North American Cities

Mandarin Geographical Names

Mandarin Chinese has a relatively limited stock of phonetics compared with other languages. When it comes to translating Western geographical names into Chinese characters, a close phonetic match is attempted. Consideration must also be given to the meaning of the chosen Chinese characters.

Most geographical names are chosen as phonetic approximations of the Western names, but a few place names are descriptive.

San Francisco, for example, is Jiù Jīn Shān, which translates as “Old Gold Mountain,” reminding us of the California gold rush.

Most Mandarin Chinese geographical names sound strange to Western ears. This is because there is usually not an exact phonetic equivalent to the sounds of the English names.

North American Cities

Click on the links to hear the audio.

English NameChinese CharactersPinyin
New York紐約niǔ yuē
Boston波士頓bō shì dùn
Montreal蒙特婁méng tè lóu
Vancouver溫哥華wēn gē huá
Toronto多倫多duō lún duō
Los Angeles洛杉磯luò shān jī
San Francisco舊金山jiù jīn shān
Chicago芝加哥zhī jiā gē
Seattle西雅圖xī yǎ tú
Miami邁阿密mài ā mì
Houston休斯頓xiū sī dùn
Portland波特蘭bō tè lán
Washington華盛頓huá shèng dùn
New Orleans紐奧良niǔ ào liáng
Philadelphia費城fèi chéng
Detroit底特律dǐ tè lǜ
Dallas達拉斯dá lā sī
Atlanta亞特蘭大yà tè lán dà
San Diego聖地牙哥shèng dié yá gē
Las Vegas拉斯維加斯lā sī wéi jiā sī
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Your Citation
Su, Qiu Gui. "North American Cities." ThoughtCo, Apr. 27, 2017, thoughtco.com/north-american-cities-2279636. Su, Qiu Gui. (2017, April 27). North American Cities. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/north-american-cities-2279636 Su, Qiu Gui. "North American Cities." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/north-american-cities-2279636 (accessed January 22, 2018).