Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) in Chinese is 肯德基 (Kěndéjī), which seems to be an approximate transliteration of "KFC".

KFC 肯德基

It surprises me that they opted for 基 (jī) instead of 鸡 (jī), which is pronounced the same but means "chicken" and is therefore pertinent to what KFC does.

I asked my Chinese friend, and he said 肯德鸡 is not a good choice, saying something like 鸡 is "low" in status. I'm not quite sure what he meant.

Question: Why is 肯德基 not called 肯德鸡?

Update: To my surprise, I actually found a local 肯德鸡 street vendor:


Kěndéjī fēngwèi zhàjī
Kendeji special-flavor fried chicken

  • 6
    Because 肯德基 is a transliteration of Kentucky, and wasn't made with Kentucky Fried Chicken in mind. You'll have to find out why they decided to transliterate the franchise from the name Kentucky instead of making a pun with「鷄」. My guess is because they used Cantonese to transliterate the name, as Cantonese 肯德基 sounds like Kentucky while 肯德鷄 sounds like Kenta-guy.
    – dROOOze
    Commented May 3, 2018 at 11:52

4 Answers 4


The full Chinese name of KFC is 肯德基炸鸡, but it was shorten to 肯德基 currently. The word Kentucky, was translated into 肯德基 in Chinese intentionally, in order to distinguish with Kentucky State, while 肯德基 and 肯塔基 are same word in English actually. I think it is because that KFC is a influential foreign brand in early period, Chinese may know what it is now when seeing or hearing about 肯德基, so the word 炸鸡 isn't necessary at all. If it was named 肯德鸡, for most people, it would be considered as a low quality translation, and the brand may be regarded as an imitated brand from China, rather than a foreign brand.


It's such a funny problem, I can't help posting something!

Well, You should know "鸡" can be used as slang for prostitude.

But I think your friend's true meaning is "鸡" is kind of free translation, compared to literal translation, it doesn't sound exotic as "肯德基", while people really like exotic things. I mean, when translating things, you're gonna tell me "it's chicken!" directly to my face? No, every local restaurant use "鸡" for their names, KFC, as a foreign brand, that's so LOOOOOW!

Also, "基" is a common used character when you do literal translation.


The reason your friend says "鸡" is low in status is probably because of its association with male genitalia (think "cockerel/cock" in English). I'd guess that's probably a compelling reason not to adopt chicken puns in an official name.


Once upon a time, the whole brand name is spelled in lengthy version. Thus, it is obvious translation for the time to use 肯德基家乡鸡(Kentucky homestead chicken) as a more elegant translation for the brand and for marketing. And this translation continue to be used even the brand change it to KFC.

Nevertheless, public simply use 肯德鸡 regardless of KFC marketing.

It is similar to Mcdonald franchise, that many simply call it 麦记 than the full marketing name 麦当劳。

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