Almost every country on Earth had her name based after one of these four phenomena.

Being patriotic to one’s country of origin is a really big deal — if you happen to be a sports fan. That patriotic moment when the sovereignty of a nation is deeply vested in her chanting supporters at the FIFA World Cup. That’s awesome. Here’s the catch: do you know what your country’s name actually mean? According to a research compiled by Quartz from the toponymy reference book “Oxford Concise Dictionary of World Place-Names,” basically, every country on Earth is named after one of these four categories.

Related media: Country Names And Their Origins #1

#1. Topography

This category has roughly a quarter of all countries in the world had their names from some surface nature of the land.

Iceland was known as Snæland, which literally translates as “snow land,” but was renamed by later Norse settlers who wanted to deter foreign invaders from seeking refuge on the frostbite home. Grenada had her name from Spanish colonizers who thought the landscape was in resemblance with the region of territory around Grenada in Spain. That of Guatemala is murky; her name might be from the Aztec word Guhatezmalha, which literally translates as “mountain of gushing waters,” which makes reference to the volcano Agua. Other origin story says it might have been named after the word Quauhtemallan which literally translates as “land of many trees.”

#2. Geolocation

This category is more geographically specific about where on Earth the country is. There are about 25 countries name after their location.

Australia literally had her name from the Greek words Terra Australis Incognita, which translates as “unknown southern land.” This was probably the Greeks imagination of some faraway distant territory somewhere in the Southern Hemisphere. Ireland literally means “Iar-en-land,” or “land in the west.” Her name is from the Gaelic word iar which literally means “west.” Ecuador means (you guessed it) “equator” in Spanish. This is geographically due to the fact that the equator is running through the country.

#3. Ethnicity And Culture

This category focuses on countries that derived their names from her native people. There’s a whooping one-third of all countries. 

Albania takes her name from the Albanoi tribe. Bangladesh literally means “land of the Bengalis.” The Bengalis take their name from Banga — the chief of the Bang tribe. France originates from a coalition of Germanic tribes, the Franks. The origin of the name “Frank” either comes from the Germanic word franka which means “fierce” or “brave,” or from a personal name, its uncertain. Hungary originates from the name of a group of tribes which literally call them selves On Ogur, which means “ten arrows.”

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Here are also countries named after a feature of their people:

Finland literally translates as “land of the Finns,” which probably come from the Germanic word finna, which means “fish scale.” This could be in reference with the type of clothes worn by early Finnish tribes. Macedonia originates from the ancient Greek root mak, which means “high” or “tall.” This is possibly in reference to the native tall people living there. Papua New Guinea originates from the Malay word papuah which literally translates as “frizzy-haired men.” No wonder.

#4. Personality

This category also racked up another 25 countries that were named after some distinguish prominent personalities.

The Americas was named in honor of Italian explorer Amerigo Vespucci who was credited with recognizing that the continent explorers believed was Asia was really the “New World.” The Philippines was named in honor of the 16th century king of Spain, King Philip II. St. Kitts is a shortening of St. Christopher, which was named by Christopher Columbus in honor of his patron saint. St. Lucia was probably discovered by Christopher Columbus, and named in honor of the Christian martyr St. Lucy, or Lucia of Syracuse. (This is the only country named in honor of a woman).

#5. Or Anything Suspicious

This final category is just like… anything that fetches a country her name is plausible. Aside the aforementioned four categories, there are some leftovers that either have a unique origin story or one that is murky by all standards. For instance, the lunar origin of Comoros, which literally had her name from the Arabic word al qamar, which literally means “moon.” Mexico is probably the Spanish simplification of the Aztec city Metztlixihtlico, which literally means “in the navel of the moon.” Bhutan used to call herself Druk Yul, a phrase that’s thought of as “land of the thunder dragon.”

Learn more at Oxford Dictionaries blog post.

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Written by: Nana Kwadwo, Mon, Sep 09, 2019.



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