Ever wondered how countries got their names?

Country names

The origin of a country’s name is as rich as its culture. Source: Shutterstock

LIVING in such a globalized world means we can lose sight of individuality.

On one hand, this is brilliant as it brings humans closer together and puts the need for borders into question.

However, it also causes us to become complacent in understanding a nation’s history, culture and even where it is on the map, as the US Department of State recently illustrated.

No, guys. Singapore isn’t in Malaysia.

Thankfully, Australian company Credit Card Compare has created a beautiful map which contains the literal translations of every nation’s name.

It reveals a little about the history of a country and tells the tales of the first people to roam the lands.

Source: Credit Card Compare

Originally, the map was created as a PR stunt to churn up interest in the company. However, the map has since been picked up by over 200 media, proving that people are still interested in geography and history.

“To be honest, we were just expecting to have a little fun, and hopefully bring a few travel enthusiasts back to our website,” said Credit Card Compare co-founder David Boyd.

“Learning the etymology of your favorite travel destination can offer a fascinating insight into its origins, and the people who first lived there,” he added.

“This can add an extra rewarding layer of understanding when visiting as a traveler.”

Each map, categorized into continents, are printable and would look amazing framed up.

But we wanted to share a few of our favorite literal translations with you, because well, we think they’re fascinating.


The Literal Translation of Asian Country Names

Asia is the most populated continent on earth. Of its 48 countries, three of them – Russia, Kazakhstan, and Turkey – have parts of their land in Europe.

Asia is full of differing climates, from below freezing to tarmac melting. It also has the richest history in the world, created by fierce emperors, thriving trade routes and integrated cultures, which are reflected in their places names.

Malaysia: Mountain City

Probably comes from the Tamil words malai (mountain) and ur (city).

Sri Lanka: Blessed Island

Researchers suggest Sri Lanka gets its name from the Sanskrit shrī (holiness, happiness, prosperity, or honored) and lak diga (landmass).

Korea: High and beautiful

Korea is the Western name for the Koryŏ dynasty which ruled between 918 and 1392. It can be translated as “high and beautiful”.

Myanmar: Swift and strong

The name is taken from Mranma, the local name for the Burmese people and their language. Myan means swift and ma means strong.


The Literal Translation of Oceanic Country Names

Oceania is the smallest continent on Earth, but it’s far from insignificant.

Found in the larger Asia Pacific region, Oceania boasts tropical rainforests, clear oceans, and rich culture. Some believe it was also the birthplace of the entire universe and Somoa translates to “sacred centre”.

Papua New Guinea: Frizzy-haired men

The word papua derives from the Malay word papuah, describing the frizzy hair of the Melanesians.

Spanish explorer Ynigo Ortiz de Retez applied the term “Nueva Guinea” to the island of New Guinea in 1545 after noting the resemblance of the locals to the people of the Guinea coast of Africa.

New Zealand: Land of the long white cloud

Its name comes from the Dutch province of Zeeland, which means sea land.

Nauru: I go to the beach

The tiny island’s name may be derived from Nauruan word anáoero, which translates into, “I go to the beach”.

The etymology of every country’s name can be found here.