Special Report

The Surprising Stories Behind 50 Country Names

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36. Malawi
> Population: 18.1 million

The meaning of Malawi, a landlocked African nation, is the from indigenous people name for “fire flames.” That image can be seen on the nation’s flag, showing a bright red sun on the horizon.

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37. Senegal
> Population: 15.9 million

Senegal takes its name from the river on its northern and eastern borders that creates the boundary with Mauritania and Mali. The etymology of the name is from the local term “sunugal,” meaning “our dugout canoe.”

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38. Zimbabwe
> Population: 14.4 million

Zimbabwe, called Rhodesia in colonial times, is named after Great Zimbabwe, a capital city built of stone that existed from the 12th to the 15th centuries. The name itself is believed to come from “dzimba dza mabwe” (great stone houses) or “dzimba waye” (esteemed houses).

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39. Argentina
> Population: 44.5 million

Argentina is derived from the Latin word for silver. The root of the name, arg, means “to shine” or “white.” Silver — a bright, shiny metal — is a commodity the Spanish thought they would find there.

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40. Chile
> Population: 18.7 million

The most commonly accepted explanation for the name of Chile, the longest country on the planet with a coastline about 2,700 miles, is that it comes from the indigenous Aymará word “chilli” meaning “the land where the earth ends.”