Chinese Names for 50 US States (Plus Abbreviations)
If you are from the United States and visiting or living in China, one of the most common questions you’ll likely be asked from curious Chinese people is which US state you’re from. So you’ll definitely want to know how to answer!
Sure, you may belt out the name of your state in English. Problem is, most people in China have no idea how the US states are called in the English language. If you answer with “Texas”, or “Pennsylvania”, chances are, they can’t figure out which state you’re talking about. That’s why you should learn how to say the state names in Chinese.
So in this article, we’ll look at the Chinese names for the 50 US states – both the official names and the abbreviations, learn how they’re written in Chinese characters, and how to pronounce them in standard Mandarin. Then, we’ll help you learn a few useful phrases you can use when introducing your Chinese-speaking friends to your state.
But first and foremost, let’s learn how to say “state” in Chinese.
“State” in Chinese
The word for “state” in Chinese is:
- 州 (zhōu)
It’s a very quick and simple word for you to learn! Of course, you have to learn each state’s name in Chinese separately just like in English, but even so, it’s one of the first staple vocabulary words you should know.
Essentially, you may add the word 州 (zhōu) after any state name to make it sound formal. (more on this later)
“The United States of America” in Chinese
You probably already know the word for “America” in Chinese is 美国 (Měiguó), which can be translated to “beautiful nation” if you take the characters literally. But what about the full official name of America? Did you ever wonder about the translation of “the United States of America” in Chinese?
Well, the official Chinese name for “the United States of America” is:
- 美利坚合众国 (Měilìjiān hézhòng guó)
The translation was done by combining the sound and meaning of the country’s original English name. 美利坚 (Měilìjiān) mimics the sound of the word “America”, 合众 (hézhòng) means “federated”, and 国 (guó) means “nation”. So basically, it’s “America Federated Nation” in Chinese.
And when you omit the middle part (美
利坚合众国 Měi lìjiān hézhòng guó), it’s 美国 (Měiguó) – “beautiful nation”, again! Fascinating, isn’t it?
How the State Names Are Translated into Chinese
Although the average person on the street in China probably can’t name more than five US states, there is an official Chinese name for each and every one of them.
Just like the Chinese geographical names are romanized into English based on the way they sound, for instance, 武汉 (Wǔ hàn) – Wuhan, the names of US states are transliterated into Chinese by breaking down the name into syllables and replacing them with similar-sounding Chinese characters.
- Indiana → In-di-a-na → 印第安纳 (pronunciation: Yìn dì ān nà)
- Utah → U-tah → 犹他 (pronunciation: Yóu tā)
Sounds close enough, right?
There is just one problem: Chinese characters can only represent syllables as concrete blocks of sound but not as fluid combinations of letters. As a result, some state names in Chinese sound “off” to English speakers and don’t bear too much resemblance to the originals.
- Maine → Mai-ine → 缅因 (pronunciation: Miǎn yīn)
- Oklahoma → O-k-la-ho-ma → 俄克拉何马 (pronunciation: É kè lā hé mǎ)
Plus, with only about 400 syllables, Chinese has a much smaller stock of phonetics compared with English (for instance, there is no such sound as “geor” or “ver” in Chinese), so again, very often the transliterations are a very, very rough approximation.
- Georgia → Geor-gi-ia → 佐治亚 (pronunciation: Zuǒ zhì yà)
- Vermont → Ver-mon-t → 佛蒙特 (pronunciation: Fó méng tè)
While most US state names are transliterated into Chinese purely based on sound, a few are a combination of sound and meaning.
For instance, the “new” in New Hampshire, New Jersey, and New Mexico (but oddly enough, not New York) is translated to 新 (xīn), meaning “new” in Chinese. Other examples include the “North”, “South”, “West” and “Island” in North Carolina, North Dakota, South Carolina, South Dakota, West Virginia, and Rhode Island.
It’s worth pointing out that due to the limited range of syllables, Mandarin Chinese has lots of homophonous characters (having the same pronunciation but different meanings). That means one can use various combinations of Chinese characters to transcribe the same US state name (there is a set of “preferred characters” for transliterating foreign names though).
For instance, Texas can be written as 德克萨斯 as well as 得克萨斯 – both pronounced “Dé kè sà sī”.
At other times, similar-sounding characters may be used. So Iowa can be 艾奥瓦 (Ài ào wǎ), 爱荷华 (Ài hé huá), 依荷华 (Yī hé huá) at the same time.
In this article, we list the standard translations for US states that are used in Chinese mainstream media.
List of All 50 US State Names in Chinese
Here’s the list of official Chinese names for US states, organized alphabetically, with their English name, name in Chinese characters, and Pinyin pronunciation. Just pick out your state from the list below, read this article on how to say which state you’re from in Chinese and you’ll be good to go!
|Alabama||阿拉巴马||Ā lā bā mǎ|
|Alaska||阿拉斯加||Ā lā sī jiā|
|Arizona||亚利桑那||Yà lì sāng nà|
|Arkansas||阿肯色||Ā kěn sè|
|California||加利福尼亚||Jiā lì fú ní yà|
|Colorado||科罗拉多||Kē luó lā duō|
|Connecticut||康涅狄格||Kāng niè dí gé|
|Delaware||特拉华||Tè lā huá|
|Florida||佛罗里达||Fó luó lǐ dá|
|Georgia||佐治亚||Zuǒ zhì yà|
|Hawaii||夏威夷||Xià wēi yí|
|Idaho||爱达荷||Ài dá hé|
|Illinois||伊利诺伊||Yī lì nuò yī|
|Indiana||印第安纳||Yìn dì ān nà|
|Iowa||艾奥瓦||Ài ào wǎ|
|Kansas||堪萨斯||Kān sà sī|
|Kentucky||肯塔基||Kěn tǎ jī|
|Louisiana||路易斯安那||Lù yì sī ān nà|
|Maryland||马里兰||Mǎ lǐ lán|
|Massachusetts||马萨诸塞||Mǎ sà zhū sài|
|Michigan||密歇根||Mì xiē gēn|
|Minnesota||明尼苏达||Míng ní sū dá|
|Mississippi||密西西比||Mì xī xī bǐ|
|Missouri||密苏里||Mì sū lǐ|
|Montana||蒙大拿||Méng dà ná|
|Nebraska||内布拉斯加||Nèi bù lā sī jiā|
|Nevada||内华达||Nèi huá dá|
|New Hampshire||新罕布什尔||Xīn hǎn bù shí ěr|
|New Jersey||新泽西||Xīn zé xī|
|New Mexico||新墨西哥||Xīn mò xī gē|
|New York||纽约(州)||Niǔ yuē (zhōu)|
|North Carolina||北卡罗来纳||Běi kǎ luó lái nà|
|North Dakota||北达科他||Běi dá kē tā|
|Ohio||俄亥俄||É hài é|
|Oklahoma||俄克拉何马||É kè lā hé mǎ|
|Oregon||俄勒冈||É lè gāng|
|Pennsylvania||宾夕法尼亚||Bīn xī fǎ ní yà|
|Rhode Island||罗得岛||Luó dé dǎo|
|South Carolina||南卡罗来纳||Nán kǎ luó lái nà|
|South Dakota||南达科他||Nán dá kē tā|
|Tennessee||田纳西||Tián nà xī|
|Texas||得克萨斯||Dé kè sà sī|
|Vermont||佛蒙特||Fó méng tè|
|Virginia||弗吉尼亚||Fú jí ní yà|
|Washington||华盛顿(州)||Huá shèng dùn (zhōu)|
|West Virginia||西弗吉尼亚||Xī fú jí ní yà|
|Wisconsin||威斯康星||Wēi sī kāng xīng|
|Wyoming||怀俄明||Huái é míng|
In TV reports and news articles, it’s very common to put the word 州 (zhōu) – “state” after the state name to add a more official sound to it (it’s like saying the State of …).
- 阿拉巴马州 (Ā lā bā mǎ zhōu)
- 犹他州 (Yóu tā zhōu)
You can do the same in spoken Chinese – this is optional except for the State of New York and Washington, where you have to add the 州 (zhōu) at the end to differentiate them from New York City and Washington, D.C.
- 纽约州 (Niǔ yuē zhōu)
the State of New York
纽约 (Niǔ yuē)
New York City
- 华盛顿州 (Huá shèng dùn zhōu)
the State of Washington
华盛顿 (Huá shèng dùn)
Chinese Abbreviations for the US States
Like Americans, Chinese people also like to shorten the names of certain places for convenience.
But unfortunately, while there is an abbreviation for each US state in English, only seven states get to have short names in Chinese (apparently, they are more famous in China than the other states for certain reasons).
If you’re lucky enough to come from the State of California, Florida, Massachusetts, North Carolina, South Carolina, Pennsylvania, or Texas, then you can just use its shortened Chinese name.
Official Chinese Name: 加利福尼亚 (Jiā lì fú ní yà)
Short Name in Chinese: 加州 (Jiā zhōu)
Official Chinese Name: 佛罗里达 (Fó luó lǐ dá)
Short Name in Chinese: 佛州 (Fó zhōu)
Official Chinese Name: 马萨诸塞 (Mǎ sà zhū sài)
Short Name in Chinese: 麻省 (Má shěng)
- North Carolina
Official Chinese Name: 北卡罗来纳 (Běi kǎ luó lái nà)
Short Name in Chinese: 北卡 (Běi kǎ)
Literally, “North Ca”
- South Carolina
Official Chinese Name: 南卡罗来纳 (Nán kǎ luó lái nà)
Short Name in Chinese: 南卡 (Nán kǎ)
Literally, “South Ca”
Official Chinese Name: 宾夕法尼亚 (Bīn xī fǎ ní yà)
Short Name in Chinese: 宾州 (Bīn zhōu)
Official Chinese Name: 得克萨斯 (Dé kè sà sī)
Short Name in Chinese: 得州 (Dé zhōu)
Observe the pattern of these abbreviations – they adhere to the same formula of two characters, which is used in naming most of China’s provinces too, for example, 四川 (Sìchuān) or 广东 (Guǎngdōng). Although some of these Chinese abbreviations may not have been standardized by government agencies, they appear frequently on the media and are widely used by the Chinese population.
Chinese Names for US Commonwealth and Territories
Outside of the 50 main states in the Union, the United States has several commonwealths and territories in different parts of the world too. As with the states, there is a Chinese name for each of the territories. Feel free to add them to your Chinese vocabulary.
|American Samoa||美属萨摩亚||Měi shǔ sà mó yà|
|Micronesia||密克罗尼西亚||Mì kè luó ní xī yà|
|Marshall Islands||马绍尔群岛||Mǎ shào ěr qúndǎo|
|Northern Mariana Islands||北马里亚纳群岛||Běi mǎ lǐ yà nà qúndǎo|
|Puerto Rico||波多黎各||Bō duō lí gè|
|Virgin Islands||美属维尔京群岛||Měi shǔ wéi ěr jīng qúndǎo|
|Washington, D.C.||华盛顿哥伦比亚特区||Huá shèng dùn gē lún bǐ yà tè qū|
Note that the Chinese often refer to Washington, D.C. as just Washington, or in Chinese – 华盛顿 (Huá shèng dùn). So when referring to the State of Washington, make sure to add the word 州 (zhōu) – “state” at the end.
Chinese Names for the US States in Conversation
Now you have the vocabulary you need, it’s time to get out there and impress your Chinese friends!
But first, let’s make sure you’ll be able to understand the question “Which state are you from” properly when you get asked in Chinese.
“Which State Are You From” in Chinese
As with any expression in Chinese, there is more than one way to ask for this information. Here are the four most common questions you’ll encounter.
Nǐ shì Měiguó nǎ gè zhōu de?
Literally, “You are of America which state?”
Nǐ shì Měiguó nǎli rén?
Literally, “You are America where person?”
Nǐ cóng Měiguó nǎli lái?
Literally, “You from America where come?”
- 你来自美国哪里？(more formal)
Nǐ lái zì Měiguó nǎli?
Literally, “You come from America where?”
“I am from (the State of) …” in Chinese
You can of course just say the name of your state in response to these questions, but your Chinese-speaking friends would certainly be amazed to hear a long answer from you.
Pick one of the four expressions below to express “I am from (the state of) …” in Chinese.
Wǒ shì Jiā lì fú ní yà de.
Literally, “I am of California.”
Wǒ shì Jiā lì fú ní yà rén.
Literally, “I am California person.”
Wǒ cóng Jiā lì fú ní yà lái.
Literally, “I from California come.”
- 我来自加利福尼亚。(more formal)
Wǒ lái zì Jiā lì fú ní yà.
Literally, “I come from California.”
Feel free to swap out California with your state when needed. And if you’re from a state that has a shortened Chinese name, you can use it as well! (In the above examples, you can safely use 加州 Jiā zhōu for California)
There you go! Now you should be able to talk about you state in Chinese! So, tell me, which state are you from?