Why do some country names end in -국 while others don't?

Is there a reason for or meaning of the distinction?

1 Answer 1


Most country names will not end with 국.

Generally, the cases where it does end with 국, such as 미국 (United States) and 중국 (China), are examples the country's name being borrowed from Chinese, where 국(國) means "Nation." (This is sort of accidental in the case of 미국, where 美國 was meant to be transliteration of "america" in Chinese, and it just so happens it ended with 國 for an added literal meaning match)

Many other countries' names, such as 일본 (Japan), are the Korean pronunciation of the respective country's name in Chinese characters. 日本 is pronounced "Nippon" in Japanese, and pronounced 일본 in Korean.

Many others still are either the country's official name spelled in Hangul, such as 프랑스 (France).

And others still are borrowed from other languages, like 브라질 (Brazil) is borrowed from the English variant of Brasil, or 독일 is borrowed from the Japanese name for Germany.

  • '독일' was never borrowed from Chinese and Chinese uses 德國 for Germany, not 獨逸. It should have been "덕국" if it had been borrowed from Chinese. Your answer contains several points that need correcting including "美國 was meant to be transliteration of "america" in Chinese" and France has Korean name '불란서'. Please review your answer one more time and edit it.
    – user7
    Commented Jul 8, 2016 at 16:07
  • @Rathony, You're right about Germany - I wrote it wrong; that's borrowed from Japanese, not Chinese. But I'm pretty sure 美國 is used specifically because it's a rough transliteration of "America" into Chinese (crappy source And I've learned this from a few Korean teachers.). And 프랑스 is correct (good source).
    – user12
    Commented Jul 8, 2016 at 20:03
  • I didn't say 미국 and 프랑스 are wrong. There are etymological backgrounds that explain why Korean ended up using the words. 불란서 is also used for France. I don't understand why you say Korean borrowed 브라질 from the English variant of Brasil. Your answer lacks proper explanation and reference. You need to edit it.
    – user7
    Commented Jul 8, 2016 at 20:06
  • 1
    @Rathony, I don't know what else it needs. You can flag it if you think it's a weak answer, or make your own edit if you want to improve it. But it's already reached the limit of my capacity to answer the question.
    – user12
    Commented Jul 8, 2016 at 20:15
  • @Rathony Honestly I'm not gonna be around much longer to work out issues. Unfortunately I just don't agree with a lot of the Stack Exchange Language Site way. Not the linking/references bit, of course; that I agree with.
    – user12
    Commented Jul 8, 2016 at 22:17

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