List of country name etymologies

This is a list of countries with their name origins. See also: List of subnational name etymologies, Placename etymology, political entities named after people * Afghanistan - Possibly from the Sanskrit 'Upa-Ghana-Stan', "land of the allied tribes" * Albania - land of the highlanders. 'Alb' from the PIE root meaning "white" or "mountain". Mountain tribes from modern Kosovo are thought to have brought their highland ethnonym to the narrow coastal plain. The native name Shqip‘ria means "land of the eagle", the eagle having probably been a tribal totem. * America - see United States of America below, and under "naming of America" * Argentina - from the Latin "Argentum" meaning 'silver'. Early traders used the region's Rio de la Plata or 'Silver River' to transport silver and other treasures from upstream Peru. The land around the terminal downstream stations became known as "Argentina" 'Land of Silver'. * Australia - from "unknown southern land" (Latin - terra australis incognita). The territory was named by early European explorers who were conscious of the fact that the Australian landmass was far larger than they had yet investigated. Explorer Matthew finders (1774-1814), the first to sail around and chart the Australian coast, used the term "Australia" in his publication. * Austria - "eastern kingdom", c.f. modern German …sterreich. In the 9th century, the territory formed part of the Frankish empire's eastern limit, and also formed the eastern limit of German settlement against the Slavic area. Carl the Great dubbed the region "Ostmark" 'Eastern border territory'. In the 11th century the term Ostarrichi first appeared. * Azerbaijan - "land of fire" (from surface fires on ancient oil pools; its ancient name Atropatene became Azerbaijan in Arabic) * Bahamas - from the Spanish Baja Mar meaning 'Low (Shallow) Sea'. Spanish Conquistadors thus named the islands for the waters around them. * Barbados - Named by the Portuguese explorer Pedro a Campos "Los Barbados" 'The Bearded Ones' after the appearance of the island's fig trees. * Belarus - "White Ruthenia", formerly Byelorussiya, "White Russia". See below, Russia. The name was changed after the collapse of the Soviet Union to emphasize that Belarus and Russia were and would continue to be two separate countries. The new term was marketed as having an independent etymological root Rus from Ruthenia. In fact Ruthenia and Russia are derived from the same Viking Rus root. Thus the Ukrainian region Ruthenia (known commonly as Rusynia) can be found in old texts as "Red Russia" where the term doesn't refer to the whole of the Ukraine or to the Soviet Union. * Belize - from a Spanish mispronunciation of the name "Peter Wallece", the pirate who created the first settlement in Belize in 1638. * Benin - named after an old African Empire named Benin, on whose territory modern Benin does not actually lie. What is now Benin was previously known as Dahomey, after its principal ethnic group. * Belgium - from the name of a Celtic tribe, the Belgae. * Bhutan - land of the Bhotia. Ethnic Tibetans or "Bhotia" migrated from Tibet to Bhutan in the 10th century. The common root is "Bod", an ancient name for Tibet. * Brazil - from the type of wood, and the Gaelic myth of the magical island of Hy Brasil * Britain - "painted"; a reference to the original inhabitants of the islands use of body paint and tattoos; may also derive from the Celtic goddess Brigid * Bolivia - from Simon Bolivar 1783-1830, an anti-Spanish militant and first president of Bolivia after its independence in 1824. * Bosnia and Herzegovina - Traditionally, the region consisted of two distinct territories; the larger northern section was named after the Bosna river. The smaller southern territory takes its name from the German noble title Herzog, meaning "Duke". The rank was conferred upon the territory's ruler Grand Waywode in 1448 Stephan Vikcic by Emperor Frederick IV. * Botswana - named for the country's largest ethnic group, the Tswana. * Bulgaria - "land of the tribe formed of many tribes", "Bulg" from a Turkic root meaning "mixed" * Burkina Faso - "land of upright people" or "land of honest men" or "land of the incorruptible". Previously the country was named "Upper Volta", after the Volta's two main tributary rivers, both originating in Burkina Faso. * Cameroon - from Portuguese for "prawns" or "shrimp" * Canada - "little settlement" or "the village" in Algonquian * Chile - Unknown. Possibly from a native Aracaunian term meaning "the depths", a reference to the fact that the Andes mountain chain looms over the narrow coastal flatland. The Qechua word 'chili' or 'limit of the world' is also a possible derivation. * China - after the Qin Dynasty in Sanskrit (see also: China in world languages) * Colombia - after "Christopher Columbus" * Comoros - from the Arabic "Djazair al Kamar" 'Island of the moon'. * Costa Rica - "rich coast" in Spanish * Croatia - *unknown, but thought to be Sarmatian in origin * Cuba - Taino Indian, "Cubanacan" 'center place' * Cyprus - Named for its copper mines. * Denmark - from PIE *dhen "low" or 'flat' and Germanic "mark" - "border land" and/or "border forest". Name used by the ancient Goths to describe the Forest separating Gothland from (then Danish) Scania. * Djibouti, named after the bottom point of the Gulf of Tadjoura. Possibly derived from the Afar word "gabouti", a type of doormat made of palm fibres. * Dominica - From the Latin "Dies Dominica" meaning "Sunday", the day of the week Christopher Columbus first landed on the island. * Druk Yul (Bhutan) land of the thunder dragon, land of thunder, or land of the dragon. * Ecuador - "equator" in Spanish * El Salvador - "the saviour" in Spanish, named for Jesus Christ. * Egypt - "temple of the soul of Ptah" * Equatorial Guinea - from the word 'equator' for that country's geographical location, and perhaps from the Berber term "aguinaoui", which means "black". * Eritrea - named by Italian colonizers, from the ancient Greek name for the Red Sea "Erythrea Thalassa". * Estonia - from the Germanic "eastern way". Usually wrongly derived from Aestia of the ancient Greek writings, Aestia actually being modern Masuria in Poland, and probably derived from a Baltic root meaning "speckled", the land being 'speckled' with lakes. * Ethiopia - from the Latin "Aethiopia", meaning "land of the blacks", its roots the Greek aithein "to burn" and ops "face". The old name "Abyssinia" is derived from the Arabic "mixed", a reflection of the many ethnic groups inhabiting the country. * Fiji - from the Tonganese name for the islands 'Viti'. * Finland - from the Germanic Fennland, probably from a root meaning "wanderers". Suomi the name the natives use, may derive from the Baltic root for "land". * France - "land of the Franks", literally "land of the free men". The region had earlier been known as Gallia (Gaul), from the name of a Celtic tribe. * Gabon from the Portuguese pronunciation of the river name Mbe. "Gabao" in Portuguese is a type of hooded overcoat. * Germany o Germany - "land of the spear men" from the Germanic "Gar" "spear". o Allemagne - "land of all the men" i.e. "our many tribes" o Deutschland - "land of the people" o Nemetsy (Polish:Niemcy; Romanian: Nem?i; Czech: Nemecko) - "land of the mute" (where "mute" is a metaphor for "those who do not speak our language"). Some Eastern Europeans use this word to describe Germans. * Ghana - after the ancient West African kingdom of the same name. The modern territory of Ghana was however never part of the previous polity. * Greece - from the name of a certain region, and Hellas "land of light" * Grenada - after the southern Spanish city of the same name. * Guyana - possibly from the local "Guainazes", "people worthy of honors". * Haiti - Taino Indian, "Hayiti' "Tall Mountain", the island it lies on is 'Hispaniola' roughly, 'little Spain', but was also originally known also as Hayiti. * Honduras - from the Spanish "depths", a reference to the deep waters off the northern coast. * Hungary - "people of the 10 spears." In other words, "alliance of the ten tribes". * Iceland - "land of ice" * India - After the river Indus (in Hindi). The native name "Bharat" is often said to derive from the name of an ancient king "Jada Bharatha", but it could possibly also derive from a different king, Bharat, the son of the legendary king Dushyanta. A third possibility is that it derives from the name of the god "Bharat", brother of the famous god Rama. * Indonesia - "Indian Islands" from the Greek root nesos, island, added to the country name India. * Iran - "land of the Aryans" or "land of the free". The term "Arya" derived from the PIE, and generally carrying the meaning of 'noble' or 'free', cognate with the Greek-derived word "aristocrat". * Iraq - from the ancient Semitic "Uruk" meaning "between the rivers", a reference to the Rivers Tigris and Euphrates. * Ireland - after Eire or Eriu, an ancient fertility goddess. Often mistakenly derived as "Land of Iron" * Israel - an alternative name for the biblical patriarch Jacob, literally "struggled with God." * Italy - "son of the bull god" or "calf god", the term originally referring only to a small region at the southern end of modern Italy. * Jamaica Taino Indian "Hamaica", land of wood and water, or perhaps "Land of Springs". * Japan - "nzyet-pwun kwuk" in Chinese or "sun origin country" or "land of the rising sun", indicating Japan as lying to the east of China (where the sun rises). Japanese scholars borrowed the term, simplifying it from Nippon-gu to Nihon-gu, currently simply Nihon or Nippon, "Origin of the sun." * Kenya - after Mount Kenya. * Korea - after the Koryu Goryeo Dynasty, the first Korean dynasty visited by westerners. The native name is Hangeuk. The ancient Choson meant "land of morning calm". * Kuwait - from the Arabic "Kut" meaning 'Fort' * Lebanon - fromt the Semitic "White Mountains" * Liberia - from the Latin liber, 'free', so named because the nation was created as a homeland for freed American slaves. * Liechtenstein - "light stone" ('light' in weight rather than in brightness). The country was named after the Liechtenstein dynasty purchased and united the counties of Schellenburg and Vaduz and were allowed by the Holy Roman Emperor to rename the new property after its own family. * Luxembourg - (Celtic 'Lucilem' "small" and Germanic 'burg' "castle", lucilemburrugh) 'little castle' * Malawi - from the native "Flaming Water", perhaps after the reflections on lake Malawi. * Malaysia - land of the Malay people * Maldives - From the Sanskrit mahal, 'palace', diva, 'island', thus "palace island". The main island, Male, held the palace of the islands' Sultan. * Malta - from the Phoenician MLT meaning "refuge". The term may have been kept long in currency by the existence of the Greek and Latin word melitta or "honey", the name of the island in classical times, and also the major export from the island during those centuries. * Marshall Islands named after British Captain John Marshall, who was the first to document the existence of the island in 1788. * Mauritius - named after Dutch Staatholder, Prince Maurice of Orange * Mexico - after the Mexica branch of the Aztecs * Micronesia - from the Greek for "small islands". * Moldova - from the river "Moldova" in Romania, itself named for the open pit mining its waters assisted. Molde is the German term for such a mine. * Monaco - "himself alone" a reference to the Greek demigod Hercules * Morocco from the city "Marakesh". The native name "Al Maghreb al Aqsa", means "the Farthest West". * Nepal - "wool market" * Netherlands o Netherlands - Germanic 'low lands' o Holland (often used to refer to the Netherlands) - Germanic 'holt (i.e. wooded) land' (often incorrectly regarded as meaning 'hollow [i.e. marsh] land') o Batavia (Germanic) - 'arable land' (derived from Betuwe as opposed to -the regional name "Veluwe" meaning 'fallow' or 'waste' 'land' * New Zealand - after Zealand ['Sj¾lland'] Denmark or "Zealand" province of the the Netherlands. * Nigeria - from a local African language "Ni Gir", "river Gir" * Norway - from the old Norse northr and veg "northern way". The Norwegian name Norge is from the roots northr and rike, "Northern Kingdom" * Pakistan - an acronym (Punjab, Afghan frontier, Kashmir, Indus Valley) plus -stan; also happens to form the word land of the pure * Palestine - from the Roman name for the country, literally "land of the Philistines" ("Philistines" itself is from the Semitic root P.L.Sh., meaning "invader") * Panama - after a former village near the modern capital. From the Cueva Indian language meaning "place of abundance of fish", possibly from the Caribe "abundance of butterflies", or possible from another native term refering to the Panama tree. * Papua - "Papua" meaning "Land of the people with the frizzy hair", named by the neighboring Malays (who generally have straight hair). * Peru - possibly after the River Biru in modern Ecuador. * Philippines - "lands of King Philip" (the 16th century Spanish Monarch). * Poland - From the Germanic polen, "fields". * Portugal - From the Latin portus cale, after the name of the Roman port of Gaya, modern Oporto. * Romania -"Roman Realm" A neologism coined after the 19th century unification of Moldavia and Wallachia. A reminder that the local romanized population, the Rum‰ni or Rom‰ni believed themselves to be the descendants of the ancient Roman legions, as their speech descended from the Latin. * Russia - from an old Viking group known as the Rus, and from the kingdom they founded in present-day Ukraine. * Samoa - "Sacred Moa Preserve", after the Moa, a native hen-like fowl. In legend a sacred hen enclosure "Sa-moa" was created by King Lu. After battles to protect it, he had a son he named "Samoa" who became the progenitor of the Moa clan, who came to dominate the island of Manu'a and the whole Samoan area. * San Marino - after Saint Marinus of Rimini who is said to have founded San Marino in 301 AD. * Serbia and Montenegro o Serbia - unknown, possibly Sarmatian in origin; name of Sorbs in present day Germany is of same origin, the Serbs having migrated into the Balkan area from the region in Germany known as Lusatia, where the Sorbs are currently found. o Montenegro - Named by Venetian conquerors montenegro, "black mountain", after the appearance of Mount Lovcen or most likely its dark coniferous forests. Crna Gora, the modern native name for the country, is a literal translation of "Montenegro". The country had previously been known as "Zeta", Dioclea (Serbo-Croat Duklia) and Doclea. "Doclea" the name of the region during the early period of the Roman Empire, was termed for an early Illyrian tribe. In later centuries, Romans "hyper-corrected" to "Dioclea" wrongly guessing that an I had been lost due to vulgar speech patterns. The earliest Slavic name "Zeta" derives from the name of a river in Montenegro which itself derives from an early root meaning "harvest" or "grain". (Contrary to popular belief, "Montenegro" is not Italian, as "black mountain" in Italian is monte nero without the g.) * Sierra Leone - the name means lion mountains in Spanish. * Singapore - from the Sanskrit "Simhapura", "Lion City" * Slovakia - from the Slavic "glory" or "the word" * Slovenia - from the Slavic "glory" or "the word" * Spain - Phoenician 'Rabbit coast' * Sudan - from the Arabic Bilad as-Sudan, 'Land of the blacks' * Sweden - "land of the Svear". The development of the ethnonym is uncertain, but derives from the Old Norse "Svithjoth", Svithjoth and Svithjoth the Great used to denote various land areas figuring in Norse mythological and legendary tales, including areas in Scadinavia and modern Russia. The term Svear may have come into use primarily as a means of distinguishing the ancient culture of what is now central Sweden from that of the ethnic Goths, who were located to its south. Thus one region would be the 'Svealand' and the other 'Gothland' or 'Gautaland'. * Switzerland - from the canton of Schwyz, possibly derived further from the OMH German "Schweitz", meaning Swamp. * Taiwan - "Terraced bay" in Chinese. Terraced rice fields are typical of Taiwanese landscape. * Tajikistan - from a Turkic root tasi meaning 'Muslim'. * Tanzania - a combination of the names of two states that merged to form this country, Tanganyika, and Zanzibar. * Timor From the Malay word timur meaning "east". In its official Tetun language East Timor is known as Timor Lorosae or 'east Timor'. To neighboring Indonesia it is known as Timor Timur, etymologically 'eastern east'. * Thailand - from the native Thai "Land of the free". Previously the country had been as: o Siam - The name was given to the ancient Thai people by their neighbors Burmese, and probably derives from the Pali toponym "Suvarnabhuma" 'Land of Gold', the ultimare root the Pali root "sama", which variously denoted different shades of color, most often brown or yellow, but sometimes green or black. * Togo - from the settlement Togo, currently Togoville. In Ewe, to is 'water' and go 'shore'. * Tonga - from the native 'South' or 'southern'. In the 19th century, the territory was known as "Friendship Islands", so named by Captain James Cook. * Trinidad and Tobago - "Trinidad" after the 3 prominent mountain peaks on the island and the Christian trinity (trinidad is Spanish for trinity or trio), "Tobago", after "tobacco", smoked by the natives. * Tuvalu - from the native "eight islands" or "eight standing with each other". An earlier name, Niulakita, was suppressed ; it was the name of the first atoll settled in 1949. * Uganda - from the earlier "Buganda", "land of men", the ethnomym of the region's dominant group. * Ukraine - "border territory" etymologically identical to kraijina in Serbo-Croat * United States of America - from the explorer and cartographer "Amerigo Vespucci", who added his own surname prominantly on the maps he sold of the new world, consumers confusedly believing the name to be the name of the new land. * Vanuatu - From the Bislama "Forever on our Land". The territory was known earlier as the New Hebrides, after the islands in Scotland. * Vatican City 'Vatican' from the Latin vaticinari, "to prophesy", from the name of the hill 'Mons Vaticanus' on which the Vatican is located, the street beneath having been used by fortune-tellers and sooth-sayers in Roman times. * Venezuela - "Little Venice", from "Venizia" and the diminutive "ela". European explorers having were impressed by the native stilt-houses built on Lake Maracaibo and decided to name the region after Venice. * Vietnam - "Southern land", The original core of Vietnamese civilization having been farther north. * Zambia - after the River Zambezi
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