Special Report

The Surprising Stories Behind 50 Country Names

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21. Saudia Arabia
> Population: 33.7 million

The name Saudi Arabia comes from the ruling family, Sa’ud. The name comes from the Arabic word “sa’d,” meaning “good fortune, happiness.”

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22. Kuwait
> Population: 4.1 million

The name of the tiny country on the Arabian Peninsula comes from the Arabic word “kut,” a specific regional term for a fortified house with surrounding land and a moat.

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23. Iraq
> Population: 38.4 million

The name Iraq is possibly derived from the Arabic word “araqa,” which refers to something that is “perspiring, deeply rooted, or well-watered.” The name also might be from the ancient Sumerian city Uruk. The Sumerian, word “uru” means “city.”

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24. Lebanon
> Population: 6.8 million

The name of the small nation on the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea that is known for its cedar trees is derived from the Semitic root “l-b-n” or “white.” In all likelihood, this is a reference to either the country’s snow-capped peaks or to its limestone cliffs.

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25. Bhutan
> Population: 754,000

Bhutanese people refer to their nation as Druk-yul, the original name, which means “Land of the Thunder Dragon.” The British named the country Bhutan, and that may be derived from the Indian term “Bhotania,” or “end of the land of the Bhots.”