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The Literal Translation of Every Country’s Name

These days, planes, trains, and automobiles can deliver us to any destination we can name; however, do you know the meaning of those names? Let’s discover the literal translations of every country’s name, arranged by continent.

      1. Asia

Vietnam: Viets of the South

Vietnam of ‘Việt Nam’ was first revived in the early 20th century by a nationalist writer named Phan Boi Chau and became the country’s official name after the communist governments were set up in 1945. Nevertheless, Vietnam actually is a variation of ‘Nam Việt’, an ancient name that can be traced back to the 2nd century BC. In which, ‘Nam’ means ‘Southern’, and ‘Việt’ refers to a people who lived in what is now southern China in ancient times. 

China: Center Kingdom

China’s English name originated from the first unified and multinational state in Chinese history – the Qin dynasty ( 221-207 BC).  Another fascinating tidbit about this name is that it was borrowed from the Persian language and even Sanskrit.

India: Land of the Indus

India’s name comes from Greek and Sanskrit Síndhu, where it both refer to the Indus River. Besides, its other official and historically significant name is Bharat.

2. North America

3. South America

Brazil: Red like an ember

Brazil’s name is actually clipped from Terra do Brasil which refers to ‘land of Brazil’. Brazil or brazilwood tree was valued highly in the early 16th century. In the old European textile industry, it was used to produce red dyes hence it also had the “red like an ember” moniker.

Venezuela: Little Venice

Meanwhile, Venezuela means “Little Venice”. This special name originated from its resemblance to the Italian city of Venice.

4. Europe

France: Land of the Franks

The “Land of the Franks”, France, dates back even further to the Old German word franka. It refers to brave, or fierce. On the other hand, there’s also a political angle to the name. King Louis V famously once proclaimed that “France signifies freedom”.

5. Oceania

 6. South Africa

South Africa: Beautiful Southern Land

South Africa is aptly named for its geographical location. Interestingly, however, the country has different names in the country’s 11 official languages, including English, Afrikaans, the Venda language, the Tsonga language, and the Nguni and Sotho languages.

What rich histories can be uncovered from your country’s name?

Source: The Oxford University

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