Nearly every country is named after one of these four things
WE HAVE always been taught to have a sense of pride in our country. When we hear Australia we associate the name with certain values and qualities that we aim to uphold in our society.
Just the name of a country has the power to instil a sense of patriotism in people all over the world.
But the actual origins of these country’s names probably don’t reflect the modern ideologies that we have come to associate them with.
According to Quartz, the name of nearly every country falls into one of these four categories:
- A tribe name
- A feature of the land
- The direction the country is situated
- An important person
CATEGORY 1: TRIBE NAME
The majority of country names are derived from tribes, kingdoms or ethnic groups, particularly ones in Europe.
Italy is named after the Vitali tribe, France after the Franks, Switzerland refers to the Schwyz people and Vietnam is after the Viet people of the south.
Deahan Minguk refers to South Korea, which translated mean “Great Han” or “Big Han” after the Han tribes.
Some names are derived from a description of its inhabitants, such as Papua New Guinea, with papua meaning “frizzy-haired” and guinea after the African Guineans.
CATEGORY 2: LAND FEATURE
The second highest group that a country’s name might come from is an aspect of the land.
Algeria is named after the capital city of Algiers, which means “the islands” and refers to the islands that used to sit off the city’s coast before they became a part of the mainland.
Iceland seems pretty self explanatory but the name is contradicted by the country’s luscious green landscape.
The most common story suggests it was named that way to trick potential settlers into thinking it was cold and uninhabitable so they would be deterred.
Much like how Greenland was supposedly named to entice new settlers when in reality much of it is covered in ice.
But the lesser known story, which appears to be more accurate, is that it was named by a Norwegian Viking called Hrafna-Flóki Vilgerðarson after he climbed a mountain and saw a bay full of icebergs.
It is suggested that Christopher Columbus named Costa Rica, meaning “the rich coast”, after he saw indigenous people wearing gold.
Barbados, “bearded ones”, was reportedly named after the banyan tree that grows there, which is commonly known as the giant bearded fig.
Honduras means “depth” or “deep water” and Singapore means “lion city”, even though there aren’t any known lions there.
CATEGORY 3: DIRECTIONAL PLACEMENT
There are roughly 25 countries with names that refer to their location and Australia is one of them.
Australia’s name comes from a hypothetical continent called Terra Australis Incognita meaning “Unknown Southern Land”, which was thought up by the Ancient Greeks.
Nippon, the name for Japan often used by locals, means “land of the rising sun” and refers to Japan being east of China.
Timor-Leste essentially means “east east” and is situated east of Java and Sumatra.
CATEGORY 4: IMPORTANT FIGURE
The rest of the countries are mostly named after prominent historical figures.
The United States of America was named after Italian explorer Amerigo Vespucci and the Philippines are named after King Philip II
Colombia was named after Christopher Columbus not by the famous explorer himself, though he is thought to have had a say in naming eight other countries.
Venezuelan military and political leader Simon Bolivar has two countries named after him, Bolivia being the obvious one but also Venezuela, which carries the official name of Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela.
Religious figures are common inspiration for names like Israel for example, which was the given name to Jacob, who was a patriarch of the Jewish people.