Special Report

The Surprising Stories Behind 50 Country Names

Source: saiko3p / Getty Images

6. Azerbaijan
> Population: 9.9 million

Azerbaijan has massive amounts of oil and natural gas, and when gas escapes to the surface it can ignite. The nation’s name comes from the ancient Persian name Aturpatakan, which translates to “A place where the sacred fire is preserved.”

Source: KavalenkavaVolha / Getty Images

7. Estonia
> Population: 1.3 million

Estonia’s name is said to be derived from a German word for east. Another theory is that the name comes from a native name meaning “waterside dwellers.”

Source: TomasSereda / Getty Images

8. Hungary
> Population: 9.8 million

There are two theories on how Hungary was named. One is that it was called “10 Arrows” after the name of the tribes who migrated there in the ninth century. The other theory is that it comes from the Medieval Latin word “Hungaria,” which likely means “land of the Huns,” after Attila the Hun conquered much of Europe in the fifth century.

Source: Ozbalci / Getty Images

9. Kazakhstan
> Population: 18.3 million

Kazakhstan’s name is derived from the Turkish word for “horsemen” or the “riders of the steppes.” Fully translated, the name means “land of the horsemen”

Source: KavalenkavaVolha / Getty Images

10. Latvia
> Population: 1.9 million

The name Latvia comes from the word “latvis,” meaning “forest clearer.” .