• Alysa Salzberg

Why are some countries’ names different in different languages?

When dreaming of far-off places, one thing you may have noticed is that many countries’ names differ across languages, sometimes in significant ways. For instance, the country we call “Hungary” in English is “Magyarország” in Hungarian.


A recent article explains why this is.


Sometimes it's simply due to places being referred to by different tribes or groups that once lived there. Germany, for example, is called “Deutschland” in German, which translates to “the land of [our] people.” Its English name comes from a tribe that resided there. In many romance languages, another tribe, the Alemanni, gives Germany its name.


Other countries’ names have changed (quite) a bit due to their sounds being deformed by speakers of other languages.


Interestingly, the phenomenon of countries having different names is so common that there’s a word for the name the people of a particular country give it – an endonym, and a word for the name people abroad give to a country – an exonym.


Read on to learn more about the fascinating evolution of countries’ names around the world.



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