Definitions

asian country

List of country name etymologies

This list covers English language country names with their etymologies. Some of these include notes on indigenous names and their etymologies. Countries in italics no longer exist as sovereign political entities.

A

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From Afghan and the Persian suffix -stan meaning "land of"; thus: "land of the Afghans". The origin of the word Afghan itself — which is synonymous with Pashtun — remains uncertain. One explanation derives it from Apakan, an 8th or 9th century Iranian ruler. Others point out a 3rd century Sassanid reference to "Abgan", the oldest known mention of a word variant of "Afghan". It also appears in the inscriptions of Shapur I of Iran at Naqš-e Rostam which mentions a certain Goundifer Abgan Rismaund. The sixth-century Indian Astronomer Varahamihira, in his Brhat Samhita (11.61; 16.38), refers to Afghans as Avagan. The seventh-century Chinese pilgrim Xuanzang who travels from Kunduz and Balkh into India where he refers to a people to the north of Sulaiman Mountains whom he calls Apokien, which alludes to Avagans or Afghans. A modern view supported by numerous noted scholars is that the name Afghan evidently derives from Sanskrit Ashvaka or Ashvakan (q.v.), (Panini's Ashvakayana), the Assakenoi of Arrian. The Ashvakayan/Asvakan are stated to be a sub-section of the Kambojas who specialised in horse-culture.

(autonomous province of Finland):

"Land [in the] water," from the Germanic root *ahw-, cognate with Latin aqua. The Finnish name Ahvenanmaa is partly borrowed, partly translated from Germanic.

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"Alb" from the Proto-Indo-European root meaning "white" or "mountain", as mountains are often white-capped with snow; compare Alps.
*Albanian: Shqipëria (Land of the Eagles)

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The name Algeria is derived from the name of the city of Algiers (French Alger), from the Arabic word "الجزائر" (al-ǧazāʼir), which translates as the islands, referring to the four islands which lay off that city's coast until becoming part of the mainland in 1525; al-ǧazāʼir is itself short for the older name ǧazāʼir banī mazġannā, "the islands of (the tribe) Bani Mazghanna", used by early medieval geographers such as al-Idrisi and Yaqut al-Hamawi.

(territory of the United States of America):

See America above and Samoa, United States of America below.

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Etymology unknown and contested; of pre-Roman, possibly Iberian or Basque origin. The name Andorra might be derived from al-Darra, the Arabic word for forest. When the Moors invaded Spain, the valleys of the Pyrenees were especially wooded, and the title Andorra can be found linked to villages in other parts of Spain which had been under Moorish domination. Still others claim that it comes from the Spanish andar, meaning "to walk", which gave name to the nomadic tribe of Andorrisoe which ostensibly migrated to the valleys in and around present-day Andorra, or could possibly originate from a Navarrese word andurrial, which translates as "shrub-covered land." An oft-told legend is that the name came from the archaic "Endor", which Louis le Debonnaire christened what he referred to as the "wild valleys of Hell" after defeating the Moors – wild and desolate mountain ranges have been associated with the Devil throughout much European literature.

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From Ngola, a title used by the monarch of the Kingdom of Ndongo. The Portuguese named the area in honour of a Ngola allied with them.

(overseas territory of the United Kingdom):

From the word for "eel" in any of several Romance languages (Spanish: anguila; French: anguille; Italian: anguilla), due to its elongated shape. The circumstances of the island's European discovery and naming are uncertain: Christopher Columbus (1493) or French explorers (1564) are both possibilities.

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Christopher Columbus named Antigua in honour of the Santa María La Antigua ("Saint Mary the Old") cathedral in Seville, Spain, when he landed there in 1493. "Barbuda" means "bearded" in Portuguese. The islands gained this name after the appearance of the their fig trees, whose long roots resemble beards. Alternatively, it may refer to the beards of the indigenous people.

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From the Latin argentum, meaning "silver". Early Spanish and Portuguese traders used the region's Río de la Plata or "Silver River" to transport silver and other treasures from Peru to the Atlantic. The land around the terminal downstream stations became known as La Argentina – "The Land of Silver".

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From Old Persian Armina (6th century BC), Greek Armenia (5th century BC). The further etymology of the Persian name is uncertain, but may be connected to the Assyrian Armânum, Armanî and/or the Biblical Minni. The Old Persian name is an exonym, see Hayk for the native name and Urartu for the Biblical Ararat.
*Armenian: Հայաստան Hayastan

(territory of Netherlands):

Two possible meanings exist. One story relates how the Spanish explorer Alonso de Ojeda named the island in 1499 as "Oro Hubo", implying the presence of gold (oro hubo in Spanish means "there was gold"). Another possible derivation cites the Arawak Indian word oibubai, which means "guide".

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Originally from Latin terra australis incognita — "unknown southern land". Early European explorers, sensing that the Australian landmass far exceeded in size what they had already mapped, gave the area a generic descriptive name. The explorer Matthew Flinders (1774 – 1814), the first to sail around and chart the Australian coast, used the term "Australia" in his 1814 publication A Voyage to Terra Australis. Previous Dutch explorers had referred to the continent as Australisch and as "Hollandia Nova" (New Holland). From the introduction in Flinders' book:

"There is no probability, that any other detached body of land, of nearly equal extent, will ever be found in a more southern latitude; the name Terra Australis will, therefore, remain descriptive of the geographical importance of this country, and of its situation on the globe: it has antiquity to recommend it; and, having no reference to either of the two claiming nations, appears to be less objectionable than any other which could have been selected.*"

...with the accompanying note at the bottom of the page:

"* Had I permitted myself any innovation upon the original term, it would have been to convert it into AUSTRALIA; as being more agreeable to the ear, and an assimilation to the names of the other great portions of the earth."

Note: Antarctica, which is south of Australia, would be discovered in 1820, although who first saw it in that year is a matter of dispute.

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Compare the modern German Österreich, from Old High German ôstarrîhhi, which literally means "empire in the East." In the 9th century, the territory formed part of the Frankish Empire's eastern limit, and also formed the eastern limit of German settlement bordering on Slavic areas. Under Charlemagne and during the early Middle Ages, the territory had the Latin name marchia orientalis (Eastern March). This translated to Ostarrîchi in the vernacular of the time; that Old High German form first appears in a 996 document.
*Arabic Nimsa: Presumably from the Slavic word nowaday used for Germany, via Turkish.
*Czech Rakousko (country) or Rakousy (Upper and Lower Austria): from Rakous (German: Raabs), an important fortress on the Moravian-Austrian border.
*Finnish Itävalta

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Native spelling Azərbaycan (from surface fires on ancient oil pools; its ancient name, (Media) Atropatene (in Greek and Latin) or Atrpatakan (in Armenian), actually referring to the present-day Azerbaijan region of Iran. The name became Azerbaijan in Arabic. The Persians knew the territory of the modern republic of Azerbaijan as "Aran"; and in classical times it became "(Caucasian) Albania" and, in part, "(Caucasian) Iberia", although this last term corresponds mostly to the present-day republic of Georgia. (See Georgia below.) The region of Media Atropatene lay further to the south: south of the River Araxes. "Aran" may derive from the same root as modern "Iran", while "Albania" and "Iberia" appear as toponyms of Caucasus mountain derivation. The name "(Media) Atropatene" comes from Atropates ("fire protector" in Middle Persian) who ruled as the independent Iranian satrap at the time of the Seleucids. The modern ethnonym 'Azerbaijani' has often become the subject of sharp differences of opinion between the ethnically Turkic inhabitants of the modern republic of Azerbaijan and the inhabitants of the Persian-dominated neighboring republic of Iran. Iranians regard the names "Azerbaijan" and "Atropatene" as expressions of historically Persian culture, and therefore often refer to the modern republic of Azerbaijan as "Turkish Azerbaijan", and to its inhabitants as "Azerbaijani Turks". In contrast, Turkophone Azerbaijanis insist on their own place as an historically continuous presence in Azerbaijani history. The suffix -an in Persian means "land".

B

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From Spanish Baja Mar – "Low (Shallow) Sea". The islands were named by the Spanish conquistadors after the waters around them.

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Arabic for "two seas". The exact referents of the "two seas" remain a matter of debate. Bahrain lies in a bay formed by the Arabian mainland and the peninsula of Qatar, and some identify the "two seas" as the waters of the bay on either side of the island. Others believe that the name refers to Bahrain's position as an island in the Persian Gulf, separated by "two seas" from Arabia to the south and Iran to the north. Yet another claim suggests that the first sea surrounds Bahrain and the second "sea" metaphorically represents the abundant natural spring waters under the island itself.
Baker Island (territory of the United States of America):
Named after Michael Baker, of New Bedford, Massachusetts, who claimed to have discovered it in 1832 (subsequent to its actual discovery).

: Bangla referring to the Bengali-speaking people, and Desh meaning "country", hence "Country of the Bengalis". The origin of 'Bangla' derives from ancient 'vanga' kingdom of present location of Bengal.

*Bangladesh was formerly known as East Pakistan when it was the eastern exclave of Pakistan. (See Pakistan below; note that the name "Pakistan" comes from an acronym of the country's various regions/homelands in which Bangladesh and its regions do not feature)

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Named by the Portuguese explorer Pedro A. Campos "Os Barbados" ("The Bearded Ones") in 1536 after the appearance of the island's ficus trees, whose long roots resemble beards.

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See also Belarus: History of the name.
From Belarusian, meaning "White Rus'", "White Ruthenia". Formerly known as Byelorussia, a transliteration from the Russian name meaning "White Russia". (See Russia below.) The name changed after the collapse of the Soviet Union to emphasize the historic and ongoing distinctness of the nations of Belarus and Russia. The exact original meaning conveyed by the term "Bela" or 'White' remains uncertain. Early cultures commonly employed the concept of "whiteness" as representing the qualities of freedom, purity, or nobility. On the other hand, it may simply have originated as a totem color of convenience. Part of the western territory of modern Belarus historically bore the name of "Chernarossija" or "Black Rus". The term "Black" most commonly applied to landscapes featuring especially rich and productive soils. How this may reflect on the origin of the term "White Rus" remains as yet unexplored. Yet another region in present-day western Ukraine historically had the name "Red Russia" or "Red Ruthenia". Colors represented cardinal directions in Mongol and Tatar culture, which may have influenced the naming of these lands.

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From the name of a Celtic tribe, the Belgae.
The name Belgae may derive from the Proto-Indo-European *bolg meaning "bag" or "womb" and indicating common descent; if so, it likely followed some unknown original adjective.
Another theory suggests that the name Belgae may come from the Proto-Celtic *belo, which means "bright", and which relates to the English word bale (as in "bale-fire"), to the Anglo-Saxon bael, to the Lithuanian baltas, meaning "white" or "shining" (from which the Baltic takes its name) and to Slavic "belo/bilo/bjelo/..." meaning "white" (as in the town names Beograd, Biograd, Bjelovar, etc, all meaning "white city"; see Beltane). Thus the Gaulish god-names Belenos ("Bright one") and Belisama (probably the same divinity, originally from *belo-nos = "our shining one") might come also from the same source.

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Traditionally said to derive from the Spanish pronunciation of "Wallace", the name of the pirate who set up the first settlement in Belize in 1638. Another possibility relates the name to the Maya word belix, meaning "muddy water", applied to the Belize River.
* British Honduras (former name): after the colonial ruler (Britain). For "Honduras" see Honduras below. See also Britain, below.

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Previously called Dahomey, the country was renamed the People's Republic of Benin in 1975 after the Bight of Benin — the body of water on which it lies. This name was picked due to its neutrality, since the current political boundaries of Benin encompass over fifty distinct linguistic groups and nearly as many individual ethnic groups. The "Benin" in "Bight of Benin" is itself the name of an old kingdom (the Kingdom of Benin) which was in the region, centred at Benin City in modern-day Nigeria. (The old kingdom was not coincident with the modern country of Benin, nor historically directly linked to it.) The name is said to derive, via Ubini, from the Yoruba Ile-ibinu, meaning a land of quarrels, referring to a historical period of dispute within the kingdom, and applied (perhaps derogatorily) by the Yoruba people. That was then corrupted by early Portuguese traders into "Benin", and the related term "Bini", the name of the people (though the people themselves use the name "Edo"). Some accounts suggest that "Bini" is related to the Arabic bani, meaning "sons".

*The name Dahomey was the name of the ancient Fon Kingdom, and was determined to be an inappropriate name, as it was the name of the principal ethnic group of the country.

(overseas territory of the United Kingdom):

From the name of the Spanish sea captain Juan de Bermúdez who sighted the islands in 1503.

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The ethnic Tibetans or Bhotia migrated from Tibet to Bhutan in the 10th century. The root Bod is an ancient name for Tibet.

*Bhutanese language: Druk Yul — "land of the thunder dragon", "land of thunder", or "land of the dragon", from the violent thunder storms that come from the Himalayas.

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Named after Simón Bolívar (1783–1830), an anti-Spanish militant and first president of Bolivia after the country gained its independence in 1825. His surname comes from La Puebla de Bolibar, a village in Biscay, Spain. The etymology of Bolibar may be bolu- ("mill") + -ibar ("river"). Thus, it might mean a mill on a river.

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The country consists of two distinct regions. The larger northern section, Bosnia, takes its name from the Bosna river. The smaller, southern, territory, Herzegovina, takes its name from the German noble title Herzog, meaning "Duke". Frederick IV, King of the Romans, made the territory's ruler, the Grand Vojvoda Stjepan Vukcic, a duke in 1448.

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Named after the country's largest ethnic group, the Tswana.
* Bechuanaland (former name): derived from Bechuana, an alternative spelling of "Botswana".

Bouvet Island (territory of Norway):

Named after the French explorer Jean-Baptiste Charles Bouvet de Lozier, who discovered the remote island in 1739.

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Named after the brazilwood tree, called pau-brasil in Portuguese and so-named because its reddish wood resembled the color of red-hot embers (brasa in Portuguese), and because it was recognized as an excellent source of red dye. In Tupi it is called "ibirapitanga", which means literally "red wood". The wood of the tree was used to color clothes and fabrics.

Another theory states that the name of the country is related to the Irish myth of Hy-Brazil, a phantom island similar to St. Brendan's Island, southwest of Ireland. The legend was so strong that during the 15th century many expeditions tried to find it, the most important being that of John Cabot. As the Brazilian lands were reached by Pedro Álvares Cabral in 1500 A.D., the Irish myth would have influenced the late name given to the country (after "Island of Real Cross" and "Land of Holy Cross"). The proof that the legend was popular among Iberic people may be verified by the name of the Azorean Terceira Island, registered in the 14th century in the Atlas Catalan and around 1436 on the Venetian map of Andrea Bianco.

See also list of Brazil state name etymologies.
Britain:
From Pretani, "painted ones"; perhaps a reference to the use of body-paint and tattoos by early inhabitants of the islands; may also derive from the Celtic goddess Brigid . The form 'Britain' (see also Welsh Prydain) comes from Latin 'Britannia', probably via French. The former name of the island of Britain was Albion, an ancient Greek adaptation of a Celtic name which may survive as the Gaelic name of Scotland, Alba. Traditionally, a folk etymology derived the name from "Brutus", but this is almost certainly not the case. Brittany derives from the same root.

(overseas territory of the United Kingdom):

Self-descriptive.

(overseas territory of the United Kingdom):

Christopher Columbus, on discovering a seemingly endless number of islands in the north-east Caribbean in 1493, named them after Saint Ursula and the 11,000 virgins. The word "British" distinguishes these islands from the adjacent US Virgin Islands.

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Possibly via Hindi from Sanskrit bhurni, meaning "land" or "country". Alternatively, said by some to be from a Malay exclamation "barunah!" meaning "great!", or "excellent!", in reference to the suitability of the location for settlers. It was renamed "Barunai" in the 14th Century, possibly influenced by the Sanskrit word varunai, meaning "seafarers", later to become "Brunei". The word "Borneo" is of the same origin. In the country's full name "Negara Brunei Darussalam", "Darussalam" means "Abode of Peace" in Arabic, while "Negara" means "State" in Malay. "Negara" derives from the Sanskrit Nagara, meaning "city."

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Named after the Bulgars. Their tribal name, Bulgar, may come from burg, which means "castle" in Germanic languages. A. D. Keramopoulos derives the name "Bulgars" from burgarii or bourgarioi meaning "those who maintain the forts" (burgi, bourgoi, purgoi) along the northern boundaries of the Balkan provinces, and elsewhere in the Roman Empire, first mentioned in Greek in an inscription dated A.D. 202, found between Philippopolis and Tatar Pazardzhik (and last published in Wilhelm Dittenberger's Sylloge inscriptionum graecarum, 3 ed., vol. II [1917], no. 880,1. 51, p. 593). The Bulgarians, previously known as Moesians, inhabited Thrace.
*An alternative Turkic etymology for the name of the pre-Slavicised Central-Asian Bulgars derives from Bulgha meaning sable and has a totemistic origin.
*Some associate the name Bulgar with the River Volga in present-day Russia: Bulgars lived in that region before and/or after the migration to the Balkans: see Volga Bulgaria.

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From two of the country's principal languages, meaning "land of upright people", "land of honest men" or "land of the incorruptible" (Burkina from the More language and Faso from Dioula). President Thomas Sankara, who took power in a coup in 1983, changed the name from "Upper Volta" in 1984.
*Upper Volta (former name): after the Volta's two main tributary rivers, both originating in Burkina Faso.

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see Myanmar below.

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From a local name meaning "land of the Kirundi-speakers."

C

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The name "Cambodia" derives from that of the ancient Khmer kingdom of Kambuja (Kambujadesa). The ancient Sanskrit name Kambuja or Kamboja referred to an early Indo-Iranian tribe, the Kambojas, named after the founder of that tribe, Kambu Svayambhuva, apparently a variant of Cambyses, Kambujiya or Kamboja. See Etymology of Kamboja.
* Kampuchea (local name): derived in the same fashion. It also was the official English-language name from 1975 to 1989.

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From Portuguese Rio de Camarões ("River of Shrimps"), the name given to the Wouri River by Portuguese explorers in the 15th century.

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From the word Kanata meaning "village" or "settlement" in the Saint-Lawrence Iroquoian language spoken by the inhabitants of Stadacona and the neighbouring region, in the 16th century, near present-day Quebec City. See also Canadian provincial name etymologies.

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Named after Cap-Vert a cape in Western Africa. From Portuguese Cabo Verde: "Green cape".

Caroline Islands

Named after Charles II, king of Spain from 1665 to 1700.

See "Micronesia" and "Palau" below

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Catalunya in Catalan. The origin is unclear and there are many hypotheses. Perhaps from the word meaning "land of castles" (see Castile for a similar origin). According to another somewhat similar theory (Lafont 1986), Catalunya could come from Arabic Qalat-uniyya (Qalat means "castle" and -uniyya is a collective suffix) because medieval Catalonha used to be a frontier country with a lot of castles in front of the Muslim and Arabized zone of the Iberic peninsula. Some texts suggest that the name Catalunya derives from "Gauta-landia": Land of the Goths, or "Goth-Alania" meaning "Land of the Goths and Alans through Arabian *Cotelanuyya [cf. Andalusia, land of the Vandals], as the Visigoths and Alans invaded and divided Iberia between themselves, agreeing to rule some parts together, with the region of Catalunya going to the Visigoths. Additionally, the Visigothic kingdom of Catalonia may have been named after the original homeland of the Visigoths, "Gotland". Coromines suggests an Iberian origin: Laietani (latinization of Iberian laiezken) > *laketani > laketans > metathesized as catelans > catalans, reforced by castellani (with an epenthetic s according to Coromines). Another theory suggests *kaste-lan as the Iberian name later latinized as castellani (an Iberian tribe in northern Catalonia according to Ptolemy); then the name would have evolved into *catellani > *catelans > *catalans.

(overseas territory of the United Kingdom):

Christopher Columbus discovered the islands in 1503 after winds blew him off his course from Panama to Hispaniola. He called the islands Las Tortugas ("The Turtles" in Spanish) due to the many turtles there. Around 1540, the islands gained the name Caymanas, from a Carib word for marine alligators or "caiman", an animal found on the islands.

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Named after its geographical position in the center of the continent of Africa; see also List of continent name etymologies.

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Locally known in French as République du Tchad. Named for Lake Chad (or Tchad) in the country's southwest. The lake in turn got its name from the Bornu word tsade: "lake".

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The Russian ethnonym Chechen probably derives from the name of the ancient village of Chechana or Chechen-aul. The village is on the bank of the Argun River, near Grozny. Another theory derives the name from chechenit' sya, "to talk mincingly".

The native term, Noxçi, is derived from nexça (sheep cheese), nox (plow) or from the prophet Noah (Nox in Chechen).

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Exact etymology unknown. Possibilities include that it comes from a native Mapudungun term meaning "the depths", a reference to the fact that the Andes mountain chain looms over the narrow coastal flatland. The Quechua or Mapuche Indian word chili/chilli or "where the land ends/where the land runs out/limit of the world" is a possible derivation. Another possible meaning originates with a native word tchili, meaning "snow".

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The English name of China comes from the Qin Dynasty, possibly in a Sanskrit form; the pronunciation "China" came to the western languages through the Persian word چین "Chin". (see also: China in world languages)
* Chinese: Zhong Guo — "central country"
* Archaic English Cathay, Turkish Xytai and Russian Китай (Kitai), from the Khitan people who conquered north China in the 10th century.

(territory of Australia):

So named because Captain William Mynors discovered the island on Christmas Day in 1643.
Clipperton Island (territory of France):
Named after the English mutineer and pirate John Clipperton, who hid there in 1705.

(territory of Australia):

Named after coconuts, the main local product.
*Keeling Islands (alternative name), after Captain William Keeling, who discovered the islands in 1609.

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Named after the explorer Christopher Columbus, despite the fact that he never was in the country.

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From the Arabic Djazair al Qamar: "island of the moon."

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Named after the former Kongo kingdom, in turn named after the Bakongo people.

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Named after the former Kongo kingdom, in turn named after the Bakongo people.
* Zaire (former name), from Nzere, "river", after Congo River.

(territory of New Zealand):

Named after Captain James Cook, who sighted the islands in 1770.

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The name, meaning "rich coast" in Spanish, was given by the Spanish explorer Gil González Dávila.

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From French, meaning "Ivory Coast". The French so named the region in reference to the ivory traded from the area — in similar fashion, nearby stretches of the African shoreline became known as the "Grain Coast", the "Gold Coast" and the "Slave Coast."

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Latinization of the Croatian name Hrvatska, derived from Hrvat (Croat): a word of unknown origin, possibly from a Sarmatian word for "herdsman" or "cowboy". Might be related to an aboriginal tribe of Alans.

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From Taíno Indian Cubanacan — "centre place". In Portugal, some believe that the name echoes that of the Portuguese town of Cuba, speculating that Christopher Columbus provided a link. In Portuguese and Spanish, the word "cuba" refers to the barrels used to hold beverages.

Cymru is the Welsh name for Wales, thought to mean "Land of the Compatriots" in Old Welsh. The term "Welsh" comes from the Anglo-Saxon "Wealh", meaning foreigner or unfamiliar neighbour.

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Derived from the Greek Κύπρος (Kypros) for "copper", in reference to the copper mined on the island in antiquity.

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Roughly "land of the Czechs and Slovaks", from the two main Slavic ethnic groups in the country, with "Slovak" deriving from the Slavic for "Slavs"; and "Czech" ultimately of unknown origin.

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From Čechové (Češi, i.e. Czechs), the name of one of the Slavic tribes on the country's territory, which subdued the neighboring Slavic tribes around 900. The origin of the name of the tribe itself remains unknown. According to a legend, it comes from their leader Čech, who brought them to Bohemia. Most scholarly theories regard Čech as a sort of obscure derivative, i.e. from Četa (military unit).
* Bohemia (Latin and traditional English variant): after a Celtic tribe Boii.

D

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The word Daghestan or Daghistan (Дагъистан; Arabic and داغستان) means "country of mountains", it is derived from the Turkic word dağ, meaning mountain and the Persian suffix -stan meaning "land of". The spelling Dagestan is a transliteration from Russian language, which lacks the voiced velar fricative.

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See Congo, Democratic Republic of, above

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From the native name Danmark, meaning "march (i.e., borderland) of the Danes", the dominant people of the region since ancient times. The origin of the tribal name is unknown, but one theory derives it from PIE dhen: "low" or "flat", presumably referring to the low elevation of most of the country.

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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. Another plausible, but unproven, etymology is that "Djibouti" means "Land of Tehuti" or Land of Thoth, after the Egyptian Moon God.
*French Territory of the Afars and the Issas (former name): after the colonial ruler (France) and the two main ethnic groups in the country. See also France, below.
*French Somaliland (former name): after the colonial ruler (France). For Somaliland see Somalia below.

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From the Latin "Dies Dominica" meaning "Sunday": the day of the week on which Christopher Columbus first landed on the island.

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Derived from Santo Domingo, the capital city, which bears the name of the Spanish Saint Domingo de Guzmán, the founder of the Dominican Order.

E

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From the Malay word timur meaning "east". The local official Tetum language refers to East Timor as Timor Lorosae or "East Timor", or Timor-Leste in Portuguese. In neighbouring Indonesia it has the formal name Timor Timur — etymologically "eastern east". Indonesians usually shorten the name to Tim-Tim.
*Portuguese Timor (former name): after the former colonial ruler (Portugal). "Timor" as above.

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"Equator" in Spanish, as the country lies on the Equator.

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From ancient Greek (attested in Mycenean) Αἴγυπτος (Aígyptos), which, according to Strabo, derived from Αἰγαίου ὑπτίως (Aigaíou hyptíōs) — "the land below the Aegean sea"). That is more apparent in the Latin form Aegyptus. Alternatively, from the Egyptian name of Memphis, *ħāwit kuʔ pitáħ, meaning "house (or temple) of the soul of Ptah".
*Mişr (Arabic name, pronounced Maşr in Egyptian Arabic): a widespread Semitic word (Hebrew: Mitzraim), first used to mean "Egypt" in Akkadian, and meaning "city" or "to settle or found" in Arabic. The Turkish name Mısır derives from the Arabic one. However, the Hebrew form means "straits or narrow places", referring to the shape of the country as it follows the Nile River, and takes on more symbolic weight in the Bible in reference to the Exodus story.
*Kême (Coptic name): "black land" (Ancient Egyptian kmt), referring to the mud of the Nile after the summer flood, as opposed to the desert, called "red land" (Ancient Egyptian dšrt).

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"The saviour" in Spanish: named after Jesus.

(constituent country of the United Kingdom):

Derived from the Old English name Englaland, literally translatable as "land of the Angles".
The indigenous languages of Ireland and Scotland refer to England as the "land of the Saxons" — for example, Irish Sasana. Cornish — also a Celtic language — uses Pow Saws — literally "Saxon country".

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"Equatorial", from the word "equator". The Equator does not pass through the country's land, though the country straddles the Equator, as its island of Annobon lies to the south, while the mainland lies to the north. "Guinea" perhaps comes from the Berber term aguinaoui, which means "black".
*Spanish Guinea (former name): after the former colonial ruler (Spain). "Guinea" as above; See also Spain, below.

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Named by Italian colonizers, from the Latin name for the Red Sea, Mare Erythraeum ("Erythraean Sea"), which in turn derived from the ancient Greek name for the Red Sea: Ἐρυθρά Θάλασσα (Eruthra Thalassa).

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From the Latin version of the Germanic word Estland, which could originate from the Germanic word for "eastern (way)", or from the name Aestia, first mentioned in ancient Greek texts. Palaeogeographers have not located Aestia exactly: the name may have instead referred to modern Masuria in Poland.
* Chud (Old East Slavic): originally derived from the Gothic for "people" (see "Deutschland" under the heading "Germany"); more recent folk-etymology has also linked the name to the Slavic root for "weird". Lake Peipus still bears the name of "Chudskoe Lake" in Slavic languages.
* Igaunija (Latvian): from the ancient Ugaunian tribe in southeastern Estonia.
* Viro (Finnish variant): from the ancient Vironian tribe in northern Estonia.

:

From the Greek word Αἰθιοπία (Aithiopía, Latin Æthiopia), from Αἰθίοψ (Aithíops), "Ethiopian" — sometimes parsed by Westerners as a purely Greek term meaning "of burnt (αἰθ-) visage (ὤψ)". However, some (i.e., the 16–17th c. Book of Aksum [Matshafa Aksum]) Ethiopian sources state that the name derived from "'Ityopp'is", a son of Cush, son of Ham who, according to legend, founded the city of Aksum.
* Abyssinia (former alternate name): derives from an Arabic form of the Ge'ez (and other Ethiosemitic languages) word Habesha, a name referring to the collection of all tribes in ancient Ethiopia.
Europa Island (territory of France):
The island was named for the British ship Europa, which visited it in 1774.

F

(overseas territory of the United Kingdom):
The English Captain John Strong named the strait between the two main islands the Falkland Sound when he landed on the islands in 1690, and the term eventually came to apply to the whole island group. The name honoured Anthony Cary, 5th Viscount Falkland, First Lord of the Admiralty, whose family name was also their residence "Falkland Palace" in Scotland.
*Islas Malvinas (Spanish language name): comes from the French sailors who frequented the islands during the 1690s. They came from St. Malo in Brittany, France, so others often referred to them in French as the "Malouines".
*Sebald Islands — a nearly defunct name of Dutch origin which commemorated Sebald de Weert, who is usually credited with first sighting the Falkland Islands in 1598.

(territory of Denmark):

From Faroese (originally Old Norse) Føroyar, "sheep islands".

:

From the Tongan name for the islands: Viti.

:

From Germanic, meaning "Land of the Finns". Originally, the Germanic term Finn, deriving possibly from finthan ("wander, find"), and carried forth in the North Germanic languages, probably referred to hunter-gatherers, whose closest cultural successors in modern terms would be the Sami people. Latin Fennia.
*Suomi (Finnish name), Soome (Estonian name), Sum' (Old Russian name): may derive from the Baltic root zeme for "land": zemeshemeshämeHämeshaameSaamiSoomiSuomi.
*An Fhionnlainn (Irish name) is derived from Finlandia though by coincidence Fionnlann also means "Land of the fair" in Irish.
Formosa:

See Taiwan.

:

French derivation of Francia, "Land of the Franks". A frankon was a spear used by the early Franks, thus giving them their name. The term "Frank" later became associated with "free" as the Franks were the only truly freemen, since they subjugated the Romanized Gauls.
*Gallia (Latin) from the name of a Celtic tribe. Many Celtic groups used similar names: compare Gaul, Galatia, and Galicia.

(territory of France):

See France above and Guyana below.

(territory of France):

The geographic term "Polynesia" means "many islands", formed from the Greek roots πολύ (polý), "much, many" and νῆσος (nēsos), "island".

See also France above.

(territory of France):

From the geographic location of the territories (in the southern Indian Ocean).
Note: France's claims in Antarctic are in abeyance because of the 1959 Antarctic Treaty.

See also France above.

G

:
From Gabão, the Portuguese name for the Komo river estuary (Estuaire de Gabon). The estuary took its name from its shape, which resembles that of a hooded overcoat (gabão). Gabão comes from Arabic قباء (qabā’).

:

From the river Gambia that runs through the country. The word gambia supposedly derives from the Portuguese word câmbio (meaning "trade" or "exchange"), in reference to the trade the Portuguese carried out in the area.

(the west Asian country):

Derived from Persian Gurj, probably derived from a PIE term meaning "mountainous". In classical times Greeks referring to the region used the names of Colchis (the coastal region along the Black Sea) and Iberia (further inland to the east). Some also believed that Georgia was so named by the Greeks on account of its agricultural resources, since "georgia" (γεωργία) means "farming" in Greek. However, the modern Greek name is now taken to be a derivation from the Persian root Gurj. Both names probably derive from indigenous Caucasian languages.
* Gruzia in Slavic languages (Грузия in Russian, for example) and in Hebrew (גרוזיה), and Gorjestân (گرجستان) in Persian derive from the same source. Gruzia, probably imported from Russian, is used in Vietnamese.
* Sakartvelo (Georgian name; in English commonly "Kartvelia"): derived from a pagan god called Kartlos, once regarded as the father of all Georgians.
* Vrastan (Վրաստան)

:

From Latin "Germania", of the 3rd century BC, of unknown origin. The Oxford English Dictionary records theories about the Celtic roots gair ("neighbour") (from Zeuss), and gairm ("battle-cry") (from Wachter and from Grimm). Eric Partridge suggested *gar ("to shout"), and describes the gar ("spear") theory as "obsolete". Italian, Romanian, and other languages use the latinate Germania as the name for Germany. The Irish language uses An Ghearmáin, also cognate.
* Allemagne (French), Alemania (Spanish), Alemanha (Portuguese), ألمانيا (Arabic), Almân (Persian), Almanya (Turkish): from the name of the Alamanni, a southern Germanic tribe, itself probably meaning "all the men", i.e. referring to a confederation of tribes.
* Deutschland (German), Duitsland (Dutch): from the Old High German word diutisc, meaning "of the people" (itself from ancient Germanic thiuda or theoda, "people") and land, "land": "land of the people". Of the same root are Tyskland (Danish, Norwegian, Swedish), Þýskaland (Icelandic) and tedesco (Italian adjective form).
* Niemcy (Polish), Německo (Czech), Nemecko (Slovak), Nemčija (Slovene), немецкий ("nemetski") — but Германия ("Germania") for the country (Russian), Németország (Hungarian): Either from a Slavic root meaning "mute", "dumb", i.e., metaphorically, "those who do not speak our language" or from the Germanic Nemetes tribe.
* Purutia (Tahitian): Prussia.
* Saksa (Estonian, Finnish): from the name of the Germanic tribe of Saxons (in turn, possibly from Old High German sahs, "knife").
* Vācija (Latvian), Vokietija (Lithuanian):

:

After the ancient West African kingdom of the same name. The modern territory of Ghana, however, never formed part of the previous polity. J. B. Danquah suggested the use of the name in the run-up to Ghanaian independence. His research led him to believe that modern Ghanaian peoples descended from the ancient Ghana Kingdom; others dispute his conclusions.
* Gold Coast (former name): after the large amount of gold that colonisers found in the country. Compare the names Europeans gave to nearby stretches of shore: "Ivory Coast", "Slave Coast" and "Grain Coast".

(overseas territory of the United Kingdom):

A corruption of the Arabic words Jebel Tarik which means "Tarik's Mountain", named after Tarik-ibn-Zeyad, a Berber who landed at Gibraltar in 711 to launch the Islamic invasion of the Iberian Peninsula.
Glorioso Islands (territory of France):
The Glorioso or Glorieuses Islands take their name, presumably, for their wonderful (glorious) looks. A Frenchman, Hippolyte Caltaux, settled in 1880 and established a coconut and maize plantation on Grande Glorieuse. (That does not explain the Spanish- or Portuguese-looking form of the name used in English.)

:

From the Latin Græcus (Greek Γραικοί, claimed by Aristotle to refer to the name of the original people of Epirus)
* Hellas/Ellas/Ellada (Greek name): land of the Hellenes, descended in mythology from the patriarch Hellen (not the abducted Helen); the place name has a linguistic cognate in the English verb "settle". A popular folk etymology holds the name to mean "land of light", relating to ἥλιος (hḗlios), the Greek word for "sun".
* Hurumistan (Kurdish variant), Urəm (Урым, Adyghe):
* Saberdzneṭi (საბერძნეთი, Georgian):
* Yunanistan (Azeri, Kurdish variant, Turkish), al-Yūnān (Arabic), Yunān (Persian), Yavan (Hebrew): after Ionians, an older name for Greeks of Asia Minor

(territory of Denmark):

English name given by Eric the Red in 982 to attract settlers.
* Kalaallit Nunaat (Greenlandic name): means "lands of humans".

:

After the southern Spanish city of Granada. From Jewish and Arabic inhabitants around 1000 AD: Gárnata (Arabic: غرناطة). Columbus originally named the island Concepción ("Conception" in English).

territory of France):

Christopher Columbus named the island in honour of Santa María de Guadalupe in Extremadura, Spain, when he landed in 1493. The Spanish spelling is Guadalupe.

(territory of the United States of America):

From the native Chamorro word guahan, meaning "we have".

:

The country name comes from the Nahuatl Cuauhtēmallān, "place of many trees", a translation of K'iche' Mayan K’ii’chee’, "many trees" (that is, "forest"). When the Spanish arrived, they saw a decayed tree with lots of trees around it right in front of the palace. The Spanish believed this the center of the Mayan Kingdom. When the Spanish asked the name of the area, the Native Amerindians told them that name.

:

From the Susu (Sousou) language meaning "Women". The first Europeans to arrive in the area would have heard Susu, the main language spoken by the inhabitants of coastal Guinea. The English form comes via Portuguese Guiné from a (presumed) indigenous African name. Or possibly from the Berber Akal n-Iguinawen meaning "land of the blacks".
*French Guinea (former name): after the colonial ruler (France), and "Guinea" as above.

:

That part of the region known as "Guinea" which has as its capital the city of Bissau. Compare the usage of Congo-Brazzaville.
*Portuguese Guinea (former name): after the colonial ruler (Portugal), and "Guinea" as above.

:

From the indigenous peoples who called the land "Guiana", meaning "land of many waters", in reference to large number of rivers in the area.
*British Guiana (former name): after the colonial ruler (Britain). "Guiana" has the same etymology as "Guyana".

See also Britain above

H

:
Taíno/Arawak Indian, Hayiti or Hayti, meaning "mountainous land", originally Hayiti. The country occupies the western half of the island of Hispaniola (roughly "little Spain").

:

Christopher Columbus named the country "Honduras", Spanish for "depths", referring to the deep waters off the northern coast.

(Special administrative region of ):

An approximate phonetic rendering of the Hakka / Cantonese name "香港", meaning "Fragrant Harbour" or "Incense Harbour"; more accurately "Heung1 Gong2" (Yale). The original "fragrant harbour" was a small inlet between the island of Ap Lei Chau (鴨脷洲) and the south side of Hong Kong Island, now known as Aberdeen Harbour in English, but still called "Heung Gong Tsai" (香港仔, Little Hong Kong) in Cantonese. The fragrance came from incense grown to the north of Kowloon that was stored around Aberdeen Harbour for export, before the development of Victoria Harbour. The village of Heung Gong Tsuen (香港村) on Ap Lei Chau is perhaps the earliest recorded use of the name. Another legend goes that a female pirate named Xiang Gu (香姑)often attacks the harbour.
Howland Island (territory of the United States of America):
Captain George E. Netcher named the island after the lookout who sighted it from his ship the Isabella on 9 September, 1842.

:

Turkic: on-ogur, "(people of the) ten arrows" — in other words, "alliance of the ten tribes". Byzantine chronicles gave this name to the Hungarians; the chroniclers mistakenly assumed that the Hungarians had Turkic origins, based on their Turkic-nomadic customs and appearance, despite the Finno-Ugric language of the people. The Hungarian tribes later actually formed an alliance of the seven Hungarian and three Khazarian tribes, but the name is from before then, and first applied to the original seven Hungarian tribes. The ethnonym Hunni (referring to the Huns) has influenced the Latin (and English) spelling.
* Uhorshchyna (Угорщина, Ukrainian), Vuhorščyna (Вугоршчына, Belarusian), Węgry (Polish), Wędżierskô (Kashubian), and Ugre (Old Russian): from the Turkic "on-ogur", see above. The same root emerges in the ethnonym Yugra in Siberia, inhabited by Khanty and Mansi people, the closest relatives to Hungarians in the Finno-Ugric language family.
* Magyarország (native name — "land of the Magyars"): According to a famous Hungarian chronicle (Simon of Kéza: Gesta Hunnorum et Hungarorum, 1282), Magyar (Magor), the forefather of all Hungarians, had a brother named Hunor (the ancestor of the Huns); their father king Menrot, builder of the tower of Babel, equates to the Nimrod of the Hebrew Bible.
* The Turkish language uses Macaristan, a compound derived from a Turkish spelling of Magyar and the Persian suffix -stan meaning "country".

I

:
"Land of ice" (Ísland in Icelandic). Popularly (but falsely) attributed to an attempt to dissuade outsiders from attempting to settle on the land. In fact the early settler/explorer Flóki Vilgerðarson coined the name after he spotted "a firth full of drift ice" to the north. This occurred in spring after an especially harsh winter during which all his livestock had died and he started debating whether to leave.

:

Derived from Sindhu, the original name of the Indus River (in present-day Pakistan), which gave its name to the land of Sindh. People later applied derivations of the Persian form of this name, Hind, to all of modern Pakistan and India before they separated.
* Bharat (Sanskrit name): Popular accounts derive "Bharat" from the name of either of two ancient kings named Bharata.
* Hindustan (Hindi name): The name Hind is from a Persian pronunciation of Sind. The Persian -stān means "country" or "land" (cognate to Sanskrit sthāna: "place, land"). India is al-Hind (الهند) in Arabic, and sometimes in Persian (e.g. in the 11th century Tarik Al-Hind "history of India") and Hind (هند) in Persian. It also occurs intermittently in India, as in the phrase "Jai Hind". The terms Hind and Hindustan were current in Persian and Arabic from the 11th century Islamic conquests: the rulers in the Sultanate and Mughal periods called their Indian dominion, centred around Delhi, Hindustan.

The word Hindu (हिन्दु) was lent from Persian into Sanskrit in early medieval times and is attested — in the sense of dwellers of the Indian subcontinent — in some texts, such as Bhavishya Purāna, Kālikā Purāna, Merutantra, Rāmakosha, Hemantakavikosha and Adbhutarūpakosha.

The name Hindustan was in use synonymously with India during the British Raj. The term is from the Persian Hindustān هندوستان, as is the term Hindu itself. It entered the English language in the 17th century. In the 19th century, the term as used in English referred to the northern region of India between the Indus and Brahmaputra and between the Himalayas and the Vindhyas in particular, hence the term Hindustani for the Hindi-Urdu language.

* rGya.gar (Dzongkha), rGya.gar.yal (Tibetan variant):
* הֹ֤דּוּ or הודו Hṓddû (Hebrew):

:

apparently invented in the mid-19th century to mean "Indies Islands", from the Greek νῆσος (nēsos, "island"), added to the country name "India". (Europeans previously referred to Indonesia as the "East Indies".)
*Dutch East Indies (Dutch: Nederlands Oost-Indie) (former name): after the former colonial ruler (Netherlands).
*Nam Dương (Vietnamese variant):

:

"Land of the Aryans" or "land of the free". The term "Arya" is from the PIE (Proto Indo-European), generally meaning "noble" or "free", cognate with the Greek-derived word "aristocrat".
*Persia (former name): from Latin, via Greek Persis, from Old Persian Paarsa, a place name of a central district within the region: modern Fars. A common Hellenic folk-etymology derives "Persia" from "Land of Perseus".
*Uajemi (Swahili variant): from the Arabic word Ajam, which means any non-Arabs, including Persians: "the ones whose language we don't understand".

:

From the city of Erech/Uruk (also known as "Warka") near the river Euphrates. Some archaeologists regard Uruk as the first major Sumerian city. Another theory suggests that Iraq derives from Irak, which in older Iranian languages meant "the Lesser Iran". The natives of the southwestern part of today's Iran also called their land "the Persian Iraq" for many centuries (for Arabs: Iraq ajemi: no-Arabic-speaker Iraq). Before the constitution of the state of Iraq, the term "Iraq arabi" referred to Baghdad-Basra country.
*Mesopotamia (ancient name and Greek variant): a loan-translation (Greek meso- (between) and potamos (river), meaning "Between the Rivers") of the ancient Semitic Beth-Nahrin, "Land of two Rivers", referring to the Tigris and Euphrates rivers.

:

After "Éire" from Proto-Celtic *Īweriū, "the fertile place" or "Place of Éire (Eriu)", a Celtic fertility goddess. Often mistakenly derived as "Land of Iron", or from a reflex of Proto-Indo-European *arya, or from variations of the Irish word for "west" (modern Irish iar, iarthar).
*Hibernia (ancient name and Latin variant): apparently assimilated to Latin hibernus ("wintry").
*Ireland is known as Eirinn in Scottish Gaelic, from a grammatical case of Éire. In the fellow Celtic languages: in Welsh it is Iwerddon; in Cornish it is Ywerdhon or Worthen; and in Breton it is Iwerzhon.
*In Gaelic bardic tradition Ireland is also known by the poetical names of Banbha (meaning "piglet") and Fódhla. In Gaelic myth, Ériu, Banbha and Fódla were three goddesses who greeted the Milesians upon their arrival in Ireland, and who granted them custody of the island.

:

Israel takes its name from the biblical patriarch Jacob, later known as Israel, literally meaning "struggled with God/he struggles with God". According to the account in the Book of Genesis, Jacob wrestled with a stranger at a river ford and won—through perseverance. God then changed his name to Israel, signifying that he had deliberated with God and won, as he had wrestled and won with men.

:

See also: Italy: Etymology, History of Italy: Origins of the name, Italy#Etymology.

From Latin Ītalia, itself from Greek Ἰταλία, from the ethnic name Ἰταλός, plural Ἰταλοί, originally referring to an early population in the southern part of Calabria. That ethnic name probably directly relates to a word ἰταλός (italós, "bull"), quoted in an ancient Greek gloss by Hesychius (from his collection of 51,000 unusual, obscure and foreign words). This "Greek" word is assumed to be a cognate of Latin vitulus ("calf"), although the different length of the i is a problem. Latin vitulus ("calf") is presumably derived from the PIE root *wet- meaning "year" (hence, a "yearling": a "one-year-old calf"), although the change of e to i is unexplained. The "Greek" word, however, is glossed as "bull", not "calf". Speakers of ancient Oscan called Italy Víteliú, a cognate of Greek Ἰταλία and Latin Ītalia. Varro wrote that the region got its name from the excellence and abundance of its cattle. Some disagree with that etymology. Compare Italus.
*Friagi or Friaz' (Old Russian): from the Byzantine appellation for the medieval Franks.
*Valland (variant in Icelandic): "Land of Valer" (an Old Norse name for Celts, later also used for the Romanized tribes).
*Włochy (Polish) and Olaszország (Hungarian): from Gothic walh, the same root as in Valland. See details under "Wallachia", below.

:

See Côte d'Ivoire, above.

J

:
Taíno/Arawak Indian Xaymaca or Hamaica, "Land of wood and water" or perhaps "Land of springs".

:

From Geppun, Marco Polo's Italian rendition of the islands' Chinese name 日本 (pinyin: rìběn, at the time approximately jitpun), or "sun-origin", i.e. "Land of the Rising Sun", indicating Japan as lying to the east of China (where the sun rises). Also formerly known as the "Empire of the Sun".
*Nihon / Nippon: Japanese name, from the local pronunciation of the same characters as above.
Jarvis Island (territory of the United States of America):
The island was named after the owners Edward, Thomas, and William Jarvis of the British ship Eliza Francis by her commander, Captain Brown, who discovered the island.

:

The Norse suffix -ey means "island" and is commonly found in the parts of Northern Europe where Norsemen established settlements. (Compare modern Nordic languages: øy in Norwegian, ø/ö in Danish and Swedish.) The meaning of the first part of the island's name is unclear. Among theories are that it derives from Norse jarth ("earth") or jarl ("earl"), or perhaps a personal name, Geirr, to give "Geirr's Island".
Johnston Atoll (territory of the United States of America):
Named after Captain Charles J. Johnston, the commanding officer of the ship Cornwallis, who came across the atoll on 14 December, 1807.

:

After the river Jordan, the name of which derives from the Hebrew and Canaanite root yrd — "descend" (into the Dead Sea.) The river Jordan forms part of the border between Jordan and Israel/West Bank. In classical times, the region (known as Nabataea) encompassed territories on both sides of the River Jordan, infrequently also territories on the Sinai peninsula (in present-day Egypt).
* Transjordan (former name): "Trans" means "across" or "beyond", i.e. east of the river Jordan.
* Urdun (Arabic), literal translation of name Jordan, sometimes spelled Urdan.
Juan de Nova (territory of France):
Named after João da Nova, a 15th century Portuguese explorer-navigator.

K

:
Means "land of the Kazakhs". Kazakh means something like "independent-rebellious-wanderer-brave-free". The Russian term kazak (казак) is a cognate—"cossack" in English. The Persian suffix -stan means "land".

:

After Mount Kenya, from the Kĩkũyũ name Kere-Nyaga ("Mountain of Whiteness").
* British East Africa (former name): after its geographical position on the continent of Africa and the former colonial power, (Britain).
See also Britain, above, and Africa on the Place name etymology page.
Kingman Reef (territory of the United States of America):
Named after Captain W.E. Kingman, who came across the reef while sailing the boat Shooting Star on 29 November, 1853.

:

An adaptation of "Gilbert", from the former European name the "Gilbert Islands". Note the pronunciation of "Kiribati": /'kiribas/.
* Gilbert Islands (former name): named after the British Captain Thomas Gilbert, who sighted the islands in 1788.
Korea (South and North):
Korea's first kingdom Gojoseon was called Joseon at the time. Then followed the Three Kingdoms of Korea, which were also sometimes called the Three Han. The largest of the three was called Goguryeo or Goryeo.

The medieval-era Goryeo Dynasty took its name from Goguryeo. During this time, Persian merchants brought the name Korea (derived from Goryeo) to the Western world. After Goryeo followed the Joseon Dynasty, which took its name from the earlier Gojoseon.

Today, South Koreans call Korea Hanguk (from the Three Han), while North Koreans call it Joseon (from Gojoseon and Joseon Dynasty).

See also: Names of Korea.

:

Kosovo is a widely used place name in Slavic countries, stemming from the word kos, which means "blackbird".

:

From the Arabic diminutive form of Kut or Kout meaning "fortress built near water".

:

Derives from three words — kyrg meaning "forty", yz meaning "tribes" and -stan meaning "land" in Persian: "land of forty tribes".

Another version derives the name from kyrg, meaning "forty", kyz meaning "girl", and -stan, meaning "land" in Persian — thus, "land of forty girls".

L

:
Coined under French rule, derived from Lao lao, meaning "a Laotian" or "Laotian", possibly originally from an ancient Indian word lava. (Lava is the name of one of the twin sons of the god Rama.) The name might also be from Ai-Lao, the old Chinese name for the Tai ethnic groups to which the Lao people belong. Formerly known as Lan Xang or "land of a million elephants".

:

Derived from the regional name Latgale, the "Lat-" part associated with several Baltic hydronyms, and -gale meaning "land" or "boundary land", of Baltic origin.

:

The name Lebanon (Lubnān in standard Arabic; Lebnan or Lebnèn in local dialect) is derived from the Semitic root "LBN", which is linked to several closely-related meanings in various languages, such as "white" and "milk". This is regarded as a reference to the snow-capped Mount Lebanon. Occurrences of the name have been found in three of the twelve tablets of the Epic of Gilgamesh (2900 BC), the texts of the library of Ebla (2400 BC), and the Bible (71 times in the Bible's Old Testament).

:

After the indigenous Sotho people, whose own name means "black" or "dark-skinned".

:

From the Latin liber: "free", so named because the country was established as a homeland for freed (liberated) African-American slaves.

:

After an ancient Berber tribe called Libyans by the Greeks and Rbw by the Egyptians. Until the country's independence, the term "Libya" generally applied only to the vast desert between the Tripolitanian Lowland and the Fazzan plateau (to the west) and Egypt's Nile river valley (to the east). With "Tripoli" the name of new country's capital, and the old northeastern regional name "Cyrenaica" having passed into obsolescence, "Libya" became a convenient name for the country, despite the fact that much of the Libyan desert is Egyptian territory.

:

From the German "Light stone" ("light", as in "bright"). The country took its name from the Liechtenstein dynasty, which purchased and united the counties of Schellenburg and Vaduz. The Holy Roman Emperor allowed the dynasty to re-name the new property after itself. Liechtenstein and Luxembourg are the only German-speaking former Holy Roman Empire duchies not assimilated by the countries Germany, Austria, and Switzerland.

:

Modern scholars tend to agree on a hydronymic origin of this name, possibly from a small river Lietava in Central Lithuania. That hydronym has been associated with Lithuanian lieti (root lie-): "pour" or "spill". Compare to Old-Slavic liyati: "pour", Greek a-lei-son: "cup", Latin litus: "seashore", Tocharian A lyjäm: "lake".
Historically, attempts have been made to suggest a direct descendance from the Latin litus (see littoral). Litva (Gen. Litvae), an early Latin variant of the toponym, appears in a 1009 chronicle describing an archbishop "struck over the head by pagans on the border of Russia/Prussia and Litvae". A 16th-century scholar associated the word with the Latin word litus ("tubes")—a possible reference to wooden trumpets played by Lithuanian tribesmen. A popular belief is that the country's name in the Lithuanian language (Lietuva) is derived from a word lietus ("rain") and means "a rainy place".
*Lithuanian: Lietuva.

:

From Celtic Lucilem "small" (cognate to English "little") and Germanic burg: "castle", thus lucilemburg: "little castle". Luxembourg and Liechtenstein are the only German-speaking former Holy Roman Empire duchies not assimilated by the countries Germany, Austria, and Switzerland.

M

:
The country name is from the Μακεδονία (Makedonía), a kingdom (later, region) named after the ancient Macedonians. Their name, Μακεδόνες (Makedónes), derives ultimately from the ancient Greek adjective μακεδνός (makednós), meaning "tall, taper", which shares the same root as the noun μάκρος (mákros), meaning "length" in both ancient and modern Greek. The name is originally believed to have meant either "highlanders" or "the tall ones". The provisional term the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia is used in many international contexts in acknowledgment of a political dispute with Greece over the historical legitimacy of the country's use of the name.

:

From the name of the island in Malagasy language: Madagasikara, itself derived from the proto-Malay "end of the Earth", a reference to the island's long distance by sea from an earlier homeland in Southeast Asia.

:

Possibly based on a native word meaning "flaming water" or "tongues of fire," believed to have derived from the sun's dazzling reflections on Lake Malawi. But President Hastings Banda, the founding President of Malawi, reported in interviews that in the 1940s he saw a "Lac Maravi" shown in "Bororo" country on an antique French map titled "La Basse Guinee Con[t]enant Les Royaumes de Loango, de Congo, d'Angola et de Benguela" and he liked the name "Malawi" better than "Nyasa" (or "Maravi"). "Lac Marawi" does not necessarily correspond to today's Lake Malawi. Banda had such influence at the time of independence in 1964 that he named the former Nyasaland "Malawi", and the name stuck.
* Nyasaland (former name): "Nyasa" literally means "lake" in the local indigenous languages. The name applied to Lake Malawi (formerly Lake Nyasa, or "Niassa").

:

The word Malaya is a combination of two Tamil/Sanskrit words, Malay or Malai (hill) and Ur (town), meaning hilltown. The name came into use when several Indian Kingdoms entered Malaysia dating back to the 3rd Century (see Srivijaya). Hence, the Latin/Greek suffix -sia, makes the name Malaysia, literally meaning Land of the Malay people. The continental part of the country bore the name Malaya (without the "-si-") until 1963, when it gained the territories of Sabah and Sarawak on the northern part of the island of Borneo. Singapore seceded in 1965. The name change indicated the expansion of the country's boundaries beyond Malay Peninsula. Malaysian refers to Malaysians of all races, while Malay refers to the native Malay people, who are about half the population.

:

From the Arabic mahal ("palace") or Dhibat-al-Mahal / Dhibat Mahal, as Arabs formerly called the country. Therefore it could mean "Palace Islands", because the main island, Malé, held the palace of the islands' Sultan. Some scholars believe that the name "Maldives" derives from the Sanskrit maladvipa, meaning "garland of islands". Some sources say that the Tamil malai or Malayalam mala: "mountain(s)", and Sanskrit diva: "island", thus, "Mountain Islands".
* Dhivehi Raajje (Maldivian name): "Kingdom of Maldivians". Dhivehi is a noun describing the Dhives people (Maldivians) and their language "Dhivehi" simultaneously.
* Maladwipa: Sanskrit for "garland (mala, pronounced /maalaa/) of islands"; or, more likely, "small islands", from mala (pronounced /mala/) meaning "small".
* Dhibat Mahal (Arabic).

:

After the ancient West African kingdom of the same name, where a large part of the modern country is. The word mali means "hippopotamus" in Malinké and Bamana.
* French Sudan (former colonial name). In French Soudan français. The term Sudan (see below) stems from the Arabic bilad as-sudan: "land of the Blacks".

:

From either Greek or Phoenician. Of the two cultures, available evidence suggests that the Greeks had an earlier presence on the island, from as far back as 700 BC. The Greeks are known to have called the island Melita meaning "honey", as did the Romans; solid evidence for this is Malta's domination by the Byzantine Empire from 395 through to 870. It is still nicknamed the "land of honey". The theory for a Phoenican origin of the word is via Maleth meaning "a haven". The modern-day name comes from the Maltese language, through an evolution of one of the earlier names.

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The island's name in both English and Manx (Mannin) derives from Manannán mac Lir, the Brythonic and Gaelic, equivalent to the god Poseidon.

:

Named after British Captain John Marshall, who first documented the existence of the islands in 1788.

(territory of France):

When Christopher Columbus landed on the island in 1502 he named it in honour of St. Martin. (He had sailed past it in 1493 but did not land.)

:

Latin for "land of the Moors". Misnamed after the classical Mauretania in northern Morocco, itself named after the Berber Mauri or Moor tribe.

:

Named Prins Maurits van Nassaueiland in 1598 after Maurice of Nassau (1567–1625), Stadtholder of Holland and Prince of Orange (1585–1625).

(territory of France):

The name is a French corruption of the native Maore or Mawuti, sultanates on the island around the year 1500.

After the Mexica branch of the Aztecs. The origin of the term "Mexxica" is uncertain. Some take it as the old Nahuatl word for the sun. Others say it derived from the name of the leader Mexitli. Others ascribe it to a type of weed that grows in Lake Texcoco. Leon Portilla suggests that it means "navel of the moon" from Nahuatl metztli ("moon") and xictli ("navel"). Alternatively, it could mean "navel of the maguey" (Nahuatl metl). See also Mexican state name etymologies.

A name coined from the Greek words mikros ("small") and nesos ("island") — "small islands".
Midway Islands (territory of the United States of America):
Named after their geographic location, perhaps from the islands' situation midway between North America and Asia, or their proximity to the International Date Line (halfway around the world from the Greenwich Meridian). Originally named the Middlebrook Islands or the Brook Islands, after their discoverer Captain N.C. Middlebrooks.

From the Moldova River in Romania, possibly from Gothic Mulda: "dust", "mud", via the Principality of Moldavia (Moldova in Romanian).

From the ancient Greek monoikos 'single-dwelling', through Latin Monoecus. Originally the name of an ancient colony founded in the 6th century B.C. by Phocian Greeks, and a by-name of the demigod Hercules worshiped there. (The association of Monaco with monks (Italian monaci) dates from the Grimaldi conquest of 1297: see coat of arms of Monaco.)

From Mongol; it probably means "brave" or "fearless".

Venetian conquerors gave Montenegro its name, Montenegro meaning "black mountain", after the appearance of Mount Lovćen or most likely its dark coniferous forests. "Montenegro" is in the Venetian dialect), while the standard Italian would be monte nero, without the "g".
*Crna Gora (the local Serbian/Montenegrin name for Montenegro): literally translates as "black mountain".
*Doclea (ancient name for Montenegro): Doclea, the name of the region during the early period of the Roman Empire, reflected the name of an early Illyrian tribe. In later centuries, Romans "hyper-corrected" it to "Dioclea", wrongly guessing that an "I" had disappeared due to vulgar speech corruption.
*Zeta (ancient name for Montenegro): 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".

(territory of the United Kingdom):

Christopher Columbus named the island "Santa Maria de Montserrate" while sailing past it in 1493 because it reminded him of the Blessed Virgin of the Monastery of Montserrate in Spain. "Montserrat" itself literally means "jagged mountain".

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From Marruecos, the Spanish pronunciation of the name of the city of "Marrakesh" (more precisely Marrakush), believed to derive from the Berber words (ta)murt: "land" (or (a)mur "part") + akush: "God".
* Al Maghrib (Arabic name): "the farthest west".

:

From the name of the Island of Mozambique, which in turn probably comes from the name of a previous Arab ruler, the sheik Mussa Ben Mbiki.

:

One explanation is that the name derives from the Burmese short-form name Myanma Naingngandaw. An alternative etymology suggests that myan means "quick/fast" and mar means "hard-tough-strong". The re-naming of the country in 1989 has aroused political controversy: certain minority groups and activist communities perceive "Myanmar" to be a purely Burmese name that reflects the policy of domination of the ethnic Burman majority over the minorities. Those groups do not recognize the legitimacy of the ruling military government nor its authority to change the English name of the country. Accordingly, such groups, who have become accustomed to calling the country by its English name, continue to refer to Myanmar as "Burma".
*Burma (former name): The name Burma apparently derives from the Sanskrit name for the region: Brahmadesh, land of (the deity) Brahma.

N

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From the coastal Namib Desert. "Namib" means "area where there is nothing" in the Nama language.
* South-West Africa and German Southwest Africa (former names): Self-explanatory

See also Africa at List of continent name etymologies and Germany above.

:

The name "Nauru" may derive from the Nauruan word Anáoero, which means "I go to the beach". The German settlers called the island Nawodo or Onawero.

(territory of the United States of America):

In 1504, Christopher Columbus, stranded on Jamaica, sent some crew by canoe to Hispaniola for help. They ran into the island on the way, but it had no water. They called it "Navaza", nava- meaning "plain", or "field". Mariners avoided the island for the next 350 years.

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The toponym "Nepal" may derive from the Sanskrit nipalaya, which means "at the foot of the mountains" or "abode at the foot," referring to its proximity to the Himalayas. (Compare the analogous European toponym "Piedmont".) Others suggest tbat it derives from the Tibetan niyampal, which means "holy land".

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Germanic for "low lands".
*Holland (part of the Netherlands; a name often incorrectly used to refer to the country as a whole): Germanic holt-land ("wooded land") (often incorrectly regarded as meaning "hollow [i.e. marsh] land").
*Batavia (Latin): derived from the name of the Germanic Batavii tribe.
*Nederland (Dutch) "low-land". (Neder is a Dutch cognate to the English "nether": low or lower.)
*Alankomaat (Finnish): "low lands".
*Na hÍsiltíre (Irish): "the low lands".

: (territory of Netherlands):

"Antilles" from a mythical land or island (Antillia), west of Europe, or a combination of two Portuguese words ante or anti (possibly meaning "opposite" in the sense of "on the opposite side of the world") and ilha ("island"), currently the name for these Caribbean Islands. "Netherlands" after the colonial ruler, the Netherlands.

(territory of France):

Captain James Cook named the islands in 1774 after Scotland, which is "Caledonia" in Latin). The mountains he saw reminded him, he said, of those in Scotland.
:
After the province of Zeeland in the Netherlands, which means "sea land", referring to the large number of islands it contains. Abel Tasman referred to New Zealand as Staten Landt, but later Dutch cartographers used Nova Zeelandia, in Latin, followed by Nieuw Zeeland in Dutch, which Captain James Cook later anglicised to New Zealand.
* Aotearoa has become the most common name for the country in the indigenous Maori language, supplanting the loan-phrase Niu Tireni. Aotearoa conventionally means "land of the long white cloud".
* Nua Shealtainn in both Irish and Scottish Gaelic, meaning "New Shetland" (Sealtainn), itself from a metathesised form of Scots Shetland. Gaelic speakers seem to have folk-etymologised Zeeland when translating New Zealand's name from English.

:

A merger coined by the Spanish explorer Gil González Dávila after Nicarao, a leader of an indigenous community inhabiting the shores of Lake Nicaragua and agua, the Spanish word for "water"; subsequently, the ethnonym of that native community.

:

English pronunciation: nee-zhay.
Named after the Niger River, from a native term Ni Gir or "River Gir". The name has often been misinterpreted, especially by Latinists, to be derived from the Latin niger ("black"), a reference to the dark complexions of the inhabitants of the region.
See also Nigeria, below.

:

After the Niger river that flows through the western areas of the country and into the ocean.
See also Niger, above.

(territory of New Zealand):

Niu probably means "coconut," and é means "behold." According to legend, the Polynesian explorers who first settled the island knew that they had come close to land when they saw a coconut floating in the water. There is also a coincidental similarity with the Germanic words niew, nieu, niewe, niue, nieue, niewe, nieuw, nieuwe, niuewe niuew, new, and the Latinic neo.

(territory of Australia):

The first European known to have sighted the island, Captain James Cook, in 1774, on his second voyage to the South Pacific on HMS Resolution, named it after the wife of the premier peer of Britain, Edward Howard, 9th Duke of Norfolk (1685–1777).

(commonwealth in political union with the United States of America):

Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan (the first European to sight the islands, in 1521), named them Islas de los Ladrones ("Islands of Thieves"). In 1668 Jesuit missionary San Vitores changed the name to Las Marianas in honour of Mariana of Austria (1634–1696), widow of king Philip IV and regent of Spain (1665–1675).

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After the location in Korea.
See also Korea above

:

From the old Norse norðr and vegr, "northern way". Norðrvegr refers to long coastal passages from the western tip of Norway to its northernmost lands in the Arctic.
*Natively called Norge (Noreg in Nynorsk).
*Urmane, or Murmane in Old Russian: from the Norse pronunciation of the word Normans: "Northmen". (This word survives in the name of the Russian city Murmansk.)
*An Iorua (Irish) seems to derive from a misinterpretation of Old Norse Norðrvegr as beginning the Irish definite article an, common to most country names in Irish. The rest of the word was then taken as the country name. (A similar process took place in the development of the English word "adder": originally "a nadder".)

O

:
Occitània in Occitan. From medieval Latin Occitania (approximately since 1290). The first part of the name, Occ-, is from Occitan [lenga d']òc or Italian [lingua d']oc (i.e. "Language of Òc"), a name given to the Occitan language by Dante according to its way of saying "yes" (òc). The ending -itania is probably an imitation of the old Latin name [Aqu]itania.

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The name Oman (also Uman) is ancient. In his translation of a History of the Imams and Seyyids of Oman, George Badger says that the name was already in use by early Greek and Arab geographers. The book Oman in History (Arabic: Tarikh fi Uman) notes that the Roman historian Yalainous (23–79 AD) mentions a city on the Arab peninsula he calls "Omana." The city (probably ancient Sohar, on the Omani coast) gave its name to the region.
According to Tarikh fi Uman, "various Arab scholars proposed a variety of different linguistic origins for the name 'Oman'." Ibn al-Qabi suggested it comes from the adjective aamen, or amoun, meaning "settled (as opposed to nomadic) man." Other scholars have suggested the city was named after any of a number of historic, legendary or biblical founding figures, including Oman bin Ibrahim al-Khalil, Oman bin Siba' bin Yaghthan bin Ibrahim, Oman bin Qahtan, and Oman bin Loot (the Arabic name for the biblical figure Lot). Still others have suggested the name is based on a valley in Yemen from which the city's founders came.

P

:
The Cambridge student and Muslim nationalist Choudhary Rahmat Ali coined this name. He devised the word and first published it on 28 January 1933 in the pamphlet "Now or Never". He constructed the name as an acronym of the different states/homelands/regions, which broke down into: P=Punjab, A=Afghania (Ali's preferred name for the North West Frontier Province), K=Kashmir, S=Sindh and the suffix -stan from Balochistan, thus forming "Pakstan". An "i" intruded later to ease pronunciation. The suffix -stan in Persian means "home of" and in Sanskrit means "place". Rahmat Ali later expanded upon this in his 1947 book Pakistan: the Fatherland of the Pak Nation. In that book he explains the acronym as follows: P=Punjab, A=Afghania, K=Kashmir, I=Iran, S=Sindh, T=Turkharistan (roughly the modern central-Asian states), A=Afghanistan and N=BalochistaN. The Persian word پاک pāk, which means "pure", adds another shade of meaning, with the full name thus meaning "land of the pure". Many Central and South Asian states and regions end with the element -Stan, such as Afghanistan, Pakistan, Baluchistan, Kurdistan and East Turkestan. This Stan is formed from the Iranian root *STA "to stand, stay," and means "place (where one stays), home, country." Iranian peoples have been the principal inhabitants of the geographical region occupied by these states for over thousand years. The names are compounds of -Stan and the name of the people living there. Pakistan is a bit of exception; its name was coined in 1933 using the suffix -istan from Baluchistan preceded by the initial letters. Interestingly, a word almost identical in form, etymology, and meaning to the Iranian suffix -stan is found in Polish, which has a word stan meaning "State" (in the senses of both polity and condition). It can be found in the Polish name for the "United States of America." Stany Zjednoczone Ameryki (literally "States United of America". Use of the name gradually spread during the successful campaign for the seccesion of a Muslim state from British India Empire.

:

-?-
*Belau or Belaw (local names):-?-
*Pelew (alternative name): the English Captain Henry Wilson suffered shipwreck on a reef off Palau's Ulong Island in 1783. Wilson spelt "Palau" as "Pelew".

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Named after the ancient Philistines of the area around Gaza. The Philistines' name is derived from the proto-semitic root PLS, which means "to invade", and which indicates the traditional view of the Philistines as "the sea peoples" who invaded the Canaanite territory during biblical times. The Greeks adopted the name to refer to the broader area, as Palaistinê. Herodotus and others considered that to be a part of Syria. The Roman Empire later adopted that concept in the form Syria Palaestina as a new name for the province formerly known as Judaea, after the defeat of Judaean rebellion of Bar Kochba in AD 135.
* Jórsalaheimr, Jórsalaland, Jórsalaríki in Old Norse: after Jórsala: Jerusalem.
Palmyra Atoll (territory of the United States of America):
Named after the boat Palmyra, which belonged to the American Captain Sawle. He sought shelter on the atoll on 7 November, 1802, and became the first person known to land on it.

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After a former village near the modern capital, Panama City. From the Cueva Indian language meaning "place of abundance of fish" or "place of many fish", possibly from the Caribe "abundance of butterflies", or possibly from another native term referring to the Panama tree.

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The country acquired its name in the 19th century. The word "Papua" derives from Malay papuah describing the frizzy hair of Melanesians. "New Guinea" comes from the Spanish explorer Íñigo Ortiz de Retes, who noted the resemblance of the local people to those he had earlier seen along the Guinea coast of Africa.

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The exact meaning of the word "Paraguay" is unknown, though it seems to derive from the river of the same name. One of the most common explanations is that it means "water of the Payagua (a native tribe)". Another meaning links the Tupi-Guarani words para ("river") and guai ("crown"), meaning "crowned river". A third meaning may be para ("river"), gua ("from"), i ("water") meaning "river that comes from the water", referring to the bog in the north of the country, which is actually in Brazil.

:

The exact meaning behind the word "Peru" is obscure. The most popular theory derives it from the native word biru, meaning "river" (compare with the River Biru in modern Ecuador). Another explanation claims that it comes from the name of the Indian chieftain Beru. Spanish explorers asked him the name of the land, but not understanding their language, he assumed they wanted his own name, which he gave them. Another possible origin is pelu, presumptively an old native name of the region.

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"Lands of King Philip" (Philip II of Spain, reigned 1556–1598). The suffix "-ines" functions adjectivally. A recent and romantic descriptive name, "Pearl of the Orient Seas", derives from the poem, Mi Ultimo Adios, written by Philippine nationalist hero José Rizal. Other names include Katagalugan (used by the Katipunan when referring to the Philippines and meaning "land of/by the river", though that name is used more to refer to the Tagalog areas) and Maharlika (from the name of the upper class in pre-Hispanic Philippines, meaning "noble").

(overseas territory of the United Kingdom):

A member of the English Captain Philip Carteret's crew in his ship HMS Swallow first sighted the remote islands in July 1767. Carteret named the main island "Pitcairn's Island" after the man who first saw land: the son of Major Pitcairn of the Marines.

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"Land of Polans", the territory of the tribe of Polans (Polanie). When the Polans formed a united Poland in the 10th century, this name also came into use for the whole Polish country. The name "Poland" (Polska) expressed both meanings until, in the 13th/14th century, the original territory of the Polans became known as Greater Poland (Wielkopolska) instead. The name of the tribe comes probably from Polish pole: "field" or "open field".
* Lengyelország (Hungarian), Lenkija (Lithuanian), Lahestân (Persian) all derive from the Old Ruthenian or Old Polish ethnonym lęděnin (possibly "man ploughing virgin soil") and its augmentative lęch.

:

From medieval Romance Portucale, from Latin portus, "port" and Cale, the name of the Roman Portus Cale, or Port of Cale (modern Porto and Gaia). The origin of the name "Cale" is debated. It may have been related to the Gallaeci, a Celtic people who lived north of the Douro River in pre-Roman times.
*Lusitania (ancient predecessor and literary variant): after the Lusitanians, probably of Celtic origin, as Lus and Tanus, "tribe of Lusus".

(territory of the United States of America with commonwealth status):

Christopher Columbus named the island San Juan Bautista in honour of Saint John the Baptist in 1493. The Spanish authorities set up a capital city called Puerto Rico (meaning "rich port"). For now unknown reasons, the island and capital city had exchanged names by the 1520s.

Q

:
Derives from "Qatara", believed to refer to the Qatari town of Zubara, an important trading port and town in the region in ancient times. The word "Qatara" first appeared on Ptolemy's map of the Arab world. In the early 20th century, English speakers often pronounced Qatar as "Cutter", close to the local pronunciation in Qatar. However, the traditional English pronunciation ("Kuh-tahr") has prevailed.

R

(territory of France):
The island changed names often in its distant past, but the name "Réunion" (French for "recombination") became associated with the island in 1793 by a decree of the French Convention. The name commemorates the union of revolutionaries from Marseille with the French National Guard in Paris, which was on August 10, 1792.

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"Roman Realm". The Roman Empire conquered a large part of the country, and the inhabitants became Romanized (Romanians). Older variants of the name include "Rumania" and (in a French-influenced spelling) "Roumania".

*Dacia, older name and Latin variant: named after the ancient people the Dacians.
*Wallachia, Slavic name for the country, from the Gothic word for Celts: walh. Later also used for the Romanized tribes. This Germanic form derives from the name of the Celtic tribe of Volcae. Compare with the etymologies of the names "Wales" and "Wallonia".

:

Generally agreed to be from a Varangian group known as the Rus' and the state of Kievan Rus' they co-founded. (Soviet scholars attributed the foundation of the Old East Slavic state to Slavic cultural groups rather than Scandinavian dynasts, and therefore believed that the term "Rossija" derived from the name of the river Ros near Kiev.)
*An Rúis: (Irish name) means, literally, "The Rus", though using a singular definite article (an) rather than the plural form na which would be grammatical. Use of an to denote a country is standard in Irish.
*Krievija (Latvian): named after the ancient Krivichs tribe, related to modern Belarusians.
*Vene, Venemaa (Estonian), Venäjä (Finnish): after the ancient people Venedes.

See also Etymology of Rus and derivatives and "Ruotsi" under Sweden (below) for details.
*Russian: Rossiya (Россия)

:

From the name of the Vanyaruanda people, a word of unknown origin, but probably cognate to the name of Rwanda. Also known fondly as "Land of a Thousand Hills" (French: Pays des milles collines).

S

(territory of the United Kingdom):
Named after Saint Helena (Helena of Constantinople; mother of the Roman emperor Constantine) by the Portuguese navigator João da Nova who discovered the island on Saint Helena's Day, 21 May 1502.

:

St. Kitts took its name in honour of Saint Christopher, the patron saint of travelling. Christopher Columbus probably named the island for Saint Christopher, though this remains uncertain. British sailors later shortened the name to St. Kitts. Nevis derives from the Spanish phrase Nuestra Senora de las Nieves, which means "Our Lady of the Snows", after the permanent halo of white clouds that surrounded mountains on the island.

:

According to tradition, named after Saint Lucy by French sailors shipwrecked on the island on 13 December 1502 – the feast day of Saint Lucy.

(territory of France):

Originally named the "Eleven Thousand Virgins" by Portuguese explorer João Álvares Fagundes in 1521. The French called the islands the "Islands of Saint-Pierre". Miquelon comes from the Basque language and means "Michael" (maybe after Saint Michael). In 1579 Martin de Hoyarçabal's navigational pilot published the names Micquetõ and Micquelle for the first time. The name evolved over time into Miclon, Micklon, and finally Miquelon.

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Named after the Spanish Saint Vincent by Christopher Columbus on 22 January 1498, the day of the Feast of Saint Vincent. The Grenadines, like Grenada, take their name from the southern Spanish city of Granada.

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The islands allegedly derive their name from that of a local chieftain, or from an indigenous word meaning "place of the moa". The moa, a large bird now extinct, may have served as the islanders' totem.

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Takes its name from Marinus, a (possibly legendary) Christian stonemason who fled the island of Arbe (in modern day Croatia) to escape the anti-Christian Romans. He made his refuge on Mount Titano with his Christian followers in 301/305 in the area that acquired the Italian name San Marino (Saint Marinus).

:

Portuguese for: Saint Thomas and Prince (islands). São Tomé was so named by Portuguese explorers because of its discovery on what was then considered St. Thomas's Day (December 21), perhaps in 1470 or 1471. Príncipe was originally called Santo Antão (Portuguese for Saint Anthony), presumably because of its discovery on Saint Anthony's feast day (January 17), perhaps in 1471 or 1472. The name was later changed to Ilha do Principe ("Prince's Island") in 1502, in reference to the Prince of Portugal to whom duties on the island's sugar crop were paid.

:

"Saudi" after the House of Saud, the royal family who founded the kingdom and who still rule it. The dynasty takes its name from its ancestor, Sa`ûd, whose name in Arabic means "a group of stars/planets". The etymology of the term "Arab" or "Arabian" links closely with that of the place-name "Arabia". The root of the word has many meanings in Semitic languages, including "west / sunset", "desert", "mingle", "merchant", "raven" and "comprehensible", all of which appear to have some relevance to the emergence of the name. Remarkably, in Ancient Egyptian the area was already known as Ar Rabi.

(constituent country of the United Kingdom):

Land of the Scots, from Old English Scottas, "inhabitants of Ireland." Old English borrowed the word from late Latin Scotti, of unknown origin. It may possibly have come from an Irish term of scorn, scuit. After the departure of the Romans from Britain in 423, an Irish tribe invaded Scotland, and the name came with them. It later extended to other Irish who settled in the northern regions of Britain.
*Alba (Gaelic name): The Scots- and Irish-Gaelic name for Scotland derives from the same Celtic root as the name Albion, which designates sometimes the entire island of Great Britain and sometimes the country of England, Scotland's southern neighbour. The term arguably derives from an early Indo-European word meaning 'white', generally held to refer to the cliffs of white chalk around the English town of Dover, ironically located at the furthest end of Great Britain from Scotland itself. Others take it to come from the same root as "the Alps", possibly being an ancient word for mountain.
*Caledonia, an old Latin name for Scotland, deriving from the Caledonii tribe. Caledonia in Greek also means "good waters".

:

From the Senegal river. After a Portuguese variant of the name of the Berber Zenaga (Arabic Senhaja) tribe, which dominated much of the area to the north of modern Senegal, i.e. present-day Mauritania.
*Daradia (Latin variant): -?-

The exact origin of the name is uncertain (see name of Serbs). The name of the Sorbs in present-day Germany has the same origin.

:

Named after Jean Moreau de Séchelles, Finance Minister to King Louis XV of France from 1754 to 1756.

:

Adapted from Sierra Leona, the Spanish version of the Portuguese Serra Leoa ("Lion Mountains"). The Portuguese explorer Pedro de Sintra named the country after the striking mountains that he saw in 1462 while sailing the West African coast. It remains unclear what exactly made the mountains look like lions. Three main explanations exist: that the mountains resembled the teeth of a lion, that they looked like sleeping lions, or that thunder which broke out around the mountains sounded like a lion's roar.
* Deorum Currus (Latin variant): -?-

:

Singapura (in Malay) derives from Sanskrit Simhapura (or Singhapura) which means "Lion City". Earlier the island was known as Temasik from Malay or Javanese root tasik meaning lake. Singapore is the anglicized form of the Malay name which is still in use today along with variants in Chinese and Tamil, the four official languages of Singapore.

:

From the Slavic "Slavs". The origin of the word Slav itself remains controversial.
See also: origin of the term Slav

:

From the Slavic "Slavs". The origin of the word Slav itself remains controversial.

See also: origin of the term Slav

:

The Spanish explorer Alvaro de Mendaña y Neyra named the islands in 1567/8. Expecting to find a lot of gold there, he named them after the Biblical King Solomon of Israel, renowned for his great wisdom, wealth, and power.

:

Takes its name from the Somalis, its indigenous people. The eytmology of their name remains uncertain, but various sources have proposed the following:
*From a Cushitic word meaning "dark," or "black," a reference to the color of their own skin.
*From a local phrase soo maal which means "go and milk," implying a friendly people who offered milk to their guests.
*From the name of an ancient and mythical figure-patriarch, whom almost all Somalis directly link to, known Samaale.

:

Takes its name from its geographical location on the continent of Africa.
*Suid-Afrika (Afrikaans): "South[ern] Africa"
*Aifric Theas (Irish): "South[ern] Africa"
*Azania (alternative name): some opponents of the white-minority rule of the country used the name Azania in place of "South Africa" . The origin of this name remains uncertain, but the name has referred to various parts of sub-Saharan East-Africa. Recently, two suggestions for the origin of the word have emerged. The first cites the Arabic `ajam ("foreigner, non-Arab"). The second references the Greek verb azainein ("to dry, parch"), which fits the identification of Azania with arid sub-Saharan Africa.
*Mzansi (alternative name): a popular, widespread nickname among locals, used often in parlance but never officially adopted. (uMzantsi in isiXhosa means "south".)

See also Africa on the List of continent name etymologies page.

(territory of the United Kingdom):

On 17 January 1775 the British Captain James Cook landed on the main island and named it the "Isle of Georgia" in honour of King George III of the United Kingdom. He named the South Sandwich Islands after John Montagu, the 4th Earl of Sandwich, who served as the First Lord of the Admiralty at the time and who had helped fund Cook's explorations. The word "South" was added to distinguish these islands from the Sandwich Islands, now known as Hawaii.

:

After the location in Korea.

See also Korea above

:

Shortening of Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR). The word soviet (совет), a Russian abstract noun, means "advice", "counsel", or "council", and comes from Slavic roots connoting "shared or common" and "knowledge".
*Most languages, like English, have adopted the Russian loanword soviet as the national denominator of the Soviet Union. Examples are اتحاد سوفييتي, Itihad sofieti (Arabic), Union soviétique (French), Szovjetunió (Hungarian), Unión Soviética (Spanish) and Umoja wa Kisovyeti (Swahili). However, in some languages the term soviet, literally meaning "council", was translated into a corresponding term. Examples are Nõukogude Liit (Estonian), Neuvostoliitto (Finnish), Padomju Savienība (Latvian), Tarybų Sąjunga (Lithuanian) and Союз Радянських (Ukrainian, see rada). In Polish, both Związek Radziecki and Związek Sowiecki have been used. In Persian the name is اتحاد شوروی, itehad shuravi (in Tajik 'Иттиҳоди Шӯравӣ'), shuravi stemming from the Arabic word shura.

:

Phoenician/Punic אי שפנים ʾÎ-šəpānîm "isle of hyraxes". The Phoenician settlers found hares in abundance, and mistook them for hyraxes of Africa; thus they named the land in their Canaanite dialect. The Latin-speaking Romans adapted the name as Hispania. The Latin name was altered among the Romance languages, and entered English from Norman French Spagne.

:

"Resplendent Lanka" in Sanskrit. The name "Lanka" sometimes appears translated as "island" — "magnificent island".
*Serendip (ancient name): derived from the Sanskrit sharan-dweepa, meaning "island of salvation".
*Ceylon (English), Ceilão (Portuguese), Seilan (former names): from the Pali Sinhalana meaning "land of the lions".

:

From the Arabic Bilad as-Sudan, "Land of the blacks". Originally referred to most of the Sahel region.

:

After the Surinen people, the earliest known native American inhabitants of the region.

(territory of Norway):

From Norse roots meaning "cold edge".

:

Named after the Swazi people, the dominant ethnic group in the country. The word "Swazi" derives from Mswati I, a former king of Swaziland.

:

An old English plural form of Swede. The exact development of the ethnonym remains uncertain, but it certainly derives from the Old English Sweoðeod, in Old Norse: Sviþjoð. The etymology of the first element, Svi, links to the PIE *suos ("one's own", "of one's own kin"). The last element, þjoð, means "people", cognate with deut in Deutsch and teut in Teutons.
*Sverige (native name): derives from the phrase Svia Rike, meaning "the realm of the Swedes". Rike has the same meaning as German reich, Norwegian rike, or Danish rige meaning "realm/empire/kingdom". See Austria (Österreich), Germany (older name Deutsches Reich).

*An tSualainn (Irish name): means (literally) Swedeland and is formed from an ethnonym Sua, evidently derived from Svia (see above) and -lann, a common suffix denoting abstract nouns in Irish. The inclusion of an, the singular definite article, as well as the elipsis t is necessary for grammatical purposes.
*Ruotsi (Finnish), Rootsi (Estonian), Rūotšmō (Livonian), Ruoŧŧa (Sami): probably from a Varangian people called the Rus', originating from Roslagen in Svealand. Scholars debate the meaning of rus, but it probably originates from the element roþs- ("relating to rowing") which has the same origin as row.

See also Etymology of Rus and derivatives and Russia above

:

From the toponym Schwyz (see there) first attested AD 972 as Suittes, derived from an Alemannic proper name Suito.
* Helvetia (ancient Latin name), after the Celtic Helvetii people.

:

From the ancient Greek name of the country, Συρία ("Syria"). Probably related to the name of the ancient state of Assyria, although the original heartland of ancient Assyria actually lay in modern Iraq. Before the Greeks, the area of the modern state of Syria had the name Aram, after which the Aramaic language, a former lingua franca of the Middle East still spoken in a few villages there today, takes its name.

T

Taiwan (Republic of China):
The Han characters used today mean "Terraced Bay" in Chinese (terraced rice fields typify the Taiwanese landscape). However, older characters (e.g. 台員) have entirely different meanings. Moreover, some scholars believe the characters serve merely as convenient phonetic vehicles for writing down an older Austronesian name. In the early 17th century, when the Dutch East India Company came to build a commercial post at Fort Zeelandia (today's Tainan City), they allegedly adopted the name of an aboriginal tribe transliterated as "Tayouan" or "Teyowan" in their records. Chinese merchants (and, later, Chinese officials) also adopted this same name, although different transliteration into Han characters tended to obscure the real etymology by sound, and often evoked varying myths and imaginings. An old-fashioned story traced "Taiwan" to a Hokkien (Minnan) phrase (埋冤) with the same pronunciation, meaning "burying the unjustly dead," suggesting the riskiness of the sea journey to Taiwan. But this kind of story has given way to more persuasive evidence from ethnological and colonial sources.
* Formosa (former name): Portuguese for "beautiful", presumably because of the beauty of the island.

:

"Tajikistan" or "Tojikiston" (alternative name) means "land of the Tajiks", with "Tajiks" being an alternative name of the Persians. Tajikistan is the only country in the Soviet Union Commonwealth which is Persian-speaking and its history goes back to the Persian Empire. The suffix -stan, from Persian, means "land".
The root word toj is derived from the Persian word for "crown". Because of the influence of the Russians during the Soviet period, the root word toj changed slightly and in time became tojik. The literal meaning of "Tajikistan" is "place where people have crowns."
Another possible root is the Tibetan Tag Dzig (pronounced "Tajik") by which they call all Persians, but in Tibetan this also means "tiger-leopard". This could explain why so many Tibetan legends about their western neighbours feature tiger/leopard combinations.

:

A combination of the names of two states that merged to form this country, Tanganyika, and Zanzibar. Tanganyika takes its name from the lake in the area, first visited by a European in 1858 in the person of Sir Richard Burton. Burton explained the meaning from local language as tou tanganyka meaning "to join", giving the sense "where waters met". In 1871, however, Henry Stanley said the word came from tonga, "island" and hika, "flat". Both theories remain uncertain. Zanzibar derives its name from the Zengi or Zengj, a local people whose own name means "black". This root joined to the Arabic barr, which means "coast" or "shore".

:

The word Thai (ไทย) is not, as is commonly believed, derived from the word thai (ไท) meaning "freedom" in the Thai language; it is, however, the name of an ethnic group from the central plains. With that in mind the locals seemed to have also accepted the alternative meaning and will verbally state that it means "Land of the free". This might be due to language barriers and the avoidance of long difficult explanations.

*Siam (former name): The Thai people called their land by this name from the Sukhothai period. It became the name of the country from the reign of King Rama VI or King Chulalongkorn. The name was changed to "Thailand" in the reign of King Rama VII (1925–1935) by the government of Siam at that time. The word "Siam" is probably derived from the Pāli toponym Suvarnabhumi "Land of Gold", the ultimate root being the Pāli root sama which variously denoted different shades of color, most often brown or yellow, but sometimes green or black.

:

From the settlement Togo, currently Togoville. In Ewe, to means "water" and go, "shore".
* French Togoland (former name): See Togo (above) and France (above).

(territory of New Zealand):

From the Tokelauan "North" or "Northern", describing the islands' location relative to Samoa. The Tokelauan people traditionally originated as settlers from Samoa.

:

From the Tongan "South" or "Southern", describing the islands' location relative to Samoa.
*Friendly Islands (former name): named by Captain James Cook in 1773 after the friendliness and hospitality of the people he met on the islands.

:

Christopher Columbus encountered the island of Trinidad on July 31, 1498 and named it after the Holy Trinity. Columbus reported seeing Tobago, which he named Bella Forma, but did not land on the island. The name Tobago probably derives from the tobacco grown and smoked by the natives.
*Kairi or Iere (old Amerindian name for Trinidad): Usually translated as "The Land of the Hummingbird", although others have reported that it simply meant "island".
Tromelin Island (territory of France):
From the Chevalier de Tromelin (Knight of Tromelin), a French Royal Navy officer, captain of the French corvette La Dauphine, who visited the island in 1776.

:

After its capital Tunis, whose name possibly derives from a Berber word signifying a small cape.

:

The Turkish name Türkiye consists of two parts: Türk, which means "strong" in Turkish and usually refers to the inhabitants of Turkey or a member of Turkish nation; but the source of other part "iye" is not certain. It can be a latin suffix (Bohem-ia, Croat-ia etc.), an Arabic suffix -iyye or a Turkish word "iye" which means "owner". The root appears commonly among early Altaic tribal ethnonyms, and also appears in the name of the modern inhabitants of Turkmenistan.
* Rum (Р'ом, ڕۆم Kurdish variant): after the Sultanate of Rûm. When the Persians met the Byzantines, these called themselves Rhomaioi ("Romans"), which gave the name Rûm to the region where the Turks would settle.

:

From Turkmen and -stan. -stan as a Persian suffix means "land". Thus: "land of the Turkmen people.

See also Turkey, above

(territory of the United Kingdom):

"Turks" after the indigenous Turk's Head "fez" cactus; and "Caicos" from the indigenous Lucayan term caya hico, meaning "string of islands".

:

From the native "eight islands" or "eight standing with each other" (Tuvalu actually consists of nine islands — only eight of them traditionally inhabited). An earlier name, Niulakita, the name of the first atoll settled in 1949, became suppressed.
* Ellice Islands (former name): named after Edward Ellice, a British politician and merchant, by Captain Arent de Peyster, who sighted the islands in 1819 sailing on the ship Rebecca. Ellice owned the cargo of the ship. The Ellice Islands received the name Tuvalu following a vote for secession from the Gilbert Islands (now Kiribati) in 1975/1976.

U

:
From the Swahili version of Buganda, the kingdom of the 52 clans of the Baganda people, the largest of the traditional kingdoms in present-day Uganda. British officials adopted the name Uganda in 1894.

:

From the Slavic words krai (kraj) and its derivative krajina, both originally meaning "borderland", "marches", or from a later, more generic use of the same word krajina or ukrajina with the meaning "land", "region", "principality".

:

Also called the Soviet Union for short. The word soviet (совет), a Russian abstract noun, meant "council" or "board", in English became an adjective denoting persons from the country.

:

The etymology of the term "Arab" or "Arabian" links with that of the place name "Arabia". The root of the word has many meanings in Semitic languages, including "west / sunset", "desert", "mingle", "merchant", "raven" and "comprehensible", all of which appear to have some relevance to the emergence of the name. Emirate refers to a territory ruled by an emir.
* Trucial States, Trucial Oman (former names): Before 1971 English-speakers knew the area as the "Trucial States" or "Trucial Oman", in reference of a nineteenth-century truce between the British and Arab sheikhs. It borders Oman and Saudi Arabia.

:

Shortened form of the full name: "The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland". Originally (from 1801) called "The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland", referring to the union between the Kingdom of Great Britain and the Kingdom of Ireland. The name was officially changed to its present style in 1927 following the separation from the Union of the then Irish Free State (now the Republic of Ireland).

:

The term "United States" comes from the end of the Declaration of Independence: "We, therefore, the representatives of the united States of America, in general congress, assembled...". The preamble to the U.S. Constitution reiterated the phrase: "We the People of the United States...". The authors of these two documents probably used the phrase "united States" in place of a list of colonies/states because they remained uncertain (at the time of drafting) which colonies/states would sign off on the sentiments therein. The geographic term "America" specifies the states' home on the American continent, and is believed to derive from the Latinized version of the explorer Amerigo Vespucci's name, Americus Vespucius, in its feminine form, America. The feminine was chosen to match the ending of all other known continents at the time: Asia, Africa, and (as known in Latin) Europa.

See also: List of U.S. state name etymologies, Lists of U.S. county name etymologies and List of continent name etymologies.

:

The name comes from the Uruguay River (indeed its official name "Republica Oriental del Uruguay" — "oriental" meaning "east" — references its position east of the river). The word "Uruguay" itself may derive from the Guaraní words urugua ("shellfish") and i ("water"), meaning "river of shellfish". Another possible explanation holds that the name "Uruguay" divides into three component Guaraní words: uru (a kind of bird that lived near the river); gua ("to proceed from"); and i ("water").

(territory of the United States of America):

Christopher Columbus named the islands in 1493 after St. Ursula and her 11,000 virgins, as he gained the impression of a seemingly endless number of islands. The term "U.S.", applied after the U.S. acquisition of the islands from Denmark in 1917, serves to distinguish this territory from the adjacent British Virgin Islands.
*Danish West Indies (former name): after the former colonial ruler (Denmark).

See also United States of America above.

:

Comes from three words: uz, meaning "self" in Turkic; bek meaning "master" in the Sogdian language, and "stan" meaning "land" in Persian. Thus, "Uzbekistan" = "Land of the Self Masters."

V

:
Derived from a phrase found in some of the languages of Vanuatu meaning "Our Land"
* New Hebrides (former name): named after the Hebrides islands in Scotland by Captain James Cook in 1774.

:

"Vatican" from the Latin vaticinari, "to prophesy", by way of the name of the hill "Mons Vaticanus" of which the Vatican City forms a part. Fortune-tellers and sooth-sayers used the streets beneath in Roman times.

:

"Little Venice", from the diminutive form of "Venezia". The native stilt-houses built on Lake Maracaibo impressed the European explorers Alonso de Ojeda and Amerigo Vespucci and reminded them of buildings in Venice.

:

(Cognate of the Chinese: 越南), "Beyond the southern border", as referred to by the ancient Chinese, or "South Yue", after the Yue peoples of ancient southeast China.

W

(territory of the United States of America):
Named after the British Captain William Wake, who sighted the island in 1796 in his boat the Prince William Henry (though the Spanish explorer Mendaña may have sighted it 1568).

(constituent country of the United Kingdom):

From Old English Waelisc, Walh, meaning "foreign" (Old English Waelisc also provides the source of English word Welsh). Anglo-Saxons used their version of an Old Teutonic term to apply to speakers of Celtic languages as well as to speakers of Latin. The same etymology applies to walnuts as well as to Cornwall in Britain and to Wallonia in Belgium. Old Church Slavonic also borrowed the term from the Germanic, and it served as the origin of the name of the Romanian region of Wallachia. Gaul or Gallia, as well as Gael and Gaelic share the same etymology, as G and W are often interchangeable between English and French (wasp/guêpe, ward/garde, etc.). In fact, the French word for Wales is "Pays de Galles", and Welsh is translated as "Gallois". SEE "CYMRU"

(territory of France):

The "Wallis" comes from the English explorer Samuel Wallis, who sailed there in 1797.

(claimed by Morocco and the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic):

After its geographic position in the west of the Sahara desert. "Sahara" is an English pronunciation of the word for desert in Arabic. The local nationalist group the Polisario Front have named their government in exile the "Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic" after its people, the Sahrawis (or Saharawis).
* Spanish Sahara (former name): after its geographic position in the Sahara desert and the former colonial power (Spain).

See also Spain above.

Y

:
From the Arabic root ymn, expressing the basic meaning of "right"; however, its exact meaning remains in dispute. Some sources claim it comes from the form yamîn, meaning "right-hand side" and by extension "south" (many Semitic languages, including Arabic and Hebrew, show traces of a system with south on the right and north on the left). Other sources claim that it originates from the form yumn, meaning "happiness" or "blessings" (arising from the widespread idea that right = good.) The name (to the classical world Arabia Felix — "fortunate Arabia") originally referred to the entire southern coast of the Arabian Peninsula.

(former name):

From Jugoslavija, which means "Land of the South Slavs" (South Slavic jug means "south").

Z

:
After the River Zambezi, which flows through the east of the country and also forms the border with Zimbabwe.
* Northern Rhodesia (former name): named after Cecil Rhodes, a British South African minister and businessman who helped found the colony. "Northern" to differentiate it from Southern Rhodesia (modern Zimbabwe).

:

Alteration of Shona Dzimba-dze-mabwe, translated as "houses of stone" (dzimba = plural of imba, "house"; mabwe = plural of bwe, "stone"), referring to the stone-built capital city of the ancient trading empire of Great Zimbabwe. Alternatively, the element zi means "big" — thus "big houses of stone".
* Southern Rhodesia/Rhodesia (former names): named after Cecil Rhodes, a British South African minister and businessman who helped found the colony. "Southern" differentiated it from Northern Rhodesia (modern Zambia). The "Southern" adjective disappeared upon Zambia achieving independence in 1964, and the area became known as Rhodesia.

See also

References

  • Room, Adrian. Brewer's Names: People. Places. Things. Cassell, 1992. ISBN 0-304-34077-4
  • Room, Adrian. Placenames of the World, Origins and Meanings. McFarland and Company, Inc, Publishers, 1997. ISBN 0-7864-0172-9

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