The compilers translated the original names of the countries from previously spoken languages and indicated some interesting facts about the history and culture of states.
A map compiled by the Australian company Credit Card Compare allows you to see that some countries are named after the peoples inhabiting them, while the names of others are played out by the peculiarities of the landscape and the location of the country or the cultural characteristics of the peoples living on their territories.
In Europe, many of the names of modern states date back to the names of the tribes that settled the respective lands. In particular, France takes its name from the union of the Germanic tribes, the Franks. The name of the Franks tribes comes from the old German word “franka”, meaning “ferocious”, which in those days meant “land of ferocious people” (France).
Some names refer to the routes by which people moved through the territory during the settlement. For example, Norway means “the way to the north,” or “the northern path,” referring to the path by which the Vikings inhabited this territory.
Asia is the largest part of the world, both in territory, occupying a third of the world, and in terms of population. Its rich diversity of history and culture is reflected in the names of states.
For example, in the western countries, the states on the Korean peninsula are called Koreans (North and South respectively). Korea is a derivative of the “Koryo” by the name of the dynasty of the same name, which ruled the Korean peninsula from 935 to 1392. In those times in East Asia, the country was often called by the name of the dynasty ruling in it, so that Korea itself abroad since the 10th century, when rumors about the existence of this country reached Europe, began to be called Koryo. This name can be translated as “tall and beautiful” (High and Beautiful).
By the names of some countries you can also learn about their geography. In particular, the name of Iraq refers to its location in the headwaters of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, it comes from the Arabic “al-‘irāq” and in translation means “by the water” (Beside The Water). One of the coolest literal names of countries, according to the authors, can be considered “land of the thunder dragon” (the Land of the Thunder Dragon) – the historical name of Bhutan.
The names of countries on the African continent reveal the history of both indigenous peoples and European colonization. For example, Malawi, a state in eastern Africa, means “Land of Flames”, which reflects the local practice of burning dried grass for soil fertilization before cultivation.
In turn, Cameroon was named after the Portuguese navigator and explorer of the coast of West Africa, Fernand do Poe. In 1472, he explored the mouth of the river Vouri, which was named Rio dos Camarões – “river of prawns” (River of Prawns), later transformed into the name of the state.
Curiously, another African country, Burkina Faso, literally means “Land of Honest Men”: ironically, this country is the least corrupt on the continent, taking 74th place out of 175 in 2018 states.
Names of North American countries are also able to tell about the history of the European colonization of the continent. For example, El Salvador and Costa Rica are derived from the “Savior” and “Rich Coast” respectively. The very name “America” comes from the name of the Florentine navigator Amerigo Vespucci, who is believed to be the first to understand that the eastern coast of North America is part of a separate continent, and not the east coast of Asia.
It should be noted that among scientists and researchers there is not always a single point of view on the origin of certain names; in such cases, the authors took as a basis some one of the versions. For example, Mexico, colonized by Spain, according to the version that is the basis of the map, is a simplified translation into Spanish from the Nahuatl language of the name of the capital of the Aztecs – the place where the “umbilical cord of the Moon” was located. However, there are other versions of the origin of this name: in particular, on behalf of the Aztec god Meksitli. According to one of the legends, Meksitli is the secret name of the god of war Huitzilopochtli, and the word “Mexico” means “the land of Meksitli”. Mexico was first called only the city, then a province within New Spain, and from the 19th century and a country that gained independence.
South America boasts some of the most diverse ecosystems on the planet. On the continent, there is a lot of water, one of the largest rivers in the world, the Amazon, also flows through its territory. Therefore, it is not surprising that here the names of many countries have a connection with water.
For example, the name of the state of Guyana comes from the language of the indigenous Indians who inhabited this territory, and means “land of many waters” (Land of Many Waters): the country has many rivers, lakes, waterfalls, the largest of which is the Kayetur waterfall – 5 times higher Niagara. And neighboring Venezuela is called “Little Venice” (Little Venice) in honor of the Venice on the canals of the European city.
Through the territory of the three states of South America is the equator, which is reflected in the name of one of them – Ecuador. In Spanish, the equator, as it is not difficult to guess, is the “ecuador”.
Examples of countries with references to geographical location do not end there: for example, Argentina is “land next to the silver river” (Land Beside the Silvery River). There are several versions of the origin of the name, the authors refer to the one by which the name was given by the Spanish colonizers (among whom were mainly traders) who used the Rio de la Plata (“silver river”) for transportation from Peru silver and other treasures, which were rich in the given land. Downstream the territory became known as Argentina (the Spaniards themselves, according to the English version of Wikipedia, borrowed for the title the Italian word “argentino” – painted in silver). Another example is the state of Chile – a place where the land ends. “(Where the Land Ends).
Australia and Oceania
Australia and Oceania, although it is the smallest part of the world, but its diverse landscapes – from tropical forests to volcanoes and meadows – have long fascinated people. This is reflected in the names of states. For example, Nauru, literally translated as “I go to the beach”, sounds like an excellent place to live.
Another Greeks, assuming the existence of unknown at that time lands in the southern hemisphere, began to use the name “Unknown southern land” (Terra Australis Incognita). And according to the Polynesian and, in particular, Samoan mythology, these lands have completely engendered the entire universe: Samoa itself is translated as the “Sacred Center” – the place where the native god of Tagaloalagi created the world.