7 Countries With Interesting Stories Behind Their Original Names

A lot of countries in the world were known by different names when they were born. Some changed their names after attaining freedom, while others simply moved to a better name. But places changing their names isn’t entirely uncommon. In India itself, several cities have had new names. Mumbai was once known as Bombay, Bengaluru was once called Bangalore and so on. All of these have some fascinating stories behind them. Read on as we take a look at some countries around the globe that were known differently back in the day and the stories behind them.

1. Democratic Republic of Congo was earlier known as Zaire.

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The Democratic Republic of Congo has had several names. In chronological order, it was called Congo Free State, Belgian Congo, Republic of the Congo, Republic of Zaire and Democratic Republic of Congo yet again. From 1971-1997, the country was known as Zaire, but after the fall of dictator Mobutu Seso Seko in 1997, it was changed to the Democratic Republic of Congo by former president Laurent Kabila. Interestingly, in 1992, the sovereign national conference had voted to change the country’s name, but that came into effect only in 1997.

2. Sri Lanka was earlier known as Ceylon

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From 1815 to 1948, this little island was called Ceylon under the rule of the British. The name Sri Lanka was introduced with respect to the Sri Lankan Independence Movement, but was officially adopted as its name after the new constitution came into practice in 1972. In the constitution of 1978, the name was changed to Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka.

3. Myanmar was once called Burma.

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There were two reasons the Burmese commission decided to replace the English name Burma with Myanmar. First, Myanma is the official name of the country in the Burmese language and the commission wanted names aligned with Burmese places, names and pronunciation. Second, they thought that the name Myanma was more inclusive of minorities. It is important to note that the ‘r’ in ‘Myanmar’ was added later to represent the low tone of Burmese.

4. Once upon a time, Japan was known as Nippon to the rest of the world.

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In fact, it is still known so within the country. Nippon and Nihon have been popular names for Japan. The words literally mean the sun’s origin, which is often translated as the Land of the Rising Sun. This nomenclature comes from Imperial correspondence with the Chinese Sui Dynasty, and refers to Japan’s eastern position relative to China. The word ‘Japan’ came into use when the early trade began.

 

 

5. Malaysia was known as Malay back in the day.

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Malaysia was part of the Malay Kingdom, and hence its name. The name ‘Malaysia’ was adopted in 1963 when the existing states of the Federation of Malaya, that included Singapore, North Borneo and Sarawak, formed a new federation.

6. Until 1939, Thailand was called Siam.

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Until 1939, Thailand was known as Siam. Later it was decided that a better name was needed as ‘Siam’ in Thai meant dark or brown. Thus, the name was changed to Thailand, meaning freedom land or the land of the free.

7. India was referred to as Hindustan.

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Prior to 1947, India was known as Hindustan, a Persian word that meant the land of the Hindus. It referred to a region that consisted of northern India and modern day Pakistan, although, it is occasionally used to solely denote India in its entirety. The Republic of India has two principal names in both official and popular usage – India and Bharat – although the usage of all three names (Bharat, Hindustan or India) is dependent on the context and language of conversation.

 

 

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