Mapped: The Literal Translation of Every Country’s Name
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These days, planes, trains, and automobiles can deliver us to any destination we can name. But how often can we say we know the origins of those names?
Today’s map comes to us courtesy of Credit Card Compare, and it visualizes the literal translations of every country’s name, arranged by continent. Of course, naming conventions are always layered and open to interpretation — especially when they’ve gone through multiple levels of translation — but it’s still an interesting exercise to trace where they are thought to come from.
Starting with the Great White North, Canada’s name is derived from the Indigenous Huron people. Kanata means village, or settlement, in the Iroquoian language. Meanwhile, The United States of America was named in honor of the Italian explorer Amerigo Vespucci. Vespucci is credited with correcting Columbus’ error, in which the latter mistook the New World for the East Indies.
Finally, Mexico comes from the simplified Spanish translation for the Aztec capital, Metztlixihtlico, which is said to mean “place at the center of the moon”. The word is a blend of mētztli for ‘moon’, xictli for ‘navel’ or ‘centre’, and the suffix -co for ‘place’.
Brazil’s name is actually shortened from Terra do Brasil (land of Brazil). The brazilwood tree, or pau-brasil, was valued highly in the early 16th century. It was used to produce red dyes for the European textile industry — hence the “red like an ember” moniker.
Uruguay has a couple of meanings attached to it, the first being “Bird’s Tail” in reference to the uru, a type of quail that lived by the river. Another association is the uruguä, a species of mussel, for which the country is named “River of Shellfish”. It’s interesting to note the relationship to water and rivers, which is reflected in the similarly-themed naming history across the continent.
Venezuela is named for its resemblance to the Italian city of Venice, thus gaining the title of “Little Venice”. Another area also named after European cities? Colombia, which was originally named “New Granada” in a hat tip to the capital of the Spanish province.
The “Land of the Franks”, France, gets its namesake from the Latin word francia. This dates back even further to the Old German word franka, meaning brave, or fierce. There’s also a political angle to the name: King Louis V famously proclaimed that “France signifies freedom”.
The exact origin for Germany is unknown, possibly because it was composed of various tribes and states before 1871. It’s known as Deutschland (for “of the people”) in German, Alemania in Spanish, Niemcy in Polish, and Saksa in Finnish. Another theory ties it with the Celtic word ‘gair’ for neighbor.
By the Mediterranean, the boot-shaped country of Italy gets its name from the symbol of the Southern Italic Vitali tribe: the bull. The name is connected to the Latin vitulus for ‘calf’ or ‘sons of the bull’. Another interpretation is the phrase diovi-telia, which translates to “land of the light”.
China’s English name comes from the Qin dynasty, the first unified and multinational state in Chinese history. Although the dynasty only existed between 221-207 BC, it had a profound and lasting influence on the country. A fascinating tidbit is that China’s name in fact borrows from the Persian language, and even Sanskrit.
India’s name comes from Greek, but also the Sanskrit Síndhu, where both refer to the Indus River. Bharat is another official and historically significant name for the Republic of India, and Hindustan is an alternative name for the region, but its use depends on context and language.
The Land Down Under of Australia is fairly geographical in its name, drawn from the Latin australis for “southern”. The explorer Matthew Flinders popularized the name as we know it in 1804, and “Australia” replaced “New Holland” as the official continent.
The Māori name for New Zealand is Aotearoa, which is most commonly defined as “the long white cloud” — a reference to early Polynesian navigators discovering the country by relying on cloud formations.
The name Egypt comes from the Ancient Greek Aiguptos and Latin Ægyptus, and is also derived from hūt-kā-ptah (Temple of the Soul of Ptah). The ancient Egyptian name for the country was km.t (pronounced “kemet”), meaning “black land” likely for the fertile soils of the Nile valley. Today, Egypt’s official name is Jumhūrīyat Miṣr al-ʻArabīyah, or “Arab Republic of Egypt”.
South Africa is aptly named for its geographical location. Interestingly, however, the country has different names in the country’s 11 official languages, including English, Afrikaans, the Venda language, the Tsonga language, and the Nguni and Sotho languages.
What rich histories can be uncovered from your country’s name?
Note: Where some of the country names on the individual maps vary from the translations, please consult the original research document which include the English translations and explanations behind the etymology.
Wired World: 35 Years of Submarine Cables in One Map
Watch the explosive growth of the global submarine cable network, and learn who’s funding the next generation of cables.
You could be reading this article from nearly anywhere in the world and there’s a good chance it loaded in mere seconds.
Long gone are the days when images would load pixel row by pixel row. Now, even high-quality video is instantly accessible from almost everywhere. How did the internet get so fast? Because it’s moving at the speed of light.
The Information Superhighway
The miracle of modern fiber optics can be traced to a single man, Narinder Singh Kapany. The young physicist was skeptical when his professors asserted that light ‘always travels in a straight line’. His explorations into the behavior of light eventually led to the creation of fiber optics—essentially, beaming light through a thin glass tube.
The next step to using fiber optics as a means of communication was lowering the cable’s attenuation rate. Throughout the 1960-70s, companies made gains in manufacturing, reducing the number of impurities and allowing light to cross great distances without a dramatic decrease in signal intensity.
By the mid-1980s, long distance fiber optic cables had finally reached the feasibility stage.
Crossing the Pond
The first intercontinental fiber optic cable was strung across the floor of the Atlantic Ocean in 1988. The cable—known as TAT-8*—was spearheaded by three companies; AT&T, France Télécom, and British Telecom. The cable was able to carry the equivalent of 40,000 telephone channels, a ten-fold increase over its galvanic predecessor, TAT-7.
Once the kinks of the new cable were worked out, the floodgates were open. During the course of the 1990s, many more cables hit the ocean floor. By the dawn of the new millennium, every populated continent on Earth was connected by fiber optic cables. The physical network of the internet was beginning to take shape.
As today’s video from ESRI shows, the early 2000s saw a boom in undersea cable development, reflecting the uptick in internet usage around globe. In 2001 alone, eight new cables connected North America and Europe.
From 2016-2020, over 100 new cables were laid with an estimated value of $14 billion. Now, even the most remote Polynesian islands have access to high-speed internet thanks to undersea cables.
*TAT-8 does not appear in the video above as it was retired in 2002.
The Shifting Nature of Cable Construction
Even though nearly every corner of the globe is now physically connected, the rate of cable construction is not slowing down.
This is due to the increasing capacity of new cables and our appetite for high-quality video content. New cables are so efficient that the majority of potential capacity along major cable routes will come from cables that are less than five years old.
Traditionally, a consortium of telecom companies or governments would fund cable construction, but tech companies are increasingly funding their own submarine cable networks.
Amazon, Microsoft and Google own close to 65% market share in cloud data storage, so it’s understandable that they’d want to control the physical means of transporting that data as well.
These three companies now own 63,605 miles of submarine cable. While laying cable is a costly endeavor, it’s necessary to meet surging demand—content providers’ share of data transmission skyrocketed from around 8% to nearly 40% over the past decade.
A Bright Future for Dark Fiber
At the same time, more aging cables will be taken offline. Even though signals are no longer traveling through this network of “dark fiber”, it’s still being put to productive use. It turns out that undersea telecom cables make a very effective seismic network, helping researchers study offshore earthquakes and the geologic structures on the ocean floor.
Mapped: The World’s Biggest Oil Discoveries Since 1868
Since 1868, there had been 1,232 oil discoveries over 500 million barrels of oil. This map plots these discoveries to reveal global energy hot spots.
Mapped: The World’s Biggest Oil Discoveries Since 1868
Oil and gas discoveries excite markets and nations with the prospect of profits, tax revenues, and jobs. However, geological processes did not distribute them equally throughout the Earth’s crust and their mere presence does not guarantee a windfall for whatever nation under which they lie.
Entire economies and nations have been built on the discovery and exploitation of oil and gas, while some nations have misused this wealth─or projected growth just never materialized.
The 20 Biggest Oil Discoveries
This map includes 1,232 discoveries of recoverable reserves over 500 million barrels of oil equivalent (BOE) From 1868 to 2010.
The discoveries cluster in certain parts of the world, covering 46 countries, and are of significant magnitude for each country’s economy. The average discovery is worth 1.4% of a country’s GDP today, based on the cash value from their production or net present value (NPV).
Of the total 1,232 discoveries, these are the 20 largest oil and gas fields:
|Field||Onshore/Offshore||Location||Discovery||Production start||Recoverable oil, past and future (billion barrels)|
|Ghawar Field||Onshore||Saudi Arabia||1948||1951||88-104|
|Mesopotamian Foredeep Basin||Onshore||Kuwait||n/a||n/a||66-72|
|Bolivar Coastal Field||Onshore||Venezuela||1917||1922||30-32|
|Safaniya Field||Offshore||Kuwait/Saudi Arabia||1951||1957||30|
|Upper Zakum Field||Offshore||Abu Dhabi, UAE||1963||1967||21|
|Romashkino Field||Onshore||Russia Volga-Ural||1948||1949||16-17|
|Shaybah Field||Onshore||Saudi Arabia||1998||1998||15|
|West Qurna Field||Onshore||Iraq||1973||2012||15-21|
Russia, West Siberia
The location of these deposits reveals a certain pattern to geopolitical flashpoints and their importance to the global economy.
While these discoveries have brought immense advantages in the form of cheap fuel and massive revenues, they have also altered and challenged how nations govern their natural wealth.
The Future of Resource Wealth: A Curse or a Blessing?
A ‘presource curse’ could follow in the wake of the discovery, whereby predictions of projected growth and feelings of euphoria turn into disappointment.
An oil discovery can impose detrimental consequences on an economy long before a single barrel leaves the ground. Ideally, a discovery should increase the economic output of a country that claims the oil. However, after major discoveries, the projected growth sometimes does not always materialize as predicted.
Getting from discovery to sustained prosperity depends on a number of steps. Countries must secure investment to develop a project to production, and government policy must respond by preparing the economy for an inflow of investment and foreign currency. However, this is a challenging prospect, as the appetite for these massive projects appears to be waning.
In a world working towards reducing its dependence on fossil fuels, what will happen to countries that depend on oil wealth when demand begins to dwindle?
Countries can no longer assume their oil and gas resources will translate into reliable wealth — instead, it is how you manage what you have now that counts.
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