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Anyone interested in finding the etymology of the names of the countries that make up today's world, might probably be treated as a lunatic, since it is no easy a task and perhaps even utopian considering the diversity of countries that emerged in the 20th century and the lack of an updated bibliography.
However, in this historical piece of research not only the etymology of the names of the countries has been dealt with but also the explanation of the meaning of names of many islands and important cities in ancient times including the names they used to receive in the past.
Besides, a brief history of each country has been retold with the mere purpose of providing background information concerning mainly ancient times. Thus, the task of investigating recent history has been left on most of the cases in the hands of the reader, who, if curious enough, will surely find it in books or encyclopedias but not the meaning of the names of the countries. If you question this, you will then have to consult the book in your library to try to find it. If you are lucky enough, you will only get a reduced number of them. Nevertheless, you will be able to appreciate that some regions display a more extensive historical background because some details, tales or legends have been considered of interest.
The aim of this publication is to let the reader know about the origin of the names of countries and also of some islands belonging to them. The so-called toponyms (from the Greek "Topos", "Place", and "Ónoma", "Name") have the function of naming places and geographical areas, but their connotations usually go beyond this.
Although this task may at first be judged to be simple, it presents many complications. Firstly, there is no book - or at least I have not come across one myself - which contains the origin of the names of all the countries and many of theirs islands. That is why the data-collecting procedure required long hours of intensive research from varied sources of information. Secondly, the reader will on many occasions find more than one possible origin. This is so because as time went by, track has been lost of the real origins, legends or just the interpretation authors have given some tales which change the origin of the names of some countries considerably. I thought it unfair to exclude any meaning however odd it may appear to be. All the possible origins of a name can be found, but it is up to you to choose the one that sounds more convincing.
The origin of the names of continents has also been added. Although these are not countries, they are important enough so as to try to shed some light on the possible origin of their names.
If the reader has some other version different from the ones presented in the text, you are kindly invited to send it to the website that appears on the covers of the book. They will be most certainly included in future editions under condition that they are well-founded through a verifiable source of information.
Before beginning, I would like to clarify two issues in connection with the word "Discover". In the regions where this word is mentioned (such as in countries of America, Africa, Asia and the like) it has to be made clear that they were not discovered by Europeans. It was the aboriginal inhabitants of each region who were really the discoverers of these latitudes. Besides, the Europeans of those times considered they had discovered them because they had an "Eurocentric" concept and that the history of those regions dated back to the time of their European "discovery".
As a matter of fact, they were in charge of doing away with a culture and civilization that had lasted for thousand of years until the conquerors arrived to "evangelize" with their slave system and expropriation of everything they thought useful. In the lands they reached they left - apart from slavery - death, diseases, abuses, authoritarianism and despotism.
Lastly, I have to mention that although the countries have been ordered alphabetically and at the same time grouped by continent, historians and geographers do not seem to come to an agreement on how to separate some countries of Europe and Asia. Namely, countries such as Turkey, Armenia, or even Russia are a bone of contention. The same applies to boundaries between Asia and Oceania. For example, the isle of New Guinea has remained divided by both continents. That is why I kindly ask the reader to accept the classification done in this book, although you might not agree with it.

Edgardo Daniel Otero

El Origen de los nombres de todos los países del mundo (y de muchas de las islas que éstos poseen)
Translated from Spanish to English by
Gabriel Mohr, English Teacher
E D G A R D O   O T E R O   -   2003