There are cases where abbreviations or proper names like brands get transliterated/translated differently. This question is asking whether there are linguistic names for these phenomena, e.g.

  • The brand Supreme translates to 至尊 in Chinese, it keeps the semantic meaning but the phonetic realization is different. Would this be a "semantic translation" of proper names?

  • The brand Coca Cola translated to 可口可樂 in Chinese, it doesn't keep the literal semantic meaning but kept the phonetic similarities with some positive connotations added to the translation about being 可口 (Delicious) and 可樂 (Joyful). Would this be a "transliteration" with additional figurative semantic branding/marketing?

  • The brand IKEA translated to 宜家 in Chinese, it keeps the phonetic similarities with additional semantic allusion to (House/Furniture 家具) and meaning (Simple). Would this be some sort of transliteration with some transfer of literal semantics?

  • The brand IBM translated to آئی بی ایم in Arabic, it spells out the acronym individually so that it phonetically matches. Is this some kind of "letter-fication"- transliteration?

  • The brand Disney translated to ديزني in Arabic, it is made up of 2 syllables, ديز + ني to form the phonetic realization Dis + ney, Is this some kind of "syllabifcation" based transliteration?

Are there other types of proper name translations like the above?

Any reference to prior literature/paper that looks these different kind of translation/transliteration of proper names?

  • Coca Cola does not have a literal or semantic meaning.
    – Lambie
    Commented Dec 19, 2022 at 18:26

2 Answers 2


If they weren't trademarks but just plain borrowings, there is a very differentiated linguistic terminology, and I recommend the German wikipedia article Lehnwort as a starter, I think the Betz terminology is one of the finest grained ones available and known.

Trademarks are special in this respect since they are controlled by their respective owners and it is the owner's decision what to do with them. The native speakers of the target language have no vote on them.

Proper names often follow some traditions, from literal quotation (the norm in anglophone countries) to radical phonetic transcription (typical for Eastern European countries) or more or less regularised transcription from a foreign script (the norm for proper names from Russian and other languages with Cyrillic script). Some countries decree some standard Latin transcriptions for their languages (very successful with China, Russia insisting on a French-style transcription didn't succeed with that and gave up on this).

  • Thank you for the pointers! By Betz, you meant the Duckworth Betz Terminology? Like "importation", "partial substitution", "substitution". Is that correct?
    – alvas
    Commented Aug 17, 2022 at 14:57
  • Well, if enough speakers in a country genericize a trademark, it can become a non-trademark, as with Aspirin in the US. In Canada, only Bayer can use that name. So speakers do get a vote, sort of.
    – jlawler
    Commented Aug 17, 2022 at 17:31
  • 1
    Bayer lost their trademark on Aspirin in the USA because an employee responsibile for prolonging the registration failed to do it in time, it is not because of many speakers using that name. This was a multi-million loss for Bayer. Commented Aug 17, 2022 at 20:38
  • @alvas: O, I read Duckworth as a given name first, but it is another person who further devolopeed Werner Betz' terminology, so it is indeed that thing. Commented Aug 18, 2022 at 8:31
  • Anglophone and Western countries are actually the most aggressive about transcription. When was the last time you saw a Cyrillic or Chinese word in an English newspaper or advertisement? Commented Aug 19, 2022 at 3:35

The translation of brand name text and advertising slogans is called transcreation.

That said, actual brand names are not usually translated. But even if they are, that is still transcreation.

Brand names are like poetry: There are two choices. Either you keep the sound (prosody) or you work with the meaning to create something in the L2 that works for those speakers.

Transcreation is a term coined from the words "translation" and "creation", and a concept used in the field of translation studies to describe the process of adapting a message from one language to another, while maintaining its intent, style, tone, and context. A successfully transcreated message evokes the same emotions and carries the same implications in the target language as it does in the source language. It is related to the concept of localization, which similarly involves comprehensively adapting a translated text for the target audience.1 Transcreation highlights the translator's creative role.[2] Unlike many other forms of translation, transcreation also often involves adapting not only words, but video and images to the target audience.


  • Great finding, +1, although I don't think it is the term wanted in the question. The Spiderman India from the quoted Wikipedia article example illustrates the difference between a transcreation and a simple translation very well. Commented Dec 20, 2022 at 16:47
  • @SirCornflakes The question is somewhat misguided. It's not a find, it's my job. Generally, brand names are not translated or if they are it's like poetry: you keep the meaning or keep the prosody. Apart from that, the entire process is called transcreation. [Tell me, how do you feel about crunchiness? (tsk, tsk to me)]
    – Lambie
    Commented Dec 20, 2022 at 16:51

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.