Quirky Ways How Countries Got Their Names

By Fedora Lobo on Jul 21, 2015
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It is true that the world today isn't perceived as a whole but as a coalition of countries sharing or dividing the space. On hearing the name of the country a person belongs to, we find it easy to judge his personality type, physical appearance and culture. But do we think beyond that?

Have we ever thought of countries on a lighter note? Have we ever pondered over the names they've gotten and why? If we did, we'd probably focus our curiosity somewhere else.


Most of us find country names funny. Some of us wish we could rename them. But the underlying truth is that every country has a story behind its name. Some stories are so vivid that they do not exist in today's day and age, making the country look mispronounced. For instance, let us take the most clich example of Greenland and Iceland. To those who think the country was named Greenland by Erik the Red to fool people, you may be curious to find out that that is untrue. Greenland was once popular for its lush green valleys and was pronounced so to encourage habitation. Iceland was named for its icebergs. Later nature took its course and ironically today, the climate of both the countries stand in contradiction with the names they were given.

 Before divulging the how countries got their names, it is important to know that there are different sets that contributed in naming them. Precisely, countries were named after tribes, according to topography, after kings and dynasties and more. Here are a few hidden stories behind the names of different countries;



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This manufacturing hub believed their country was the center of civilization and that they were located at the core of creation under heaven. There are two stories to the term 'China'.

In mandarin Zhonguo, zhon meaning center and guo meaning country, translates to China.

Qin (pronounced chin) dynasty, the hand behind the populous great wall of China was where it country got its name from.



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No, the country wasnt named randomly. It was actually a slight confusion. The term Canada was taken from the Iroquoian word 'Kanata' meaning settlement or village. The word Kanata was actually used to describe the village of Stadacona. Canada borrowed that descriptive term.



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Frankon was a spear used by the franks during the olden days, thus giving France its pronounced name. Another interesting story states that the franks were the only ones considered truly free from slavery after conquering the Romanized Gauls, being titled with the associated term 'France'.



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Although the derivation of the term Mexico isn't all that clear, it is believed the country was named after a leader called Mexitli. A few others believe Mexico was named after Nahuatl Mexihco, the name of the ancient Aztec capital.



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We sure know that America was named after Amerigo Vespucci, the Italian explorer who was the first to depict America as a continent by itself. Although Christopher Columbus also travelled across exploring various parts of the world, he perceived America as a different route to get to Asia and not as a new continent. On the other hand Vespucci had written down his discoveries while Columbus hadnt.



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There is more than one theory behind how this country got its name and there is still no concrete evidence for the same. However, most people believe that the term Chile was a mapuche word which may mean where the land ends or the deepest point of earth. Some believe that Chile is the onomatopoeic cheele-cheele of a bird call while some others say that it was the Spanish conquerors who were adamant on being called the men of Chilli as they considered themselves hot.



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Ideally the land of rabbits, but named out of a funny confusion. When the seafarers of Phoenicia sailed the western side of the Mediterranean Sea, they spotted quite a few shrew mice there. Thereafter they called the land I-shapan-im. Later the Romans called the land Hispania without applying any logic as to why. Today the term is modified to Spain. The underlying joke behind this entire story is that there were no mice spotted on the land. They were actually rabbits.


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If taken a survey, even city names would be quite misleading. A handsome number of people would think of salted biscuits when they hear Monaco and a vintage horse carriage when they hear Tonga. But hey, we think that way because ideally these could have been reasons behind their names, which factually are not. Monaco, a city-state in Europe got its name from the surname of a Greek mythology hero Monoikos, while Tonga simple means 'south'.

So next time you hear of a country dont imagine the people living there but imagine the fascinating stories behind their origins.

Share with us if you also know some interesting sotries behind names of countries.