pronounce X as 叉. It's so f**king weird to me. So, it's just "some chinese" not "all chinese" who pronounce X as 叉. – LiuYan 刘研 Apr 25 '14 at 5:46

I know this is an old question, but since none of the above answer have mentioned,

O would be another one, sometimes pronounced as 圈, but it's not as common as X, and the only example I can think of is OOXX (圈圈叉叉)

This is a very interesting question. We all know that there are many dialects in China, and the pronunciations of Latin alphabets are also varied in different areas.

I used to live in Shandong, and now in Nanjing where I can hear accents from different places in China.

I'd like to give you the pronunciation of them in my hometown(泰安 or 莱芜 in 山东):

    字母  漢語拼音標音                    同音字
A     ei35 or ngei35                    唉(ei)
B     bi55                            閉
C     xi55                            细（白讀）
D     di21                            地
E     yi55                            意
F     (ng)ai35 fu                         癌副
G     ji21                            既
H     (ng)ei35 chi21
I     a53i11/æ53                      愛 或 癌
J     zhei53                          這（口語）
K     kei53
L     ai35 l
M     ai35 mu21                         癌木
N     (ng)en213                            恩
O     (ng)ou213                            歐
P     pi53                            僻
Q     kiu53/qiu53
R     ar53 或 ar53                       二
S     ai213 si21                         癌四
T     ti21                            替
U     you213                           幽
V     wei33                           微
W     da35 bu liu21                     達不六
X     (ng)ai35 ke si                      癌克四
Y     wai21/wæ21                           外
Z     zei21 /zæ213de (声母为IPA的z)


X, pronounced as Chā in Chinese, looks like two stick. X is also corresponding to the Chinese character 叉. If you do your math homework wrong, your math teacher will use her pen to write a shape like X. I don't know whether your teacher gives one.

You mean Latin alphabet?

• I think the OP is quite aware of the origin of X. His question is geared more towards how Latin characters are pronounced in general. X was just an example. Please do not ask a question in an answer. – deutschZuid Jan 23 '13 at 4:48

As a native speaker of Chinese, I must to say that many chinese don't say chā to replace x(at least my classmates and I don't say chā to replace x).But actually the pronunciation of x is difficult for us chinese.So sometimes we will say chā to replace it real pronunciation.E.g.,we will say chā-box to replace the word Xbox.

Chinese people pronounce Latin alphabet the same as how the British and the Americans pronounce them.

However, if you want to know the non-standard Chinglish pronunciation, then there is a story.

O → 圈 (quān, circle)

X → 叉 (chā, cross)

N → 恩 (ēn), mispronunciation

The Chinese pronunciation of “N” is actually a common mispronuncication. Many Chinese people pronounce N as /ən/ rather than /en/.

In card games,

A → 尖 (jiān, acute)

J → 钩 (gōu, hook)

Q → 皮蛋 (pí dàn, century egg)