Special Report

The Surprising Stories Behind 50 Country Names

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26. Pakistan
> Population: 212.2 million

Pakistan, created from India following independence from the British Empire, was a name apparently created in the 1930s by Muslim students at Cambridge University. It was an acronym for three regions — Punjab, Afghan Province, and Kashmir — and was also a play on words for the Iranian word “pak,” or “pure.”

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27. Papua New Guinea
> Population: 8.6 million

Papua, explored by the Spanish in 1545, called the island Nueva Guinea. Papua likely comes from the Malay word “papuwah, which means “fuzzy hair.”

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28. Tuvalu
> Population: 11,500

The name Tuvalu roughly translates to “eight traditions,” although some sources say it means “eight standing together.” Eight inhabited islands make up the nation of Tuvalu.

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29. Vanuatu
> Population: 293,000

In Vanuatu, a South Pacific nation made up of about 80 islands, “vanua” means “land” in many of the country’s 105 languages. Some of the translations for the nation’s name include “abiding land.”

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30. Myanmar
> Population: 53.7 million

The nation formerly known as Burma took the name Myanmar in 1989. The name has its origins in the country’s official Burmese name Myanma, which means “fast and strong people.”