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  • Uncommon Journeys

Is It Burma or Myanmar?

If you’re looking for a definitive answer as to whether Burma or Myanmar is the correct name for the southeast Asian country, you’re not likely to get a straightforward one. The best we can do is shed some light.

The original name was Myanmar. The linguistic origin and meaning are disputed, but most historians agree that it was derived from Sanskrit.

During British occupation (1824 – 1948) it was changed to Burma, an ethnonym for the majority ethnic group.

In 1989 the name was changed back to Myanmar (officially the Republic of the Union of Myanmar) to eliminate vestiges of colonialism, and to create a national identity that would unify the country’s myriad ethnic groups.

Today the official name remains Myanmar, but for the most part, neither name implies political correctness (although the most fervent activists might tell you otherwise).

Media usage is mixed, but as a general rule, “Myanmar” is used more frequently in publication and “Burma” in speaking.

When visiting or referring to the country, feel free to use the names interchangeably, as all of our Burmese (or Myanmar) friends do.

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