Many international brands have a strong presence in China and have awesome-sounding Chinese names.
For example, do you know how to write “Nike” in Chinese?
It’s 耐克 (nài kè), and it means endurance.
You might recognize the first character, as it comes from 耐性 (nài xìng), meaning endurance or patience.
For the fashionable Chinese learner, knowing the Chinese names of major labels shows that you are both language and business savvy.
Combine this knowledge with some handy Chinese phrases for shopping and you’re good to go.
Plus, looking at the Chinese names of famous brands is just one more creative and fun way to learn Chinese!
Now let’s explore every corner of the consumer world—in Chinese!
15 Chinese Brand Names That Smart Shoppers Must Know
1. 路易威登 (Lùyì Wēidēng) — Louis Vuitton
The ubiquitous pattern of an LV bag makes it easily recognizable among other brands. But, surprisingly, this highly-popular label for bags of all shapes and sizes is now becoming too common to be luxury.
Looks like the Chinese rich will be aiming even higher when it comes to luxury handbags.
路易威登 is a very close phonetic imitation to Louis Vuitton. 威 means power, as in 威力 (wēilì). 登 refers to ascending to great heights, as in 登山 (dēngshàng), which means climbing a mountain.
2. 古琦 (Gǔqí) — Gucci
This is another ultra-famous fashion brand that is struggling to maintain its claim to luxury in the face of an ever-growing population of wealthy Chinese.
Gucci’s Chinese name is also a phonetic imitation, although 古 means ancient. Think: 古代 (gǔdài), ancient, or 古典 (gǔdiǎn), classical.
琦 can be a kind of valuable stone, such a jade. So Gucci in Chinese alludes to ancient fine jade.
3. 阿迪达斯 (Ādídásī) — Adidas
Adidas has adopted a straight phonetic imitation in its Chinese name. Although the Chinese name for Adidas does not have a particularly strong Chinese meaning, the company has done well to connect with Asian culture. Its high-profile celebrity brand ambassadors include athletes such as Jeremy Lin.
To witness Adidas’ marketing strategy for China firsthand, I recommend FluentU!
4. 精工 (Jīnggōng) — Seiko
Another company that has great Chinese celebrity endorsements is Seiko. Seiko watches are worn by singer and actor Wang Leehom and actor Daniel Wu.
“Seiko” is how the characters 精工 are pronounced in Japanese. In Chinese, the name is one that makes you think of refined craftsmanship.
精 comes from 精华 (jīnghuá), meaning essence. It is also used in 精神 (jīngshén), meaning attitude or spirit.
工 refers to work or craftsmanship. For example: 工厂 (gōngchǎng) means factory and 工艺 (gōngyì) means arts and handmade crafts.
Together, 精工 connotes a sense of being handmade or meticulously made, with fine attention to detail.
5. 可口可乐 (Kěkǒukělè) — Coca-Cola
When you desire happiness and a delicious drink, you want to have Coca-Cola. At least, that’s what the company wants you to think.
Coca-Cola has an awesome Chinese name that suggests both joy (乐) and great taste (可口).
Indeed, Coca-Cola has been joyfully working the Chinese market for over 35 years. In fact, Coca-Cola was one of the first companies to re-enter China after the Cultural Revolution.
As is the case for most big companies, Coca-Cola has found an excellent place to work in China. China is soon to be Coca-Cola’s largest market worldwide.
Looks like there’s a lot of Chinese sipping this brown fizzy drink.
6. 麦当劳 (Màidāngláo) — McDonald’s
Who doesn’t love McDonald’s? Chinese tastes have been changing ever since the arrival of Western fast food chains.
McDonald’s phonetically similar Chinese name doesn’t have a particularly meaningful translation, unless you want to point out that 麦 is wheat, and hamburger buns are made from wheat. One could note that 劳 means hard-working, and the staff at McDonald’s do work hard for their minimum wage.
7. 喜力 (Xǐlì) — Heineken
When it comes to alcoholic drinks, here is a beer that boasts happiness and power.
Heineken, sometimes also called 海尼根 (Hǎinígēn), has chosen words of strength and happiness to represent its beers in China. 喜 comes from 欢喜 (huānxǐ), or happiness. 力 is strength, as in 努力 (nǔlì), to work hard or put in great effort, and 能力 (nénglì), meaning strength or power.
Great name choice, as it makes one think of robust partying. Cheers!
8. 宝马 (Bǎomǎ) — BMW
Your car is a precious vehicle to carry you around, much like…a horse.
That is the word BMW chose for its Chinese name, as its name means “precious horse.”
宝 is from 宝贝 (bǎobèi), for precious darling, and 宝贵 (bǎoguì), for very valuable.
And because babies are very precious, in Chinese they are called 宝宝 (bǎobǎo).
This is not to be confused with 包包 (bāobāo), which is your handbag, or 抱抱 (bàobào), which is a hug.
You need to be clear whether it is your baby or your handbag that is stolen! Or, if you just want a hug? Oh! the tones…
9. 保时捷 (Bǎoshíjié) — Porsche
Would you want to travel around China on a “precious horse” (BMW), or would you rather drive a Porsche?
Porsche’s Chinese name is mainly a phonetic match, but the name also connotes speed and timeliness.
捷 means quick, and it is also used in the names of Jaguar, which is 捷豹 (Jiébào) and Volkswagen’s Jetta, which is 捷达 (Jiédá).
10. 大众汽车 (Dàzhòng qìchē) — Volkswagen
And now it’s time for “everybody’s car” or 大众汽车, also known as Volkswagen. This Chinese translation is a fairly accurate representation of the original German name, which means “the people’s car.” Nicely done.
11. 宜家 (Yíjiā) — IKEA
IKEA has a Chinese name that makes one think of a practical, comfortable home. How perfect is that?
宜 comes from 便宜 (biànyí), convenient. Also, 便宜 (piányi), cheap. And 适宜 (shìyí), suitable.
家 of course means home. So when you come to IKEA, or 宜家, you can expect to furnish your home suitably, cheaply and conveniently.
And the cafeteria has cheap coffee and muffins.
12. 强生 (Qiángshēng) — Johnson & Johnson
A producer of bath and hygiene products likely wants to promote healthy living. This is exactly what Johnson & Johnson has chosen to do through its Chinese name, which hints at strong life. Think: 刚强 (gāngqiáng), unyielding, and 强力 (qiánglì), powerful.
生, on the other hand, connotes all good meanings relating to life and longevity.
It is a character that shows up everywhere. For example: Have a happy life—生活 (shēnghuó)—because life—生命 (shēngmìng)—is precious. Try not to get angry—生气 (shēngqì)—on your birthday—生日(shēngrì).
13. 惠普 (Huì Pǔ) — Hewlett-Packard
This international supplier of personal computers, printers and other technology has a Chinese name that means “beneficial” and “popular.”
You may recognize 惠 from 优惠 (yōuhuì), meaning preferential favor or special deal. It is also commonly seen in 特惠 (tèhuì) meaning special discount, and 实惠 (shíhuì)—better bang for your buck.
普 comes from 普遍 (pǔbiàn), meaning common, general and universal. It is also used in 普通 (pǔtōng), meaning common and ordinary.
Of course, you may remember that Mandarin Chinese is called 普通话 (pǔtōnghuà), everybody’s language!
14. 博世 (Bóshì) — Bosch
This German manufacturer of electronic parts has chosen a Chinese name that means conquering the world. Not a bad name for a multinational company known to be one of the leading suppliers of car parts.
博 means extensive, as in 广博 (guǎngbó), and 博大 (bódà), meaning huge.
博 is also used in 博物馆 (bówùguǎn), museum, and 博士 (bóshì), a doctorate degree or PhD. What a smart name!
15. 通用电气 (Tōngyòng diànqì) — General Electric
If you want to be known as a universally useful electric company, why not try the name 通用电气?
通用 means usable everywhere, and 电气 is electronics.
You may recognize 通 from 通话 (tōnghuà), communicate by telephone. It is also found in 通过 (tōngguò), through or via, and 通知 (tōngzhī), to notify. These are all good phrases referring to communicating and connecting.
And now you know many Chinese names for international brands!
It is pretty interesting how companies have connected the right sounds to the right meaning.
What would your company’s Chinese brand name be?
And One More Thing...
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