Special Report

The Surprising Stories Behind 50 Country Names

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41. Venezuela
> Population: 28.8 million

Alonso de Ojeda, who sailed with Christopher Columbus on his third voyage to the Americas, is credited with naming Venezuela. While scouting Venezuela’s northern coast, Ojeda saw that the houses of indigenous people were located on stilts above the Orinoco River, so he named it Venice. The region was eventually called the Capitanía General de Venezuela when it became a colony under Spanish rule.

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42. France
> Population: 67 million

It’s no surprise that France owes its name to the German tribe the Franks. The name comes from an old German word “franka,” which means “fierce.”

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43. Malta
> Population: 484,000

The Mediterranean island whose geographic location has played a key role in European history derived its name either from the Latin word “melite,” or possibly from the Phoenician “melita,” which means “place of refuge.”

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44. Norway
> Population: 5.3 million

Norway’s name means “the way north” and refers to a Viking route. The name is found in the Middle English “Nor-weie,” the Old English “Norweg,” and also in the Old Norse “Norvegr,” meaning “north way, a way leading to the north.”

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45. Serbia
> Population: 6.9 million

The name of the nation Serbia comes from the Serbian “Srb,” which may be from a root that likely means “man.”