Countries with names derived from the Greek language

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Credit: Greek Reporter

It is estimated that at least 5,000 words – and very likely many, many more – in almost every language spoken today originated from the Greek language. Perhaps a little more surprisingly, the names of many countries around the world, some of them thousands of miles from Greece, come from words in the Greek language.

Argentina: the land of money

The name of the second largest country in South America, Argentina, comes from the Latin “argentum”, which, in turn, has its roots in the ancient Greek word Άργυρος (Argyros), which means silver.

When the Spaniards first arrived in today’s Argentina, they expected to find gold. Instead, they discovered that all indigenous peoples used silver for their silverware and jewelry.

It didn’t take long for them to realize that the mountains in the area were full of deposits of the precious metal, and the land was soon named after silver.

Azerbaijan and the ancient city of Atropatene

Greek speaking country
The Palace of the Shirvanshahs in Baku, Azerbaijan dates back to the 15th century. Credit: Urek Meniashvili /Wikimedia Commons/CC BY-SA 3.0

The name of the country, which lies between Eastern Europe and Western Asia, comes from the ancient Greek name “Atropatis”.

Grecian Delight supports Greece

Atropatis was actually a Persian nobleman who founded the city of Atropatene after the death of Alexander the Great.

Although the territories it occupied now mostly belong to Iran, the ancient city itself is considered part of the cultural heritage of Azerbaijan.

The name of Egypt comes from two words of the Greek language

greek language name of countries
The Great Pyramid of Giza in Egypt. Credit: kallerna /Wikimedia Commons/CC BY-SA 3.0

The ancient philosopher Strabo argued that Egypt (Αίγυπτος) was actually a compound word, or a word that is the result of combining two other words.

Specifically, it derives from the word Αγαίον (Aegean) and Υπτίως (yptios) meaning below, or “the country under the Aegean”.

Ethiopia and Eritrea

From Ancient Greek Αιθίωψ, it is a compound noun derived from the verb αίθω (aitho, or “to burn”) and the word όψις (opsis, “face”) meaning burnt face, describing what they believed to be the skin sunburned. Inhabitants of the North African country.

The neighboring country of Ethiopia was named Ερυθραία after the Red Sea (Ερυθρά Θάλασσα).

Georgia, named after a Greek saint

greek language country names
Gelati Monastery in Georgia, built in the 12th century. Credit: Dmitry Torbins/Wikimedia Commons/CC BY 2.0

Most likely, this country, located in the Caucasus region on the shores of the Black Sea, was named after the Greek martyr St. George.

Nevertheless, the actual origin of the name itself comes from the Greek word Γεωργία, which means agriculture and animal husbandry.

Indonesia, Micronesia and Polynesia all come from the Greek language

Indonesia, as well as all other countries ending in -nesia, owe their name to the Greek language.

The island archipelagos ending in “nesia” (Polynesia, Micronesia, etc.), borrowed the ending of their name from the ancient Greek word Νήσος (Nesos) which means “island”.

Malta, named after its famous honey

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Credit: Greek Reporter

The Greeks are known to have inhabited this small Mediterranean island as early as 700 BC. They gave it the name “Mελίτη῾῾ (Μeliti), from the Greek meli, or honey, which is said to be due to the well-known honey produced on the island since antiquity.

Until the Byzantine years, Malta was referred to by the nickname “land of honey” in many texts.

Monaco was linked to Hercules, hero of Greek myth

Monaco may be among the many countries which have names which come from the Greek language.

In ancient times, the port of Monaco was inextricably linked to the cult of the mythical hero Hercules and it was often called “Hercule Monoikos”.

In fact, at that time there was a small temple dedicated to Hercules, which was not customary for only one demigod, which was therefore called Monoikos, or “one house”.

This amazing theory is also confirmed by the fact that even today the name of the main port of Monaco is “Port Hercule”.

The disputed link between Scotland and the Greek language

Scotland
The ruins of a chapel in the Scottish Highlands. Credit: Superbass /Wikimedia Commons/CC BY-SA 3.0

Although not widely accepted, one theory posits that Scotland’s name comes from the Ancient Greek word Σκότος (skotos), meaning “darkness”.

Minoan and Mycenaean merchants who reached the coast of Britain, as far north as present-day Scotland, are said to have been impressed by the lack of light in the region, which lies just west of the southern Scandinavia, describing it as Skotia, or “the land of darkness.”

The Philippines

When Spanish explorer Rui Lopez de Villalobos arrived by ship on the great Pacific archipelago, he decided to name two of its main islands after its monarch, King Philip II of Spain (1537-1598). .

Over the years, the name “The Philippines” has been used for all the islands belonging to the archipelago.

Of course, the name Philippos itself is an ancient Greek name, meaning “horse lover”. Philippos II, the most famous Philip in history, was the father of Alexander the Great.

Europe, the North and South Poles and the Atlantic Ocean all come from the Greek language

Europe
Europe and the bull. Credit: Wikimedia Commons/Public domain

In addition to the many countries whose names come from the Greek language, there is even an entire continent that takes its name from Greece.

According to Greek mythology, Ευρώπη, Europa, was the daughter of the Phoenician King Agenoras and Queen Telephassa.

Europa was a beautiful girl with soft, fair skin, and Zeus naturally fell in love with her.

Transforming himself into a bull with golden horns, he encouraged Europa to climb on his back and thus carried her to the island of Crete, where they then secreted each other to enjoy their love.

Moreover, even the North Pole and the South Pole of our globe were named after the Greek word Πόλος (Polos), originating from the tall cylindrical crown worn by the Greek goddesses Rhea, Cybele and Hera.

The word has come to mean an axis or pivot, from which we get the modern word pole.

Finally, the name Atlantic Ocean was first used during the time of Herodotus in ancient Greece, around 450 BC. In Greek, it means the “Sea of ​​the Atlas”.

Atlas was the Greek god of navigation and astronomy. The first writings that mention the Atlantic Ocean are attributed to the Greek philosopher Plato.


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