How Some Countries Got Their Names
November 24, 2017 1:58pm CST
I have always found it fascinating to learn how countries got their names. There is no one given the job of naming countries. Some countries were named after an early tribe or ethnic group: In the Medieval Ages after the Franks conquered the land it became France. Vietnam is named after the Viets who lived in the south. Afghanistan is referred to as “Afghan-land; place of the Afghans”. The “Tai” people were an ethnic group from the central plains region of what today is Thailand. The people that once lived in Russia were known as “Russi”. There are countries that have been named after powerful or influential people: The Caribbean island of Saint Lucia was named by the French in 1625 after the Catholic Saint Lucy, who many worshipped during the Middle Ages. Well-known explorer Christopher Columbus can take credit for the country of Colombia even though he never went there. The country was discovered by his companion Alonso de Ojeda in 1499 but named after Columbus. Spanish explorer Ruy Lopez de Villalobos named the Philippines in honor of King Philip II of Spain in 1542. Saudi Arabia got its name from warrior and aristocrat Emir Muhammad bin Saud, who was considered the founder of the First Saudi State in 1744. The Seychelles were named after French Minister of Finance Jean Moreau de Sechelles in the 1700s when the islands were under France. The tiny country of El Salvador in Central America was named after Jesus its name translating to “The Saviour”. The one to name it was Spanish conqueror Pedro de Alvarado in the 1500s. Countries named after land features: Iceland simply translates to “Land of Ice” from the ancient language of Old Norse. The idea to name it came from Norwegian Viking Hrafna-Floki Vigeroarson in 856 AD. He chose this name because even though Iceland also has a lovely green landscape he figured that if the name of the country sounded like a harsh land of ice and snow less people would want to invade it. The Caribbean country of Haiti translated to “mountainous land” in the indigenous Taino language. In 1492 when it was colonized by Spain it was named “La Espanola”. Later it was renamed by former slave and revolutionary Jean-Jacques Dessalines. The country of Barbados translates to “the bearded” in Portuguese. This is thought to refer to the long hanging roots of the fig trees that were prominent in the late 16th century. Ukraine – was named in the 12th century and translates to “near the border” in Old Slavic. It was meant to define an area of territory within the then East Slavic state of Kievan Rus. The country I live in now Latvia got its name from the people who lived here that were called Letts. At first it was referred to as Lettland. Have any country named after your name? Do you know how the country you live got its name?
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• Bunbury, Australia
Australia comes from the Latin australis which means southern. 2nd century legends refer to terra australis incognita ("unknown southern land"). Explorer Matthew Flinders named the land Terra Australis, which later became 'Australia'.