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If you've ever spent sleepless nights wondering how countries get their names then wonder no longer, because all but a handful of countries are named after one of four things.
These are tribes or an ethnic group, an important person, a directional description or a feature of the land, according to research by Quartz.
Researchers looked at the 195 independent states' names in the Oxford Dictionary of World Place-Names and found that all but about 20 of them fitted in to one of these four categories.
Take, for example, merry old England. England is named after the 5th Century Angles, a tribe of early settlers. Around a third of all countries, including France, which was named after the Frank, are in this category, as well as Italy named after the Vitali tribe and Switzerland, which is named after the Schwyz people.
Switzerland is named after the Schwyz people. Credit: PA
The United States of America, on the other hand, is named after an important person, specifically Italian explorer Amerigo Vespucci. The Philippines is also in this group, named after Spain's King Philip II.
Columbus seems to be the most 'important person' when it comes to naming countries, with a total of eight countries bearing the names he picked, including Saint Lucia, which he named after the Catholic Saint Lucy and Saint Kitts and Nevis, with 'Kitt' thought to be an abbreviation of Christopher. But to add a bit of confusion, Colombia was named after him, not by him.
Saint Lucia looks a bit nice, doesn't it? And its named after a Catholic Saint. Credit: PA
A slightly more basic naming convention is the direction description group. For example, Norway means 'northern way' and Australia means 'southern'. Can't argue with either of those, I guess. It's also the smallest group, with about 25 countries.
Meanwhile, countries such as Costa Rica, meaning the 'rich coast', and Honduras, which means 'depth' or 'deep water', are named after features of the land.
Costa Rica or 'the rich coast'. Credit: PA
Of the countries that don't fit into any of the above categories, researchers noted that origins of some countries' names, including Syria, are not known.
Quartz also gave honourable mention for Nauru, an island near Australia, which is believed to be named after the indigenous word 'anáoero', meaning 'I go to the beach'. How nice is that?
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