Most Countries Are Named After One Of Four Things

October 16, 2017 in Daily Bulletin

Thu-Huong Ha wrote about country names.

A third of the world’s countries are named based on a tribe or group of people. Examples include:

  • France being named for the Franks.
  • Italy for the Vitalis.
  • Switzerland for the Schwyz.
  • In Korean, South Korea is called “Daehan” – for the Hans.

A quarter are named after geographical features:

  • India for the Indus river.
  • Montenegro is known as “Crna Gora” in Montenegrin – which translates to “black mountain” – for the Lovćen mountain in the south.
  • Barbados means “bearded ones” and may be a reference to the long aerial roots of the banyan trees there.
  • Sierra Leone “lion mountains” is probably a reference to the earth shaking thunder that reverberates through its hills.

Some are named based on their location:

  • Japan is called Nippon in Japanese – it means “land of the rising sun”. Japan is east of China and so people in China would see the sun rise from the direction of Japan.
  • Norway is named for “Northern way”.
  • The Greeks theorized the existence of “Terra Australis Incognita” – unknown southern land – a name that Australia adopted.

And some are based on people.

  • The Philippines are named after Spain’s King Phillip.
  • Bolivia for Simón Bolívar.
  • Columbia for Columbus.
  • One country adopted a female’s name as their own – St. Lucia.

And then there’s Naurau, an island close to Australia. Its name comes from an indigenous word that means “I go to the beach”.

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