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Swire's Chinese name, Taikoo  ( 太古 ) , can be loosely translated as "Great and Ancient". The character Gu  ( 古 ) represents "ancient", while the prefix Tai ( 太 ) puts it into the superlative form, so the full name, Tai Gu Yeung Hong"  ( 太古洋行 ) , means something like "Most Venerable Foreign Company".

To Western eyes, the  太古  characters bear a close resemblance to  大吉 , the "Big Luck" characters widely seen around Chinese New Year and it has even been speculated this was the original choice for Swire's Chinese name. Not so: the name Taikoo was chosen by Thomas Taylor Meadows – a British Consul in Shanghai when Swire opened an office there 150 years ago, in 1866. However, Meadows clearly did intend the name to be a clever visual "pun". It was a stroke of genius, because he gave a doubly auspicious name to the company that carries it: Taikoo, the "Great and Ancient", also suggests good luck.