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Top etymologies of country subdivision names: All

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Oct 21 2010
1 Batavia (Germanic): "arable land" (derived from the regional name "Betuwe", as opposed to the other regional name "Veluwe" meaning "fallow" or "waste" land). Alternatively: the people known as the Batavians (Latin: Batavi) inhabited the island of Betawe between the Waal and the Rhine. The name of the island probably derives from batawjō ("good island", from Germanic bat- "good, excellent" and awjō - "island, land near water"), referring to the region's fertility. 48778
2 Sparta: from Greek Σπάρτη spartē, a cord or rope made from the shrub spartos, a type of broom 15403
3 Delhi: according to one theory: city of the Goddess Dhilika. The area had seven temples of Yoginis or Goddesses in the area, the highest dedicated to the Goddess Dhillika. Compare Dhillika. 14196
4 Amsterdam: from Amstelredam, which means "dam over the Amstel" (the river Amstel flows through present-day Amsterdam) 14170
5 Greenland (): from Old Norse Grœnland, literally, "green land"; so named by Erik the Red to induce settlement there. Greenlandic-speakers use the name Kalaallit Nunaat, meaning "Land of the Greenlanders" 12398
6 Sicily: island settled by the Sicels 9121
7 Kuala Lumpur - Malay: "muddy confluence", a reference to the founding of the city at the confluence of Gombak River and Klang River 9096
8 Prussia (German: Preußen) — (at times historically connected with Germany or with parts thereof): from the people known as the Prussians, a grouping of western Balt peoples whose collective name (German: Prussen or anciently Pruzzen) may possibly derive from an Indo-European root meaning "swamp": see Prussian people; for political reasons, the electors of Brandenburg decided to name themselves kings of Prussia in the 18th century; in this way, they transferred the name of the remote eastern region to a major German state 8554
9 Faroe Islands (, ) - literally, "Sheep Islands", from their dense population of sheep. Another theory suggests that the lexeme fár- / fær- instead derives from Celtic and means "distant". 7883
10 Copenhagen () - a corruption of the original designation for the city, Købmandshavn, or "Merchants' Harbour" in Danish. It comes to English via the German Kopenhagen. 7648
11 Siberia: from a Tatar word meaning "sleeping land" 7376
12 Transylvania - "beyond the woods" 6818
13 Holland (part of the Netherlands; but the term often refers to the country as a whole): Germanic "holt (i.e. wooded) land" (often incorrectly regarded as meaning "hollow [link] land") 6672
14 Azores: from Açores (pl.), after the "açor", a type of bird 6475
15 Catalonia: from the castlà ("castellan") class who governed the nascent feudal Catalonia from their castles in the 11th and 12th centuries. (Compare the etymology of "Castile".) Other parallel theories exist: Lafont (1986) says Catalunya could come from Arabic Qalat-uniyya (Qalat means "castle" and -uniyya operates as a collective suffix) because medieval Catalonha formed a border country with a lot of castles in front of the Muslim and Arabized zone of the Iberic peninsula. Some texts suggest that the name Catalunya derives from "Gauta-landia": land of the Goths, or "Goth-Alania" meaning "Land of the Goths and Alans" through Arabian *Cotelanuyya [link], as the Visigoths and Alans invaded and divided Iberia between themselves, agreeing to rule some parts together, with the region of Catalunya going to the Visigoths. Additionally, the Visigothic kingdom of Catalonia may have taken its name from that of the original homeland of the Visigoths, "Gotland". Coromines suggests an Iberian origin: Laietani (latinization of Iberian laiezken) > *laketani > laketans > metathesized as catelans > catalans, re-inforced by castellani (with an epenthetic s according to Coromines). Another theory suggests *kaste-lan as the Iberian name, later Latinized as castellani (an Iberian tribe in northern Catalonia according to Ptolemy); then the name would have evolved into *catellani > *catelans > *catalans. 6284
16 Helsinki: The Swedish name ( or ) represents the original official name of the city of Helsinki (in the very beginning, in the form 'Hellssingeforss'). The Finnish language form of the city's name probably originates from 'Helsinga' and similar names used for the river currently known as Vantaanjoki, as documented as early as the 14th century. Helsinki (pronounced with the stress on the first syllable: ), refers to the city in all languages except Swedish and Norwegian. Helsingfors comes from the name of the surrounding parish, Helsinge (source for Finnish Helsinki) and the rapids (in Swedish: fors), which flowed through the original village. The name Helsinge possibly originated with medieval Swedish settlers who came from Hälsingland in Sweden. Another possible derivation looks to the Swedish word hals (neck), referring to the narrowest part of the river, i.e. the rapids. 6030
17 Jakarta: from the Javanese words jaya (meaning "victory") and karta (meaning "city"), which make up the phrase "the city of victory"; this refers to the victory of Prince Pati Unus (also known as Fatahillah) of the Demak Sultanate in his campaign to defeat the rival Malakka Sultanate of the Malay peninsula and Samudera Pasai Sultanate of Aceh region in the mid-16th century. The "city of victory" also refers to the event of Indonesian Proclamation of Independence on 17 August 1945 which took place in the city. (In some cases jaya also means "glory", which reflects the pride of the residents of the city in the sttaus of their city as a special territory province and as the capital of Indonesia.) 6013
18 Andalusia: from the Arabic name (Al-Andalus, with several suggested etymologies) formerly applied to the whole Iberian Peninsula 5607
19 City of Kiev: ancient name (Ukrainian: Kyiv). Myth/legend tells of a founder named Kyi 5500
20 Bohemia: from the Celtic tribe Boii, former inhabitants of the territory. The two possible derivations for the name of the tribe both presuppose that it belongs to the family of Indo-European languages: from roots meaning "cow" or "warrior". This describes the Boii accordingly as either "the herding people" or "the warrior people". 5093
21 Corsica (Corse) - possibly from the Phoenician Korsai, which means something like "forest-covered" 5062
22 Brittany (Bretagne) - area occupied by refugee Britons from Roman Britain (Britannia) circa 500 AD 4972
23 Basel: traditionally associated with the Greek basileus ("king") or basileos ("of the king"): the city saw itself as preserving the Imperial Roman heritage of its parent settlement, the Roman town of Augusta Raurica. Note the use of the basilisk as a Basler icon.<!-- which came first: the etymology of the name or the heraldic pun? --> 4952
24 Sardinia: speculatively linked with the Shardana people and/or with Sardis 4661
25 Taipei: "northern Taiwan" in Mandarin 4343
26 Normandy (Normandie) - land settled by Viking Northmen in the early 10th century 4245
27 Chechnya: the Russian ethnonym Chechen probably derives from the name of the ancient village of Chechana or Chechen-aul. The village stands on the bank of the Argun River, near Grozny. Another theory derives the name from chechenit' sya, "to talk mincingly". Vasmer suggests a Kabardian origin: šešen. The native term, Noxçi, comes from nexça (sheep cheese), nox (plow) or from the prophet Noah (Nox in Chechen). 4176
28 Rotterdam: meaning 'dam over the Rotte' (the river Rotte flows through present-day Rotterdam) 3847
29 Madeira: "wood" 3777
30 Christmas Island: named on 25 December (Christmas Day), 1643, by Captain William Mynors of the British East India Company 3255
31 Alsace - from Latin Alsatia, a Latinised form of the Germanic name that also yields Old High German El-sasz, allegedly meaning "foreign settlement" (according to the OED article on "Alsatia" {{cite book 3177
32 Norfolk Island (Norfuk: Norfuk Ailen): discovered and named by James Cook (1774) either for the Duke of Norfolk 2826
33 Sumatra: from Ibn Battuta's 14th-century pronunciation of the name of the Samudra Kingdom (13th to 15th centuries CE) 2811
34 Volgograd: Russian for "city of the Volga" or "Volga city" 2803
35 Vladivostok: Russian for "ruler of the East" or "rule the East" 2801
36 Northern Territory: territory in north-central Australia 2705
37 Malacca - named by the founder of Malacca, Parameswara, after the Melaka tree under which he sheltered 2700
38 Lombardy: from the Germanic tribe of the Lombards (literally "long-beards" or "long-bearded axe people", or, according to another theory, "long-halberds"), who invaded Italy in the 6th century. Note: After the Lombard invasion, the name "Longobardia" or "Langobardia" applied to the whole of Italy for about two centuries, throughout Europe and also in Arabic (al-Ankubardiya). The name Italia did not return into wide use until the late 8th century 2693
39 Asturias: the land of the Astures, an early people of north-west Spain 2675
40 Sindh - from "Sindhu," the Sanskrit name for the Indus River 2596
41 Chandigarh: "Chandi's fort". No actual fort ever existed; a large Chandi temple "protected" the locals, hence the name. The goddess Chandi appears as a form of the goddess Kali or of Parvati. 2550
42 Provence - from Latin provincia (province), short for Provincia Narbonensis, the Roman province located in present-day southern France. 2531
43 Penang - named after the Pinang tree 2522
44 Puducherry: Pudu + cheri, from the Tamil words for "new" and "settlement" or "camp". Formerly a French colony: Pondicherry. 2481
45 Basque Country (): from the ancient tribe of the Vascones, whose name became an ethnonym in the Middle Ages. The Basque name derives from Euskara (the autochthonous name for the Basque language). 2399
46 Aragon: from the Aragon River, that gave its name to the county of Aragon, one of the little Christian polities that resisted Islamic rule in Spain during its greatest extent (see Reconquista) 2355
47 Ulster: Ulaidh in Irish. From the Irish Ulaid people, whose name probably comes from Old Irish ul, "beard", and old Norse staðr, meaning place or territory. 2220
48 Punjab - from the Persian for "Land of Five Rivers" in Central Pakistan 2202
49 Arcadia: from Arcas, the legendary eponymous leader of early Hellenic settlers 2140
50 Silesia - from the holy Silesian mountain of Ślęża 1965
51 Dagestan: the word Daghestan or Daghistan (; Arabic and ) means "country of mountains"; it derives from the Turkic word dağ, meaning "mountain" and the Persian suffix -stan meaning "land of". The spelling Dagestan transliterates the Russian name, which lacks the voiced velar fricative. 1869
52 Sakhalin: derived from misinterpretation of a Manchu name "sahaliyan ula angga hada" (peak of the mouth of the Amur River). "Sahaliyan" means "black" in Manchu and refers to the Amur River (sahaliyan ula). 1862
53 Cocos (Keeling) Islands: 1796
54 Moravia (Czech Morava): from the river "Morava" 1792
55 Kaliningrad Oblast: from the Russian name Kaliningrad (Kalinin-city) of its largest city, re-named in 1946 to commemnorate Mikhail Kalinin 1740
56 Novosibirsk: roughly means "new Siberian city" 1732
57 Navarre (Spanish: Navarra, Basque: Nafarroa): from the Kingdom of Navarre. Navarra has been argued to have either a Basque or Romance etymology. In the first case it would come from nabar ("brownish, multicolor", also "plowshare"), in the second from nava ("river bank"). 1669
58 Wallachia - "land of the Romance-speaking people" 1659
59 Campania: from the Latin campania (countryside, plain, battlefield). Compare Champagne in France. 1631
60 Novaya Zemlya: Russian for "new land" 1593
61 Lakshadweep: "Hundred Thousand Islands". In Sanskrit, laksha means "a hundred thousand" and dweep means "island". 1590
62 Andaman Islands: From the name of the Hindu God Hanuman (Hanumant) 1589
63 Balochistan - Land of the indigenous Balochi people of the Makran that straddles south-east Iran and south-west Pakistan 1584
64 Selangor - possibly from the Malay selangau ("fly") due to the abundance of flies along the Selangor River 1558
65 KwaZulu-Natal: a combination of the names of the two entities that merged to form the modern province: 1457
66 Aceh: From the words a meaning "not" and cheh meaning "broken", refers to the strength of unity of the people of the area. 1431
67 Langkawi - Malay for "eagle island", but possibly related to Langkasuka, an ancient Hindu kingdom founded in Kedah in the 1st century CE 1349
68 Jutland (; ) - name associated with the Jutes 1335
69 Gauteng: The Sesotho name for the province's and country's largest city of Johannesburg. The literal meaning, "Place of Gold", refers to the area's large gold-mining industry. 1291
70 Swabia (German: Schwaben or Schwabenland): after the tribe of the Suebi whose name may come from Proto-Germanic *swēbaz based on the Proto-Germanic root *swē- meaning "one's own" [link], 1237
71 City of Sevastopol: (1783) Greek "highly respectable city, august city"; see Sevastopol: "Etymology" 1221
72 Shikoku: literally "four provinces" in Japanese, referring to the four former provinces on the island: Awa, Tosa, Sanuki and Iyo 1209
73 Zealand () - literally "sea-land" or "the land in the sea" from Old Norse "Selund" and Old Danish "Sialand". A highly speculative alternative interpretation postulates an origin from *Selha-undi, "seal". 1183
74 Cantabria: from the Cantabri, a mountain people defeated by the Romans only after a great military effort (Cantabrian Wars, 29 - 19 BC). Celtologists have suggested a derivation from the Celtic root cant-, meaning "rock" or "stone", and from the suffix -abr, used frequently in Celtic regions. From this we can deduce that the word "cantabrus" means "dwelling in the mountains", referring to the rugged terrain of Cantabria. Another suggestion derives Cantabria from the Celtic Kant ("mountain" or "rock") and Iber (the river Ebro), thus "The Mountains of the Ebro". Spaniards also call this region La Montaña ("The Mountain"), but usually call the Bay of Biscay the Cantabrian Sea. 1183
75 Johor - from Arabic jauhar, or "precious stones" 1173
76 Munster: Mhumhain in Irish. From the Gaelic goddess Muman and the old Norse staðr, meaning place or territory 1165
77 Bandung: from the word bendungan (dam), referring to the dam near the Citarum River near Bandung, left unfinished according to the myth of Tangkuban Perahu mountain 1159
78 Kaohsiung: "bamboo forest" in a Formosan language 1158
79 Pomerania - "along the sea" 1132
80 Savoy - of unknown origin, but dating to the days of the Kingdom of Burgundy 1120
81 Algarve: meaning "country to the west" (of the Guadiana River), from the Arab "Al-Gharb" 1118
82 Surabaya: sura means "shark" and baya means "crocodile". The name came from myths or legends of a battle between Sura and Baya in the Surabaya River. 1110
83 Heard Island and McDonald Islands: 1106
84 Ticino: from the principal river of the canton, the Ticino, a tributary of the Po River. 1079
85 Gotland: land of the Gutar 1055
86 Bessarabia - from Basarab I, Wallachian prince who led some expeditions in this land 1046
87 Macedonia, from Greek mak- (long, tall) - 'highland'. 1042
88 Kuching - Malay: "cat", but probably a corruption of the Indian cochin ("port") or a reference to the mata kucing trees that used to proliferate where the city grew subsequently 1037
89 Orange Free State: the Free State operated as an independent country (Free State) during most of the 19th century. The adjective Orange came from the Orange River to the south/south-west of the province, in turn named in 1779 by Robert Jacob Gordon (1743–1795), commander of the Cape Colony garrison (1780–1795), in honour of the Dutch House of Orange-Nassau. 1011
90 Marche: literally. "marches", "borderlands". In the Middle Ages the region lay on the boundaries between imperial lands and the more independent areas of southern Italy. The March of Ancona became the best known of such marches 1002
91 Valais (French), Wallis (German): from the Latin word vallis, meaning "valley"; the canton consists mainly of the Rhone valley. 995
92 Extremadura: from Medieval Latin Extrema Dorii (literally, "extremes of the Douro river"), referring to the territories south of the Douro basin; or from an Old Castilian word used to designate the further territories controlled by the Christians (see Reconquista) 974
93 Putrajaya - Malay: literally: "the son's victory"; but taken to mean "princely excellence". Named after the first Prime Minister of Malaysia, Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra, possibly with reference to the planned city's status as the new administration centre for the Federal Government 965
94 Amur River: Amur comes from the Tungus amor for "great or big river". 940
95 Connacht: Connachta in Irish. "Descendants of Conn." From the Irish Connachta people, who all claimed descent from the High King Conn Cétchathach, Conn of the Hundred Battles. 879
96 Grozny or Groznyy: Russian for "stern" or "severe" (as the adjective describing a fort) 868
97 Perak - Malay: "silver", from the silvery colour of tin for which the area became famous; or possibly from the "glimmer of fish in the water" 845
98 Negeri Sembilan - Malay: "nine states", a reference to the nine original districts (or nagari) settled by the Minangkabau 839
99 Meath: Mide in Irish. "Middle" in Old Irish. No longer a province of Ireland. 833
100 Kelantan - said to be a corruption of gelam hutan, the Malay name for the Melaleuca leucadendron tree, also possibly derived from kilatan ("lightning") 826
101 Bukovina - (in German: "Buchenland")="beech land" 822
102 Languedoc - the region speaking the langue d'oc (as opposed to the regions whose language (langue d'oïl) developed into modern French) 821
103 Franconia (German: Franken): from the traditional designation "Franks", referring especially to the Kingdom of the East Franks. The name refers to those areas east of the Rhine that were first occupied by the Franks, as opposed to areas that were held by the Swabians, Bavarians or Saxons. The ethnonym "Frank" has sometimes been traced to the Latin francisca (from the Germanic *frankon, akin to the Old English franca), meaning "javelin". While the throwing-axe of the Franks is known as the francisca, the weapon conversely may have taken its name from the tribe. 816
104 Bern: German Bär [link]n (bears): reflected in the capital city's bear-pits, foundation-legend and coat-of-arms 813
105 Leinster: Laighin in Irish. From the Irish Laigin people, named after láigne, the broad blue-grey iron spearheads they carried, and Old Norse staðr, meaning place or territory 807
106 Burgundy (Bourgogne) - part of the land settled by the East Germanic Burgundians, who possibly originated on the island now known as Bornholm. Speakers of Old Norse knew the island as Borgundarholm, and in ancient Danish especially the island's name appears as Borghand or Borghund; these names relate to Old Norse borg "height" and bjarg/berg "mountain, rock", as the island rises high from the sea. Other names known for the island include Burgendaland (9th century), Hulmo / Holmus (Adam of Bremen), Burgundehulm (1145), and Borghandæholm (14th century). Alfred the Great uses the form Burgenda land. Some scholars believe that the Burgundians take their name from the island of Bornholm; they comprised a Germanic tribe which moved west when the western Roman Empire collapsed, and occupied and named Burgundy in France in the 5th century CE. 796
107 Eastern Cape, Northern Cape, Western Cape: from the Cape of Good Hope, the site of the first European settlement in today's South Africa, which would give its name to Cape Town, Cape Colony, and the former Cape Province, of which each of the three named provinces originally formed a part. 752
108 Latium (in modern Italian: Lazio): land of the early Italic inhabitants known as Latins, in their turn popularly associated with the mythological King Latinus [link]. Ovid hints at perhaps a slightly more sophisticated folk etymology, with a legend of the naming of Latium after Saturn latente deo (as a god in hiding) after he allegedly fled to Italy following his expulsion by Jupiter. - Modern linguists postulate origins in a Proto-Indo-European language (PIE) root *stela- (to spread, extend), expressing the idea of "flat land" (in contrast to the local Sabine high country). But the name may originate from an earlier, non Indo-European one. See the [link]. 725
109 Rioja: speculatively interpreted as "red" from the redness of a prominent soil type in the area. 702
110 Ipoh - named after the ipoh tree whose poisonous sap the Orang Asli used to coat their blowpipe darts with 685
111 Gascony (Gascogne) - from the Duchy of Vasconia (also Wasconia), itself derived from the ancient tribe of the Vascones. In Latin and Romance languages in medieval times, Vascones came to apply to all the Basque-speaking peoples. 674
112 Limpopo: the Limpopo River forms the province's and the country's most northern boundary. 674
113 New Britain - in honour of Great Britain. Originally named by William Dampier in the Latin form Nova Britannia; called Neu-Pommern (New Pomerania) during the period of German colonization until the conquest of the area by Australia in 1914 645
114 Basque Country (, ) - derived from the ancient tribe of the Vascones via the medieval Duchy of Vasconia and a County of Vasconia, split from it. The Basque name derives from Euskara (the autochthonous name of the Basque language). 641
115 Free State: the popular contraction of this province's historic predecessor, the Orange Free State. 621


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