Did you know that countries have different names depending on who's doing the calling? In this post, we'll discuss these different names and some of their interesting meanings!

We generally call this European country on the Iberian Peninsula Spain, but the Spanish people call their country España or, to be precise, Reino de España.

The name of another European is Germany to most non-Germans, but to its own people the name is Deutschland or, to be precise, Bundesrepublik Deutschland.

An exonym is the name foreigners have for a country. The name locals have for their country is called an endonym. Because English is the most commonly spoken language in the world, we generally use English exonyms.

Brazil, China, Italy are all English exonyms. Their endonyms are, respectively, Brasil, Zhōngguó, and Italia. If you want to discover more endonyms, check this Endonym Map.

Literal meanings of country names

What makes learning about exonyms even more interesting is discovering the literal meaning of country's names! People name their countries for different reasons, such as history, myth and legend, climate, and geography.


United States of America simply means "United States of America," but Canada, for instance, means "The Village." Spain means "Land of Many Rabbits," while Germany means "Land of the People."

Here's a list of the more interesting literal meanings of country names all over the world.

1. France - "Land of the Fierce." It takes its name from a powerful tribe that used to occupy the country.

2. Italy - "Sons of the Bull." The bull here is either a bull god or bull king. There's a legend of a calf escaping from a herd that Hercules was bringing to Argos.

3. Japan - "Land of the Rising Sun." Japan's real name, Nihon, translates to "sun origin." Nihon indicates the direction of Japan with respect to China. That is, if you're in China, Japan is in the east!

4. Myanmar - "Swift and Strong." In their native language, Myan means "swift" and ma means "strong." These are two words that describe the country's people.

5. Mali - "Hippopotamus." The name came from the Mali Empire, which was named after the hippopotamus. It's also Mali's national animal!

You can check this Literal World Map for more country names and their literal meanings.

What does your country's name mean?

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