Chinese gooseberries


I discovered today that the kiwifruit is known as 獼猴桃 (míhóu táo) or macaque peach in China. It is the edible berry of the woody vine Actinidia deliciosa native to southern China, and the name kiwifruit was dreamt up by marketing people in New Zealand in the 1950s, before which it was called the Chinese gooseberry in English.

In Chinese it’s also called:

  • 獼猴梨 (míhóu lí) – macaque pear
  • 藤梨 (téng lí) – vine pear
  • 陽桃 (yáng táo) – sunny peach – now used to refer to star fruit
  • 木子 (mùzi) – wood berry
  • 毛木果 (máo mù guǒ) – hairy tree fruit
  • 奇異果 (qíyì guǒ) -“unusual/wonder fruit” – the most common name in Taiwan and Hong Kong, which also sounds like kiwi


Many other languages call it a kiwi, or variants of that name, eg kivi, kiivi, ciwi, etc. Do you know of any other interesting names for it?

If you want to talk about more than one of this type of fruit, do you say kiwis, kiwifruit, kiwifruits, or something else?

This entry was posted in Chinese, English, Language, Words and phrases.

20 Responses to Chinese gooseberries

  1. Jerry says:

    In Dutch it’s as boring as kiwi. Plural would be kiwi’s. (The apostrophe is there because of the syllable ending with a vowel that has to be pronounced with a long sound: kee-wees. Spelled as kiwis would make it sound like kee-wis.)

  2. Petréa Mitchell says:

    Out here in Oregon, it’s just a kiwi, plural kiwis. Potential confusion is reduced by most Americans not knowing that people from New Zealand can also be Kiwis; they’re just New Zealanders to us.

  3. Jayarava says:

    Some time ago the New Zealand Kiwifruit Marketing Board tried to change the name to Zespri. This was universally panned, although it survives as a brand name for Kiwifruit.

    I’m a Kiwi, though not a fruit, and I would use Kiwifruit as the plural.

    Kiwis – as in people from Aotearoa New Zealand – were so named by English soldiers in WWI (in popular legend at least) after Kiwi brand boot polish which was and is a popular brand in the UK. If we were to choose our own emblem I doubt that the Kiwi would score very highly, being fat, nearly blind, flightless, eating worms, and now seriously endangered. I would opt for the Weka as our national bird: fearless, curious, cheeky, and surviving.

    Aotearoa means “land of the long white cloud”, though one Māori intellectual has suggested that it should be rendered “land of the wrong white crowd”.

  4. Yenlit says:

    When referring to ‘kiwi’ as the nickname for New Zealanders or the national flightless bird the plural is Kiwis, kiwis (birds). Kiwi as the fruit is pluralised as just kiwi fruit. I think that’s the standard usage in UK English?
    In Welsh the bird is kiwi and the plural is kiwïod but the fruit is ffrwyth ciwi. Breton calls the fruit ‘kiwienn’ or ‘aval-kiwi’ (kiwi apple) and Irish Gaelic renders kiwi as cíobhaí.

  5. Christopher Miller says:

    Indeed. Back in the 1980s I bought a wonderful illustrated book with the title The Cook Book, written by a then probably not so well known author named Terrance Conran. Among the exotic wonders it illustrated were “Chinese Gooseberries”, which only in the mid to late 1980s or so started to show up on the supermarket shelves under their new name.


    Irish WOULD do that, now WOULDN’T it? Why couldn’t they go whole hog and just spell it caoidheadhbaigh or some such prepossessing sequence of letters? ;-D (And I wonder what the plural might be, heavens help us… caoidheadhbhaigheachean?)

    As for the Welsh plural, yes, the avian kiwi is odd, indeed.

  6. David J. says:

    I’m from Germany (NRW) and we always use the plural kiwis.

  7. Kate says:

    I’m in Toronto and I tend to use both kiwis and kiwifruit interchangeably and 猕猴桃 in Chinese. 猕猴桃 seems to be the standard here in Canada, but I’ve seen 毛木果 used occasionally (is it a Cantonese thing?), and 奇異果 seems to be exclusively used for kiwi-flavoured 珍珠奶茶.

  8. bronz says:

    I lived in Hong Kong in the 90s and have only ever heard of or seen the fruit being referred to as 奇異果. I’ve never heard of the other names (except 陽桃, but only referring to starfruit). That’s really interesting; I’ve always had the impression that the fruit was indigenous to New Zealand.

    I was likewise surprised when I learned that the dragonfruit (pitaya) is native to Central and South America, since it is so popular in Southeast Asia and looks just as exotic as all the other fruits from the region.

  9. Andrew says:

    I just call it a kiwi, and how typical that some nitwited marketers somewhere ended up changing the name of it when it had a perfectly good one already :/


  10. Yenlit says:

    Christopher Miller –
    Thankfully the plural of cíobhaí isn’t as long as you jokingly assumed! For bother the bird and the kiwi fruit the plural is cíobhaíonna.

  11. Yenlit says:

    Oops – predictive typo! – ‘bother’ = both.

  12. Yenlit says:

    Jayarava – I’d imagine most national emblems wouldn’t stand up under close scrutiny. The US bald eagle for example is as much an opportunistic scavenger feeding on carrion as it is a hunter which is a little less hard to get jingoistic about?
    According to Wikipedia the kiwi as NZ’s national bird is unofficial, why not start a facebook campaign or something proposing your choice of weka bird!

  13. Michael says:

    키위 in Korean
    羊桃 (iûⁿ-thô) or 猴桃仔 (kâu-thô-á) in Taiwanese

  14. In Beijing you’re going to see 奇異果 most often, but people still know what you mean if you say 獼猴桃. I’ve never come across any of the other variations. And for the record, they’re freaking expensive here >_<!

  15. Qcumber says:

    I am tasting what was sold to me as mini-kiwi, but is named kiwai on the label. It is the size of a gooseberry, and sold as bunches on twigs. The taste is that of kiwi, but more acid and sweeter. The skin is soft and edible.

  16. Qcumber says:

    I have just discovered that the scientific name of the kiwai is Actinidia arguta.

  17. says:

    Yenlit, does the Breton ‘kiwienn’ happen to be a singulative? And if so, would the plural then just be “kiwi” or something of the likes?

  18. formiko says:

    My grandmother called kiwis Australian Strawberries, because that’s what they taste like.

  19. George - Cyprus says:

    In greek we call it aktinidio (pl aktinidia) which means “possessing rays” obviously due to what you see when you cut it.

  20. Yenlit says:

    Jú – sorry, I didn’t see your post. Yes, kiwienn sing. kiwi pl.

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