Both the names Myanmar and Burma derive from the earlier Burmese Myanma or Myamma, an ethnonym for the majority Bamar ethnic group, of uncertain etymology. The terms are also popularly thought to derive from Brahma Desha after Brahma.
In 1989, the military government officially changed the English translations of many names dating back to Burma's colonial period or earlier, including that of the country itself: Burma became Myanmar. The renaming remains a contested issue. Many political and ethnic opposition groups and countries continue to use Burma because they do not recognise the legitimacy of the ruling military government or its authority to rename the country.
In April 2016, soon after taking office, Aung San Suu Kyi said concerning the question of which name should be used that, "it is up to you, because there is nothing in the constitution of our country that says that you must use any term in particular". She continued, "I use Burma very often because I am used to using it. But it does not mean that I require other people to do that as well. And I’ll make an effort to say Myanmar from time to time so you all feel comfortable".
The country's official full name is the "Republic of the Union of Myanmar" (ပြည်ထောင်စုသမ္မတ မြန်မာနိုင်ငံတော်, Pyihtaungsu Thamada Myanma Naingngantaw, pronounced [pjìdàʊɴzṵ θàɴməda̰ mjəmà nàɪɴŋàɴdɔ̀]). Countries that do not officially recognise that name use the long form "Union of Burma" instead.
In English, the country is popularly known as either Burma or Myanmar. Both these names are derived from the name of the majority Burmese Bamar ethnic group. Myanmar is considered to be the literary form of the name of the group, while Burma is derived from "Bamar", the colloquial form of the group's name. Depending on the register used, the pronunciation would be Bama (pronounced [bəmà]) or Myamah (pronounced [mjəmà]). The name Burma has been in use in English since the 18th century.
Burma continues to be used in English by the government of the United Kingdom. Official United States policy retains Burma as the country's name, although the State Department's website lists the country as Burma (Myanmar) and Barack Obama has referred to the country by both names. The CIA's World Factbook lists the country as Burma as of August 2019 . The government of Canada has in the past used Burma, such as in its 2007 legislation imposing sanctions, but as of the mid-2010s generally uses Myanmar. The Czech Republic officially uses Myanmar, although its Ministry of Foreign Affairs uses both Myanmar and Burma on its website. The United Nations uses Myanmar, as do the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, Australia, Russia, Germany, China, India, Bangladesh, Norway, Japan and Switzerland.
Most English-speaking international news media refer to the country by the name Myanmar, including the BBC, CNN, Al Jazeera, Reuters, and the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC)/Radio Australia.
Myanmar is known with a name deriving from Burma as opposed to Myanmar in Spanish, Italian, Romanian, and Greek – Birmania being the local version of Burma in the Spanish language, for example. Myanmar used to be known as Birmânia in Portuguese, and as Birmanie in French. As in the past, French-language media today consistently use Birmanie.
English pronunciations of Myanmar
Myanmar is pronounced in at least nine different ways in English: /, /, / (listen), /, /, /, /, /, /.