Modern Chinese, the name Sichuan means "four
rivers", and in
folk etymology this is usually taken to mean the province's four major rivers: the
 In fact, the name of the province is a contraction of the phrases Sì Chuānlù (
路, "Four River
Circuits") and Chuānxiá Sìlù (川峡四路, "Four Circuits of Rivers and Gorges"), referring to the division of the existing
imperial administrative circuit into four during the
Northern Song dynasty.
 In addition to its
postal map and
Wade-Giles forms, the name has also been irregularly romanized as Szű-chuan and Szechuan.
In antiquity, the area of modern Sichuan including the now separated Chongqing Municipality was known to the
Chinese as Ba-Shu, in reference to the
ancient states of
Shu that once occupied the
Sichuan Basin. Shu continues to be used to refer to the Sichuan region all through its history right up to the present day; a number of states formed in the area used the same name, for example the
Shu of the
Three Kingdoms period, and
Former Shu and
Later Shu of the
Ten Kingdoms period.