Tibetan name for their land, Bod བོད་, means "Tibet" or "
Tibetan Plateau", although it originally meant the central region around
Lhasa, now known in Tibetan as
Standard Tibetan pronunciation of Bod,
[pʰøʔ˨˧˨], is transcribed Bhö in
Tournadre Phonetic Transcription, Bö in the
THL Simplified Phonetic Transcription and Poi in
Tibetan pinyin. Some scholars believe the first written reference to Bod "Tibet" was the ancient Bautai people recorded in the Egyptian Greek works
Periplus of the Erythraean Sea (1st century CE) and
Ptolemy, 2nd century CE),
 itself from the
Sanskrit form Bhauṭṭa of the Indian geographical tradition.
exonym for the ethnic Tibetan region is Zangqu (Chinese:
藏区; pinyin: Zàngqū), which derives by
metonymy from the
Tsang region around
Shigatse plus the addition of a Chinese suffix, 区 qū, which means "area, district, region, ward". Tibetan people, language, and culture, regardless of where they are from, are referred to as Zang (Chinese:
藏; pinyin: Zàng) although the geographical term Xīzàng is often limited to the
Tibet Autonomous Region. The term Xīzàng was coined during the
Qing dynasty in the reign of the
Jiaqing Emperor (1796–1820) through the addition of a prefix meaning "west" (西 xī) to Zang.
The best-known medieval Chinese name for Tibet is Tubo (Chinese:
吐蕃 also written as
土番; pinyin: Tǔbō or Tǔfān). This name first appears
in Chinese characters as 土番 in the 7th century (
Li Tai) and as 吐蕃 in the 10th-century (
Old Book of Tang describing 608–609 emissaries from Tibetan King
Namri Songtsen to
Emperor Yang of Sui). In the
Middle Chinese spoken during that period, as reconstructed by
William H. Baxter, 土番 was pronounced thux-phjon and 吐蕃 was pronounced thux-pjon (with the x representing
Other pre-modern Chinese names for Tibet include Wusiguo (Chinese: 烏斯國; pinyin: Wūsīguó; cf. Tibetan dbus,
[wyʔ˨˧˨]), Wusizang (Chinese: 烏斯藏; pinyin: wūsīzàng, cf. Tibetan dbus-gtsang,
Ü-Tsang), Tubote (Chinese: 圖伯特; pinyin: Túbótè), and Tanggute (Chinese: 唐古忒; pinyin: Tánggǔtè, cf.
Tangut). American Tibetologist
Elliot Sperling has argued in favor of a recent tendency by some authors writing in Chinese to revive the term Tubote (simplified Chinese: 图伯特; traditional Chinese: 圖伯特; pinyin: Túbótè) for modern use in place of Xizang, on the grounds that Tubote more clearly includes the entire Tibetan plateau rather than simply the Tibet Autonomous Region.
The English word Tibet or Thibet dates back to the 18th century.
Historical linguists generally agree that "Tibet" names in European languages are
Semitic Ṭībat orTūbātt (طيبة، توبات) (טובּה, טובּת), itself deriving from
Turkic Töbäd, literally: "The Heights" (plural of töbän).