Special Report

17 Countries That Have Changed Their Names

Cabo Verde
> Former name: Cape Verde
> Year changed: 2013

In 2013, this West African island country officially changed its English name, Cape Verde, to the Portuguese equivalent, Cabo Verde. (The Portuguese first colonized the archipelago in 1462 with the intention of using the islands as a base to give their sailors access to West African trade – including the trade in slaves.) In either spelling, the country takes its name from the Cap-Vert, meaning “green cape,” a verdant Senegalese promontory to the east of the islands – which in fact the Portuguese had dubbed Cabo Verde when they discovered it in 1444.

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> Former name: Czech Republic
> Year changed: 2016

The Czech Republic came into being after the dissolution of Czechoslovakia at the end of 1992 led to the creation of the Czech Republic and the Republic of Slovakia. The former nation’s leaders opted to change the name to Czechia in April 2016 because they believed the other name was too long to draw international attention and lure foreign investment.

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> Former name: Swaziland
> Year changed: 2018

To mark the 50th anniversary of its independence from Great Britain, King Mswati III turned Swaziland into Eswatini (sometimes rendered eSwatini), a move that some citizens objected to, as he never consulted anyone on the change. Both names are taken from the indigenous Swazi people (themselves named for an early ruler), though the new name is in the Swazi language. As is the case with some other name changes in Africa, the move was intended to distance the tiny southeastern African nation from its colonial past. It has also been suggested that Mswati wanted to avoid the possibility of his country being confused with Switzerland.

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North Macedonia
> Former name: Macedonia
> Year changed: 2019

Politics in the Balkans can be confusing and volatile, and Macedonia’s name change to North Macedonia underscored that reality. Macedonia was one of the six republics that made up Yugoslavia, and it kept the name following that country’s breakup in 1991. That caused problems with neighboring Greece, which has a historic region in the northern part of the country also called Macedonia. The dispute complicated the newly created Balkan country’s entry into NATO, which the alliance sought for stability in the Balkans. Greece dropped its opposition when Macedonia agreed to the clarifying name change in 2019.

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> Former name: Burma
> Year changed: 2019

For many years, the outside world called this Southeastern Asian nation Burma, after the majority Burman ethnic group. In 1989, following a military coup, the ruling junta suddenly changed the nation’s name to Myanmar, an old name for the country, of uncertain etymology. Angered by the government’s suppressive tactics, the rest of the world continued to call the country Burma at first, and only began using the new name.

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