Myanmar vs Burma—

Which is correct?

In this post, we clear up the differences between Burma and Myanmar.

Inn Thein Monastery Inle lake Myanmar Burma
Stupas of Inn Thein monastery near Inle Lake, Myanmar. Or is it Burma? Taken by JP Desvigne via unsplash.com. [Public Domain].

Burma or Myanmar: Which Name to Use?

If we go back over two decades, to pre-1989, Burma was the name in use.

In 1989, the then Union of Burma changed its English name to become the Union of Myanmar (kind of like how the Czech Republic changed to Czechia).

After that, the military regime controlling the government lengthened its name to the Republic of the Union of Myanmar. This was due to the name “Burma” being a British name for the country during the colonial period.

Their reasons for the name change were that Myanma (without the ‘r’) is the official Burmese-language name, as well as the fact that it was said to be more inclusive of Burmese minority groups.

So then, why do we still use the name “Burma” twenty years later?

Several countries, including the United States and the United Kingdom, as well as some international organizations, still refuse to acknowledge the name change. This refusal stems from the military regime not putting the matter to a democratic vote by the people.

However, most countries and the United Nations call it Myanmar. So, too, does Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and most reputable news outlets, such as the BBC and Reuters.

The Etymology of the Names Burma and Myanmar

Believe it or not, both English-version names, Burma and Myanmar, come from the same origin: the Bamar people.

The Bamar are the largest ethnic group in Myanmar. Myanmar is the “literary” form of the Bamar group name, and Burma is the colloquial version.

So, Burma vs Myanmar: What’s the Conclusion?

Go with Myanmar.


Liked this post? We’ve got many more interesting articles like this in our “Versus / What’s the Difference?” category. Here are just a few of them: Race vs Ethnicity, Asian vs Oriental, Arab vs Middle Eastern, Tofu vs Tempeh, Avenue vs Street, and Spanish vs Latin American.

Also, check out our guide on demonyms (what to call the people of a place).

Hope this post helped clear it up! Got any questions or comments on the naming convention of Burma vs Myanmar? Let’s chat in the comments, and thanks for reading!

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