I noticed that Chinese sometimes prefer to say "ay pee pee" rather than just "app" when referring to a computer application. I infer there is a chance that "app" already had a meaning in a Chinese language other than application. Can anyone tell me what meaning it may have in Mandarin or Cantonese? Thanks.

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    "App" is not a valid syllable in Mandarin, so I imagine the pronunciation A-P-P was easier to pronounce for some people. Commented Dec 6, 2013 at 20:29
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    This is part of a larger trend, too, people say L-E-D for LED as well, for instance. My guess is that these are more easily accepted as new words (even though they are original abbreviations) in English because they don't violate morphological rules as much as they do in Chinese. Also, I suspect that single-syllable foreign words pronounced in the middle of a Chinese sentence will be much harder to understand than a three-syllable abbreviation, which is obviously not a Chinese word.
    – Olle Linge
    Commented Dec 7, 2013 at 2:59
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    @OlleLinge, LED is pronounced as an initialism in English as well, in fact (in my experience at least) more commonly than as an acronym. Commented Dec 8, 2013 at 15:12
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    My own experience is, it depends on how natural/convenient it is pronounced when we embed it into a Chinese sentence. Here're some examples that most Chinese people would pronounce as acronyms: PIN, SARS, Ajax, SOHO, COM, FLAC, grep, GRID.
    – Stan
    Commented Dec 11, 2013 at 8:59
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    @OlleLinge Yes, the usual way to say it in English is "L-E-D display" (at least in American English AFAIK).
    – Claw
    Commented Jan 22, 2014 at 22:11

3 Answers 3


I'm pretty sure it doesn't have any meaning in Mandarin itself, given that "words" in Mandarin end with either a vowel, "n", or "ng" (as per the pinyin romanization). It could be another word from English but I doubt it (given that I can't think of any other words with similar spelling/pronunciation in common usage). Moreover, in my experience, most people who speak Mandarin just use "app".

In my experience Cantonese speaking people seem more inclined to use "app" as well, even though there are a couple characters with slightly similar pronuncation (but as obvious, significantly different tones) in Cantonese, such as 鸭 (aap with the jyutping romanization system). That said, given the tonal nature of the words in Cantonese and the fact that there is still a different pronunciation, I don't think there's any risk of confusing "app" with any of those words.

(However, it's worth noting that my experiences have mainly been around Cantonese/Mandarin speakers who probably are inclined to code-switch with English words and phrases than average.)

To conclude, I'd say that while there might indeed be Chinese speakers who pronounce "app" as "A-P-P", I wouldn't attribute this to any words in Chinese with similar pronunciation and different meaning.

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    “So I downloaded this duck onto my phone yesterday …” Commented Dec 8, 2013 at 15:13

Although it might be obvious that app(/æp/) stands for application(/æplɪˈkeɪʃn/), most Chinese just say "A-P-P" because they simply have no idea what does it represent and won't notice the correlation between "app" and "application" for the first time they see it(which might be the same situation even if they're getting more familiar with the word add).


Still a lot of people in China can not understand English very well, just like say 'app'. Pronounce them seperately is easier for most Chinese people.

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