ちゅうべい【中米】
ちゅうおうアメリカ【中央アメリカ】
ちゅうぶアメリカ【中部アメリカ】
ちゅうなんべい【中南米】
ラテンアメリカ

■ ちゅうべい【中米】, ちゅうおうアメリカ【中央アメリカ】 Central America (1)
■ ちゅうぶアメリカ【中部アメリカ】 Central America (2)
■ ちゅうなんべい【中南米】, ラテンアメリカ Latin America


■ ちゅうべい【中米】, ちゅうおうアメリカ【中央アメリカ】 Central America (1)

These two expressions appear to be more or less interchangeable, and the basic meaning is obvious. However, because the scope of "Central America" is subtly varied, care may be needed in translation. In some cases it may be appropriate to add "including Mexico".

Definitions for a "strict" denotation appearing in the Longman Dictionary of the English Language (LDEL) and 大辞林 exactly concur: it is the part of the land joining North and South America between the isthmi of Tehuantepec and Panama. However, 大辞林 also includes a broader usage, explicitly including Mexico, which LDEL does not. Discussion on the Honyaku mailing list suggests that there is considerable variation in the degree to which native speakers of English resist the inclusion of Mexico in "Central America". Perhaps particularly because of Mexico's membership in political associations referring to "North America", it appears to be more widely regarded by North American English speakers as a geographical "fact" that Mexico is not part of Central America rather than as a question of linguistic usage.

Hits at goo.ne.jp suggest that the shorter form is (unsurprisingly) more common.

中米1933
中央アメリカ323

This page on the website of the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs uses 中米 to exclude Mexico; on the other hand 中南米 (see below) is used to include Mexico, and translated in the English and Spanish versions as Latin America.

■ ちゅうぶアメリカ【中部アメリカ】 Central America (2)

This also means "Central America", but at least according to 大辞林 includes the whole central American region, which means (narrow) Central America, Mexico, and the Caribbean islands. There is no obvious pair of terms in English which could capture the distinction between these two strengths of "Central".

Hits at goo.ne.jp suggest that this term is indeed uncommon.

中部アメリカ23

■ ちゅうなんべい【中南米】, ラテンアメリカ Latin America

Again, 中南米 obviously means "Central and South America", but here it seems even more likely that Mexico is included. (Specifically, 大辞林 defines this as 中部アメリカおよび南アメリカ, but it is hard to tell how strictly they interpret the distinction between 中部アメリカ and 中央アメリカ.)

Hits at goo.ne.jp suggest that the transliteration of "Latin America" is less familiar, and 中南米 is anyway a shorter term. In English there is no corresponding compact form, which may make "Latin America" the best translation.

ラテンアメリカ2163
中南米4843

On the other hand, in English there is some lingering uncertainty whether Mexico is included in Latin America or not, as evidenced by this US academic site, even though dictionary definitions generally imply that it includes all of the countries using Romance languages.

Author's notes
(1) The form "isthmi" is sanctioned, albeit as 'rarely', by the SOED. It seems too good an opportunity to resist using it!
(2) The difficulty of investigating these terms is exacerbated by the odd convention sometimes encountered of regarding geographical terms as beyond the scope of lexicography.


This entry was created by Brian Chandler.


Created 2000-09-25.