Meaning of 米 (for america)

the kanji 米 is used is america in formal contexts for example in 米国 (USA) or 南米 (South america). However, the meaning differs in these two examples, while in 米国 the Kanji stands for the US, in 南米 it is the stands for the continents.
What does it mean in 全米? I’d guess it is rather first meaning (all the united states) as it follows the pattern of 全日本, i am not sure though.

According to this page you can use it for both.


Essentially 亜米利加 is “America” in kanji, but as the 亜 already represents Asia (i.e. 亜細亜) in abbreviations, the second kanji is used instead. There’s nothing about 米 that uniquely represents the US, it just happens to be the abbreviation for “America”.

So, it’s the same as English, I guess - “America” tends to mean the US when used on its own, but “South America” also uses the word.


米国 isn’t formal. Using beikoku makes you sound anti-US. Japan uses アメリカ for pretty much any reference to the country. Beikoku is typically used just for the sake of not using the proper country name (according to natives I’ve spoken to, at least). Unless you’re hearing someone rant against Western culture/people I’m told you’ll almost never see that in modern day Japan.

The Kanji typically means the US, the jukugo for south america is an exception. This shouldn’t be surprising as “America” itself can mean both concepts in English. 全米 is used to mean “the entire US”. You’ll find as you advance that many kanji have different meanings based on the specific jukugo, or if it’s stand-alone or accompanied by okurigana (such as 変 which means one thing half the time and the other half another).

I actually learned not to use beikoku because it makes me sound anti-US not two weeks after getting to have an online conversation with my favorite mangaka. I also thought it was the formal pronunciation but must’ve ended up sounding like a jerk :confounded:

Isn’t it used in newspapers all the time?
I mean I get that アメリカ is preferred in conversation, but I wouldn’t call 米国 informal or anti-US. At least I’ve never heard that before…


Aye, about 8,090 times on NHK according to Google. Most recent:

Maybe if you’re using 米国人 instead of アメリカ人 but I think as a country name it’s fine.


From my experience this is correct. It is in newspapers constantly (or just the 米 abbreviation)and Japanese newspapers are THE reference for real formal written Japanese.

I have never heard someone verbally say 米国, always アメリカ all the time.

Saying that 米国 isn’t formal doesn’t really sound right.
I would go with:
“米国 isn’t the idiomatic way of verbally referring to the US, and from the perspective of formal Japanese is not more correct/proper than アメリカ.”

btw… there are single kanji abbreviations for pretty much all countries and they are weird.


To be more precise, they’re all ateji, kanji chosen for their sound rather than their meaning.

Well, except for the one for Australia. 豪 = overpowering, great, powerful, excelling :slightly_smiling_face:


米国(べいこく) is perfectly normal. Generally don’t use it spoken but it’s written everywhere. I live in Okinawa so I see it often in regards to US Forces both positive negative and neutral. On my visa it even says 米国(べいこく) as nationality. Which would be hilarious if it was truly a slur.


To add to that, 米国 is also used in encyclopedic texts, for example. The Japanese Wikipedia article on the United States is named for the country’s full name アメリカ合衆国, but uses 米国 in the article itself a total of 44 times. That’s considerably less than アメリカ, which is used more than 300 times, but still plenty.


I see it in articles all of the time. It’s basically just a written way to refer to the US. アメリカ is more often for spoken speech, and 米国 is only for written.

Part of the consideration here is also probably that it saves two characters of headline space.

But yeah, I don’t think there’s anything offensive about seeing it in print.


I recall hearing somewhere that 米国 has connotations of America as a political entity as it relates to Japan, hence why it appears on the news a lot. The word, again, as I recall, calls to mind military and economic might, either good or bad, and there was something about the occupation mentioned too. I wish I had my actual source.

I also recall them saying the word a lot in Shin Godzilla, which I thought made sense considering the circumstances of that film.

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Interesting info, thank you for sharing.

Seems like it would be the other way around. Kanji abbreviations for all countries are used in the newspaper a lot, and newspaper articles typically discuss those things, so that’s where the connotation comes from. At least that seems to make the most sense to me. I don’t see why 米国 would be different from any other kanji version of a country name.


Agreed. I’d say that the kanji + 国 version is probably just a bit more formal or at least more appropriate for written language. There’s similar usage in Mandarin where countries are often referred to both by phonetic transcriptions of their names and by abbreviated versions in the single kanji + 国 format. Both versions are equivalent in meaning, though the abbreviations tend to be more common in writing and feel slightly more ‘integrated’ into Mandarin since they’re short. The kanji abbreviations are more convenient for their length, but tend to be avoided/absent when they’re not sufficiently common to be clear. Single kanji abbreviations are also used when juxtaposing two nations, like with 日米 (Japan-America) in Japanese. Nothing rude about it. For that matter, the kanji for phonetic transcriptions are usually chosen because they have no negative or offensive meanings.

And if anyone wanted a rude word, jisho seems to list slang ダメリカ with the footnote “derogatory” when searching for “America” :wink:


Not really. 米 is used because the stress is on the “me” in America, not because 亜 is already used for Asia. Same thing with 蘭 for オランダ.

Hehe that’s a clever pun, I like it.


Well thank you, now my brain thinks of my country as neko mushi… :see_no_evil:
Well it has nothing to do with cat, technically, but the animal radical always reminds me of 猫, because that’s where I first saw it.