The huge snowy peaks inspired the Gauls and Romans to call them by the Celtic word alb, or the Latin word albus, both meaning white.
Since the ancient Greeks, explorers have searched for Amazon tribes and legendary female warriors. During
Francisco de Orellana’s exploration of the Andes in the 16th Century, indigenous women joined with their men to fight off the Spanish troops, and ever since then it has been called the Amazon River.
Shortly after Columbus’s expedition, another captain called Amerigo Vespucci landed on the New Continent.A German cartographer, when reading Vespucci’s maps, called the land ‘America’ in honour of the Italian seafarer.
Al Andalus was the Arabic name given to this part of the peninsula. The Moors derived the name from the word Vandalucia, which is what it was called during the Barbarian invasions before the arrival of the Visigoths.The initial ‘V’ was later dropped.
THE ANTILLES (THE CARIBBEAN)
The word Antilia was used to refer to the mysterious islands always found on ancient maps, and which navigators and explorers of the Middle Ages dreamt of discovering. The Portuguese and Spanish believed that they would find their Antilia in the Caribbean, and it became known as the Antilles.
A combination of Arabia, which means noble in the Semitic language, and the name for the House of Saud, which currently holds the throne.
The brilliance of the silver jewellery that the native tribes wore inspired the Italian explorer Sebastian Caboto
to call this land Argentina, from the Latin word argentum.
From the name of the Roman Emperor Augustus. It means ‘under good omens’.
The Ostmark (Eastern Borderland) was the border defined by Charlemagne during his reign.The
German derivation, Oesterreich, ended up as Austria.
The falcons (azor in Portuguese) that the first discoverer of the lands found there made such an impression on
him that he called the islands after them.
Originally called Barcina after its founder,Amilcare Barca, the Romans changed the name to Barcinona, which became Barcelona.The Catalans however called it Barna.
Julius Caesar called the Celtic tribes of North Western Gaul Belgae, from where the modern day name derived.
Brussels, the capital city, comes from the word Bruocsela, which means City of the Marshes.
As part of the Kingdom of Banga, the English called it Bengal.
From Old German bar which meant bear, very common in the region at that time.
It was the region’s founder, Lopez de Haro, who decided to call it Belvao, which meant ‘good ford’.The name then became the current Bilbao.
This literally meant ‘the farm of Beormond’s people’, as ham means farm, and ingas means people in Anglo Saxon.
In honour of its patriot, Simon Bolivar.
In Celtic, bona meant city.
A group of colonists founded a city that they called after the town they had come from in England, Boston.
Braise is an Old French word meaning burning cold (hence brazier). A redwood tree grew in the area which looked like burning coals, which is where the name came from.
CAPE OF GOOD HOPE
After many navigational problems, Vasco de Gama finally discovered that beyond the cape, it was possible to keep on sailing towards the East, to the Indias, and this made him so happy that he named it accordingly.
The native tribes called their settlement Kanata, which inspired English sea captain Jacques Cartier to use the
name Canada for the region.
THE CANARY ISLANDS
From the Latin canis (dog), referring to the large number of dogs that the Romans found along the coast. The islands gave the Canary birds their name, and not the other way round.
From canibal, the famous bloodthirsty tribe from northern Latin America which invaded the islands and settled there.They left such an impression on the Spanish explorers that archipelago was called the Caribbean after them.
Tchili means snow in the native tongue, referring to the permanently snow-capped peaks of the Andes.
It was the first seaman to pass this cape who, in honour of his native city of Hoorn, baptised the dangerous cape with the name.
Short but intense, the rule of the Chin Dynasty left a lasting mark on the widespread lands, which later
unified and called themselves China.
The name comes from a Roman legend about a farmer, Cincinnatus, who saved his city from war, then returned to his fields. In the United States, after the War of Independence, George Washington went back to being a farmer, and the Society of Cincinnati was formed for those who had fought without interest. A few years later, in Ohio, a city with the same name was founded in their honour.
In honour of the Italian sailor Christopher Columbus.
The ‘Red coloured’ side beat the ‘White’ side during the battle between the Oribe and Ribera.They had decided to call themselves these names in order to tell each other apart.
Congo means mountain in Bantu, the native language there.
First called Havn (bay), it was then named the ‘Merchants’ Bay’, or Kjobenhavn, from where the current name originates.
The country got its name from Marco Polo, who had heard about the Koryu Dynasty which had reigned there for a long time.
From dorf (house) and dussel (river), both Old German words.
The Greeks called the people from the south of Egypt etiopes, which meant burnt faces.
Colonel George Everest calculated its height in 1852.
Named in honour of King Philip II of Spain.
The prosperity of its residents and their ‘flowering’ culture gave the Italian city its name.
From Pascua Florida (Flowery Easter), the period during which Ponce of Leon discovered the peninsula for the Spanish Crown.
The beauty of the countryside stunned the Portuguese traders who baptised it fermosa (beautiful).
From the Frankish tribes who invaded the lands during the Roman Empire.
Franconofurt referred to the Germanic tribe of the Franks, and Furt which means ford.
In Hindi, ganga means river.
The name comes from Jebel-al-Tarik (the mountain of Tarik), in honour of its first conqueror.
It comes from the name of the Grenadine fruit, which is abundant in the region.
The land was called Britannia by the Romans based on the native name for the island opposite France.
In Roman times, the escotos were an Irish tribe that regularly invaded the lands.
An early example of propaganda, Erik the Red, who discovered them, called the hostile lands ‘green’ in attempt to attract colonists. It didn’t work.
It comes from the native term owhyhee, the name of the first Polynesian who came to the lands, according to local legend.
In the local tongue, holland meant forestland, and was the name given to the area surrounding the city of Amsterdam.
In honour of the man who discovered it, Henry Hudson.
The Greeks used the word Indo for the land that the natives called sindhu (river), which then gave name to the peninsula of India.
The ‘Land of the Angles’, from the Roman name for the tribes.
Its real name is Eire, and when pronounced together with land, gives ‘Ireland’.
In the bible, Jacob was renamed Israel.
A combination of James, the name of the island’s English conqueror, and Xaymaca (Island of fountains), a native word for the land.
The peoples of this land called it jihpen-kuo (land of the rising sun), although in Japanese the pronunciation is more like nippon.
Paradoxically, in Hebrew this means ‘City of peace’.
Spanish conqueror who founded the city, Pizarro, called it ‘City of Kings’, but the natives called it Rimac,
which later changed to Lima.
From the Latin Londinium, which in turn derived from Celtic.
The Spanish conqueror Gaspar de Portola called the nearby river Our Lady of the Angels, a name that was taken up by the city founded on its banks.
Marco Polo spoke of the island of Madeigascar, settled by the Malayan Malagasy.
One thousand two hundred reefs give the name to these islands, from mal (thousand) and diva (island).
The Medieval Old Town was built on the remains of a Roman city which had been called Salduba, and parts of it would later be used again by the Arabs. Later on it received the name ‘mar bella’, (beautiful sea), referring to the beauty of the sea.
From the Latin ‘mar medi terraneum’, which means ‘the sea in the middle of lands’.
It was called Mediolanum in Latin, meaning it was in the middle of the land, in the centre of a plain at the foot of the Alps.
Called after the hill with the same name on which the city is built.
Originally Monspessulanus, which is said to have stood for for ‘mont pelé’, the naked hill, because the vegetation
The Russian name for its capital is Moskva, which comes from the name of the river that crosses through the city, the Moscova.
The city was originally called New Amsterdam, but the English settlers conquered the Dutch colonists and re-named it New York in honour of the King of England’s brother.
‘Mici se-pe’ means large river in the native tongue of the region.
In Italian, the name Napoli comes from ‘nea polis’, meaning ‘New City’ in Latin.
Some sources say that this word meant a very large fast flowing river, but others say that it comes from paragua (feather crown).
The parisii tribes lived in this region under the Roman rule.
It is unclear where the name comes from as various legends create confusion. Some say that a native gave his own name, Beru, when asked what the lands were called.
Meaning many islands in Greek.
Literally meaning ‘rich port’, so called for the great riches that left on boats bound for Spain.
In honour of the English conqueror, Cecil John Rhodes.
RIO DE JANEIRO
From the Portuguese ‘Rio de enero’ (River of January), when a Portuguese mistook the bay for the mouth of a river.
From its legendary creator, Romulus, twin brother and killer of Remus, both sons of Mars and founders of the city.
The Slavic peoples of the region called the Vikings who settled in the lands ‘rus’, although another source refers to a Chief Rurik.
Means desert in Arabic.
From the Greek Sikelia, after the native Sikels in the south of Italy.
Means City of Lions, from singha (lion) and pore (city).
In honour of Lord Sydney who founded the city.
In the local tongue thai means free, so the literal translation is ‘Land of the Free’.
A modified version of ‘Stutengarten’, which in English roughly means ‘stud farm’.
Originally ‘Tres Polis’, referring to the three cities founded by the Phoenicians and which were later merged into one town.
In Latin, vatis means fortune-teller, and vatinacio means a prophecy.
In honour of the English Captain George Vancouver who founded the city.
The distinctive stilt houses that the natives had built over the river reminded Amerigo Vespucci of Venice, and so he called the region Little Venice, or Venezuela.
From the Roman name Vindobona, which has a Celtic origin.
In honour of the ‘Virgin Queen’ Elizabeth I of England.
When the Romans arrived at the Basque Country, they called the people who had been living on the lands since long before the Celts,Vascones. A derivative of this word gave Vizcaya.
Over the years, the name of the Roman Emperor Caesar Augusta shortened to give the town its name.
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