Swire’s Chinese name Taikoo (太古) can be loosely translated as ‘Great and Ancient’. The 太古 characters bear a close resemblance to 大吉 or D’ai-Gut, meaning “Big Luck” – the good-luck characters widely to be seen around Chinese New Year, and many people have wondered whether those auspicious characters were the original choice for Swire’s Chinese name.
In fact, the name was selected by Thomas Taylor Meadows (1815-1868), the British Consul in Shanghai at the time of the establishment of Butterfield & Swire, and an eminent sinologist. 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.