17 Most Surprising Literal Translations of Country Names
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17 Most Surprising Literal Translations of Country Names

I've always wanted to vacation in the Land of Young Cattle...

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17 Most Surprising Literal Translations of Country Names

Etymology is the fascinating study of the history of words. But have you ever wondered where your country's name came from? A name can provide important insight into a nation's origins. Recently, Finity.com created a global map with literal translations. To see the full map, click here.


  1. In the Navel of the Moon- Mexico

Mexico is the Spanish translation of this Aztec name.


2. Land of Many Rabbits- Spain

Around 300 BC when Carthaginians came, they called the country Ispania (from Sphan, "rabbit"), which means "land of the rabbits.


3. Island of Tall People- Macedonia

The country name originates from the ancient Greek adjective makednos, meaning "tall", which may have been describing the indigenous population.


4. Land of Young Cattle- Italy

Originally called Vitalia, the name comes from the same root as the Latin vitulus (a one-year-old calf).


5. Land of the Rising Sun- Japan

Ancient China had a great influence on Japan. Japan relative to China is in the east, where the sun also rises.


6. Place of Pomegranates- Grenada

Explorers named the land Grenada, which is Spanish for Pomegranate.


7. White Russia- Belarus

The name white Russia has two theories. It could either be describing the white clothing that ancient slavic people generally wore or it suggests the so-called "purity" of the Belarussians, who, unlike their Moscovite neighbors, never intermarried with the Mongols.


8. Hippopotamus- Mali

Based on a legend about a hippopotamus named Mali Sadio.


9. Northern Way- Norway

This refers to an ancient viking route.


10. The Village- Canada

The name "Canada" comes from the Huron-Iroquois word "kanata," meaning "village" or "settlement."


11. Red Like an Ember- Brazil

Brazilwood or redwood resembles red hot embers.


12. Those Who Went Away- Botswana

In the 18th century after a Zulu force was led into the region, the local people were forced out onto arid land.


13. Southern Land- Australia

The Greeks named it Terra Australis Incognita, which means "unknown southern land"


14. Little Venice-Venezuela

In 1499, Italian navigator Amerigo Vespucci was on an expedition in Venezuela when he saw houses on stilts. This reminded him of Venice.


15. Bearded Ones- Barbados

"Bearded ones" can either be describing the hanging roots of the native fig tree that resemble a beard or it can be referring to the common physical trait of the indigenous population.


16. Mountainous Land- Haiti

Haiti comes from the native Taíno language which means "land of high mountains"


17. Land of the Pure- Pakistan

In 1933, Pakistani movement activist Choudhry Rahmat Ali coined the name. He used it to refer to five northern regions of British India: Punjab, Afghania, Kashmir, and Indus-Sind. Also, the prefix "Pak" means "pure" in Urdu.

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