Special Report

The Surprising Stories Behind 50 Country Names

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16. Ukraine
> Population: 44.6 million

Ukraine’s name is derived from the Russian word “okraina” or “(land) on the edge” or “borderland.” The name also has lexical derivation from the word “kraj” (country) and “krayaty,” meaning to demarcate a border. This designated the territory between Russia and Poland and Lithuania.

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17. Cuba
> Population: 11.3 million

The name Cuba, an abbreviation of the indigenous word “Cubanacán,” which means “center place,” is a reference to its location in the center of the Caribbean archipelago the Antilles.

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18. Panama
> Population: 4.2 million

Panama’s name may come from a word from the indigenous Guarani word people that is said to mean “place of many fish.” Given that the Central American country borders the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, this is not surprising.

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19. Korea
> Population: 51.6 million

The name Korea has origins from the time of Marco Polo. The dynasty ruling what is now Korea called itself Goryeo. That word became transliterated into “Cauli” in Italian. “Korea” was then transliterated from that word. A term for the area translates into English as “land of the morning calm.”

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20. Jordan
> Population: 9.9 million

Jordan’s name has ancient roots from the river Jordan. The Jordan flows from the Sea of Galilee south to the Salt Sea. The river’s name in Hebrew is יַרְדֵן (Yarden), which is derived from יָרַד (yarad), which means “descend” or to “flow down.”