Posted by: Jack Henry | November 19, 2019

Editor’s Corner: Place Names

As we move further away from summer (okay, it was a sweltering 90 degrees here yesterday), I thought place names might be a good topic to look at today, since some of the photos that go with this information are very “vacationy” and make me want to visit all these places.

This information is from an article called the Surprising Stories Behind 50 Country Names. I picked five stories because of the space needed for photos, and also because some of the stories are not really very surprising. 😊

Here are the winners of the day (the photo of each follows the place name and description):


This Caribbean island is long and thin, and its shape most likely prompted somebody — Christopher Columbus, according to some theories, but more probably French explorers — to name it for the eel, “anguilla” in Italian, “anguila” in Spanish, and “anguille” in French.


This Caribbean island takes its name from the Portuguese phrase “os barbados,” the bearded ones, most likely a reference to the bearded fig tree (Ficus citrifolia) that grows all over the island and has long hanging roots thought to resemble facial hair. (The tree is depicted on the Barbados coat of arms.)


Portuguese explorers in the 16th century called this West African region’s principle river Rio dos Camarões, or river of shrimp, for the abundance of those crustaceans found there. That name evolved into Cameroon. (The river is now called the Wouri.)


How did this ice-covered island end up getting called Greenland? It apparently got the name Grønland (Greenland in Norwegian) from the Norwegian adventurer Erik Thorvaldsson, better known as Erik the Red, in 985 A.D. The popular explanation is that he dubbed it that as a public relations measure, to encourage colonization. Ice core and mollusk shell data, however, indicate that between 800 and 1300 A.D., island temperatures were considerably warmer than they are today, so maybe he was simply reacting to a verdant landscape that has long since disappeared.


This Central American country takes its name from the Spanish word “hondura,” meaning depth, for the deep anchorage in the Bay of Trujillo off the northern coast.

Wherever you are, I hope you have a great day!

Kara Church

Technical Editor, Advisory

Symitar Documentation Services

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