This week, we are going to look at the Chinese names of popular Western chains, famous among locals and foreigners alike.

But first, let’s see what names you already know – or perhaps can guess.

Look at the first picture and try to put a name and a label of the chain together:


Exercise | Chinese Names of Popular Western Chains

Chinese Names of Popular Western Chains | Exercise

You can check your answers with the following picture:


Answers | Chinese Names of Popular Western Chains

Chinese Names of Popular Western Chains | Answers
Now let’s have a closer look at each.


1: Starbucks Coffee ♦ 星巴克咖啡

Do you like 咖啡 kāfēi? ☕

The name of this coffee shop was translated in Chinese by sound. Try to read it out loud:

☕ 星巴克 xīngbākè – and you’ll see that it’s very close to the original name!


2: McDonald’s ♦ 麦当劳

The most popular fast-food restaurant, McDonald’s, is 麦当劳 màidāngláo in Chinese.

This name copies the sounds of the name McDonald. Sounds kinda similar, right?

3: KFC ♦ 肯德基

As all we know, ‘KFC’ is an abbreviation of ‘Kentucky Fried Chicken’, and a ‘chicken’ in Chinese is 鸡 jī 🐔

So, the last character in 肯德基 🍗 kěndéjī also sounds as chicken, giving us a hint of this restaurant’s signature dish – fried chicken.


4: Burger King ♦ 汉堡王

This example wasn’t translated by sound like the other names – it was translated by meaning. This method is called “tracing”: you translate a lexical item by components:

Burger 🍔 into 汉堡 hànbǎo;

King into wáng.

That’s how we get 汉堡王 hànbǎowáng 🍔👑


5: IKEA Restaurant ♦ 宜家餐厅

Chances are when you saw this post, you thought “What is IKEA doing in this list?”

The answer is – then we added it to the list, we thought of IKEA’s food court. Living for a long time in China can be complicated for foreigners, as Asian food is really different; from time to time, we crave some comfort food.

In this case, 宜家餐厅 🍝 yíjiā cāntīng is waiting for you!

What’s interesting, 宜家 means “harmonious family”, so this word was translated with the help of two methods at the same time: transcription and tracing.


That’s all so far! What other Western restaurants or any other chains do you like to go in China? Let us know about your preferences on our twitter!

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