Both the names Myanmar and Burma derive from the earlier Burmese Mranma, 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 clarified that foreigners are free to use either name, "because there is nothing in the constitution of our country that says that you must use any term in particular".
The country's official full name is the "Republic of the Union of Myanmar" (ပြည်ထောင်စုသမ္မတ မြန်မာနိုင်ငံတော်, Pyidaunzu Thanmăda Myăma Nainngandaw, 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 governments of countries such as 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 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 mentions 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), /, /, /, /, /, /.