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Names of animals in Chinese translated literally to English

Names of animals in Chinese translated literally to English

Probably you already heard the sentence: “Don’t translate Chinese word by word or you are going to have a bad time.”


Well, let me tell you something, maybe it will not be a bad time but it will be a funny one for sure.


Today we are going to talk about the name of some animals translated literally word by word from Chinese. Some of them may seem pretty logical but others are like “well it looks like big mouse but it has a bag so well bag-mouse it is” and that’s how we get the word Kangaroo.

The venomous Cobra (眼镜蛇 – Yǎn jìng shé) translated is nothing else than an “eyeglasses snake”.

The smart Dolphin (海豚 -Hǎi tún), one of the most intelligent creatures to roam our world it’s called in Chinese “sea pig”.

The small Gecko (壁虎 – Bì hǔ) becomes a fierce “wall tiger”.

The translation for Giraffe (长颈鹿 – Cháng jǐng lù) it’s pretty logical, it’s nothing else than a “long neck deer”.

As we said before the most common marsupial in the world: the (袋鼠 – Dài shǔ) translates to “bag mouse”.

The Lobster (龙虾 – Lóng xiā) the king of fine cuisine has a an equally impressive name in Chinese: Dragon shrimp.

Owl (猫头鹰 – Māo tóu yīng) = cat head eagle

China’s national animal, the Panda (熊猫 – Xióng māo) translates to “bear cat”, though their agility is not the one of a cat.

Penguin (企鹅 – Qì’é) = standing goose

Platypus (鸭嘴兽 – Yā zuǐ shòu) = duck mouth beast

Seal (海豹 – Hǎi bào) = sea leopard

The Walrus (海象 – Hǎi xiàng) an impressive creature, well known for their big tusks are associated (we imagine the size counts as well) to the big elephant, therefore their Chinese name translates to “sea elephant “.