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As we all know, the UK means the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, in which there is not a word or a syllable that sounds like 英, but why is the name of this country in Chinese is 英国?

Some may attribute this to the fact that England is part of the kingdom, so it is nothing wrong to name it 英国, but in the same manner, can we use Hong Kong or Shanghai to mean the whole China?

And even in many news reports of Chinese mainstream media, Team England in the UEFA European Football Championship is named 英格兰国家队, but 英格兰is not a country, and this team also played with Team Scotland a few days back in the championship, but no Chinese media name that team 苏格兰国家队, but England and Scotland are on the same status or level under the UK or the European football governing body, either as a part or as an individual association.

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    英格蘭 is a country. The UK is a country comprised of four countries.
    – dROOOze
    Jul 9 at 2:07
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    英国 originally referred to the Kingdom of England hundreds of years ago and the name just "carried over" when Scotland and Ireland merged in. So it's kind of some relic in the Chinese language that 英国 now refers to the UK as a whole, in a similar sense how "British" is often the adjective form of "the UK" in the English language.
    – iBug
    Jul 9 at 11:11
  • See also: 荷兰. Using Holland to refer to the Netherlands and England for UK were common once in (American) English too.
    – xngtng
    Jul 9 at 12:29
  • @dROOOze it is interesting to know that, but it is still confusing that a country is made up of four countries, and it sounds illogical, because we have to determine whether it is a country or four countries. Jul 9 at 14:25
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    …it isn’t for anyone to judge whether someone else’s political system is “illogical”…we have a wide range of political systems in the world.
    – dROOOze
    Jul 9 at 14:35
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It is correct.

Chinese people used the translation "英国" in the 18th century when the Emperor of Kangxi was still alive. It was 英圭黎. Scotland joined the kingdom in 1707, but this translation appeared before 1707. It just represented England. But after Scotland became a part of the UK, Chinese people did not change the name because they thought it was just the same country. This translation is still widely used today.

Also, "联合王国" is also a correct and official translation.

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Actually, according to the list of the Member States of the United Nations the political correct denomination of the UK in Chinese is 大不列颠及北爱尔兰联合王国.

Anyway, it doesn't mean that the term 英国 is not correct.

The point is that, as in the case of many other countries, you cannot just, for example, win a war or make friends and split, unify, merge, change denomination and whatsoever... and expect that all people on earth in all languages change the name of the same land just for you. Bluntly said, common people doesn't care.

We are talking about language here, right? Not politics or religion, right?

P.S.: It's interesting that we could conversely ask:
"Is it correct to call 中国 China?"
"As we all know, in the name 中国 there is not a word or a syllable that sounds like China, but why is the name of this country in English China?"

P.P.S.: I would never ask that question.
Edited after the comments below: that is exactly why I said that I would never ask that question. This kind of questions are very little related to language. They are just asked with the purpose of stirring political controversies.

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    I think 中国 means more than 中华人民共和国, that 中国 = China and 中华人民共和国 = PRC. The term 中国, like its English version, China, is sometimes intentionally used in favour of its ambiguity for political reasons. Jul 9 at 10:12
  • @mika Thank you, I do appreciate your comment, but I said that I would never ask that question. I meant it. Jul 9 at 10:48
  • The word China appears on a 16th century map by Abraham Ortelius. Obviously, China cannot mean 中华人民共和国.
    – joehua
    Jul 9 at 13:20
  • Thanks for the enlightening, but in 中国共产党 and 中国国民党, you can see that 中国 could not mean 中华人民共和国, even 中国共产党 was founded in 1921, when the country was known as Republic of China or 中华民国. Jul 9 at 14:21
  • Country names might be changed with the change of rulers, for example, 苏联(the USSR) since its collapse in 1989 has been named 前苏联 with a prefix 前 added by Chinese media, and 南朝鲜 (South Korea) changed into 韩国, Ivory Coast (象牙海岸) into 科特迪瓦 (Cote d'lvoire), so you see, if common people do not care, Chinese media do. Jul 9 at 14:32
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Most of the people in Taiwan call the UK 英國, and they don't know the differences between the UK, England, and Britain. And phrases like 英國女王, 英國皇室, 英國留學 are commonly used.

Oh, there's another phrase, 英倫(風), people use this term to describe British styles of music, clothing etc, so you'd hear things like 英倫搖滾, 英倫音樂, 英倫服飾.

And yes, @mimi709 is correct. 英倫 refers to the pronunciation of England. I've edited my answer.

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  • Doesn't mainland Chinese call the UK 英國 too? Taiwan didn't create a name on its own, in this case,, it follows the Chinese tradition in calling the UK and England.
    – r13
    Jul 9 at 22:28
  • You're absolutely right. I simply stated the fact that people call it this way in Taiwan. People in Taiwan didn't create it.
    – Ron94
    Jul 20 at 9:44
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When most Chinese people talk about 英国, people usually mean the United Kingdom, though not realising the difference between UK and England. A large percentage of people are not familiar to Northern Ireland, some even have not heard of it, thus many would consider UK and England as synonyms. Hence, the Chinese term for England, 英格兰, is rarely used. Usually it can be only seen in texts about football, history and politics. Last but not least, 英国 is the official term for United Kingdom.

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I cannot comment on @Ron94's answer due to my low reputation.

In my point of view, 英倫 should refer to England instead of London with reference to the pronunciation:

Eng/(g)/land = 英/格/蘭

Eng/land = 英/倫

From Wikipedia, during the Qing dynasty, some Britain came to China and said they were English 英吉利, so the Chinese documented Great Britain as 英國. This is not correct as it ignored Scotland, Northern Ireland, and Wales as @NanningYouth mentioned. However, I think it's a common consent that 英國 refers to the UK or Great Britain now.

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IMO, 英國 referred to the territory of the Brits (England) who spoke English dated before the forming of UK.

The first encounter between Great Britain and the Chinese Qing Dynasty was in the summer of 1793 prior to the forming of the United Kindom (UK), which united the Kingdom of Great Britain with the Kingdom of Ireland in 1800, and was formed in 1801. After that, I believe the name "大不列顛眾和國" was used officially, but "英國" remained in the informal setting for the convinience of speak and pronounce.

To me, it is more mind-boggling why the US has been called "美國" or "美利堅眾和國" by the Chinese then.

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  • For your information, in history and in current period, 美国 is also known as 米国, 霉国,漂亮国, and 英国 as 阴国, 腐国 in China. When I talked about this subject, I did not have any intention to focus on or cover political matters or religion, what I wanted is the name itself, but ultimately a name of a country cannot be without any political or religious element unless it is a land of wild animals. Jul 10 at 1:19
  • @NanningYouth Interesting, other than 米国, I've never heard the rest in political or non-political means. Chinese used to name other countries, cities, locations according to pronunciation, and pick words with the closest sound. Usually, those words are meaningless. 美国 is one exception that puzzled me.
    – r13
    Jul 10 at 1:32
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When you say 英国 in Chinese, you mean the whole country of the UK, including England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and many other small islands around the area. So it is correct to call UK “英国” in Chinese if it is unofficial.

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