4

As far as I understand, the Chinese people called America "美国" (among many) which literally translates to 'beautiful country'. I understand it was phonetic transcription of 'America'.

But I wonder why Japanese use "米国" which translates to "rice country". I know '美' and '米' have the same pronunciation in Japanese.

When did Japanese start to use '米国'? Was there any time when '美国' was used in Japanese? is there any reason to use the Chinese character '米' for the name?

3

As stated in the thread that WeirdlyCheezy linked to, the full kanji "spelling" for America is 亜米利加. 米 is officially only ベイ or マイ, but, as in other places it acts as a phonetic -- 迷 謎 -- it can also be read as メイ. Ok, so why not 亜国 then? Well, 亜 already referred to Asia in general, so that was out. Ok, 米国 then. Except, 米 isn't commonly read as メイ, and if read as マイ, is strongly associated with compounds that refer to rice... perhaps that's why the less common reading of ベイ (米寿・米飯・米穀・米価)was chosen?

As for 美, it's really only read as ビ; the possible ミ reading is nearly only used in person / place names.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.