Human settlements, villages, towns and cities named after a particular person are common: Jonestown
. So are places, even countries named after tribes or ethnic groups
Often a country or place will have a mythological founder, such as Romulus for Rome and Europa for Europe. These might be based on some historical kernel of truth, or they might not. We can't even be sure which came first: was the story made up to explain the name, or was the name taken from the story?
Rare are countries verifiably named after an actual historical person. Here is a short and possibly incomplete list1 of people2 with countries named after them:
America. The continents of North America and South America, and thereby the country of the United States of America are all named after the explorer Amerigo Vespucci (or possibly Richard Ameryk, AKA Richard Amerike, AKA Richard Ap Meryk).
- Angola seems not to be named after a person, but a title. The ruler of the Ndongo people was called the ngola a kiluanje, and the Portuguese explorers named the region after this.
- Bolivia is named for the liberator Simón Bolívar.
- China is named after the Jin dynasty (also spelled Chin), who united The three kingdoms in 280 A.D.
- Colombia is named for the explorer Christopher Columbus.
- El Salvador is arguably named after a biblical person, the saviour Jesus of Nazareth
- Israel is named for the biblical person Jacob: see Genesis 32:28 "And he said, Thy name shall be called no more Jacob, but Israel".
- Rhodesia was named for Cecil Rhodes, but it was not to last. When the colonial age ended, it became Zambia and Zimbabwe.
- The San Marino Republic is named for Saint Marinus. According to tradition, he was a stonecutter from Dalmatia who took refuge here in 301 A.D. He was canonised in 1085 A.D.
- Saudi Arabia is named after the house of Saud, and is ruled by the lineage descending from Muhammad ibn Saud.
I have given the islands their own section below, as there are lots of them, and most are tiny, even if they are self-governing. With these islands, the polical boundary coincides with the geographic area and thus keeps the name given by the explorer who claimed it.
- The island of Bermuda was named after explorer Juan Bermúdez (AKA Juan de Bermúdez), who discovered it circa 1515.
- The Cook Islands are named after Captain Cook.
- The Marshall Islands (which include Bikini Atoll), are named for Captain John Marshall, who stopped here in 1788.
- Mauritius (In French, Ile Maurice) is named after Prince Maurice of Nassau
- The Philippines are named after Crown Prince Philip II of Spain
- Pitcairn Island is named after a seaman. Philippe de Carteret gave it the name on July 2, 1767, after "the midshipman who first spied this rocky outcrop", one Robert Pitcairn. He is arguably the lowliest person in this list. But then his island, with a population of around 50 people in 1995, is not exactly North America.
- Saint Kitts and Nevis is a country of two islands, and is thus named for two saints: Kitts is a contraction of the name that Christopher Columbus gave it in 1493, San Cristobal, Saint Christopher. Note that the writeup there claims that he may just be a myth. Nevis is named, also by Columbus, for nuestra senora de las nieves, Our Lady of the Snows which refers to one of the aspects of Mary.
- Saint Lucia, the island, is named after St Lucia, the saint.
- Saint Vincent and the Grenadines is partly named for Saint Vincent.
- The Seychelles are named after Victomte Moreau de Séchelles, minister of finance to King Louis XV of France.
- The Solomon Islands are named, rather tenously, after the biblical King Solomon
- Wallis Island is named after the english navigator, Captain Samuel Wallis
US states are not exactly countries, but anyhow:
Provinces of other countries:
It seems that in order to have a country, state, continent, island or region named after you, you must either be an explorer, a monarch or other royalty, or a long-dead saint (or other religious figure).
The only exceptions are the businessmen, William Penn and Cecil Rhodes and the statesmen, Simón Bolívar and George Washington.
1) please /msg me if I missed some, etc.
2) There are debatable points, and gray areas between myth and ancient history. You will have to make your own decisions.
Thanks to haze, catchpole, heyoka, arieh, Monkfish, Harpsichord_fanatic, Txikwa, sekicho for the flood of information.