Special Report

The Surprising Stories Behind 50 Country Names

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31. Namibia
> Population: 2.4 million

The name Namib translates as “vast place.” That’s appropriate since Namibia, a former German colony, is among the least-crowded nations on the planet.

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32. Comoros
> Population: 832,000

Residents of the island nation call their country Masiwa, meaning “the islands.” The name Comoros comes from the Arabic word “qumr,” meaning “the moon,” or “qamar,” meaning “whiteness.”

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33. Gabon
> Population: 2.1 million

Portuguese explorers came to the region on the west coast of Africa in the late 15th century. Gabon is derived from the Portuguese word for hooded cloak — “gabao” — because of the shape of the estuary of the Como River.

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34. Ghana
> Population: 29.8 million

The nation has been called Ghana since 1957. It takes its name from the king’s title, “ghana.”

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35. Burkina Faso
> Population: 19.8 million

The nation jettisoned the name Upper Volta in 1984 and became Burkina Faso. The name fused linguistic elements from the country’s various languages: Burkina means “free man” in the Mooré language, and Faso means “land” in Dyula.