Many countries in the world are named after legendary figures. The names of countries can be used to instill national pride, provide a rallying call during wars and inspire unity during protests. Country names also provide national identity. There are 16 countries that derive their names from legendary figures. They include Armenia, Belarus, Cambodia, Israel, Czech Republic, Denmark, Djibouti, Greece, Hungary, India, Ireland, Laos, Poland (Lechia), Norway, Romania, and Russia.
Countries with Legends in the Bible
Armenia first declared independence in 1918, though its identity can be traced back to the Armenian Kingdom founded in 190 BC. Its name was derived from the Old Persian Language as “Armina” which is another name for Hayk who was believed to be the descendant of Noah. Hayk was believed to have settled in the lands near modern-day Mount Ararat. A more accurate interpretation of the name is “the land of Noah’s great-great-grandson."
Israel was named after Jacob, a biblical figure who was the son of Isaac and grandson of Abraham. Jacob was renamed Israel after wrestling with an Angle. Israel means "the one who struggled with the divine angel." Jacob's sons later founded the 12 tribes of Israel.
Countries with Slavic Legends
Belarus, Czech Republic, Poland, Russia
According to Wielkopolska Chronicle (13th century), the Slavic nations of Poland, Czech Republic, Belarus, and Russia were founded by three sons of a Pannonia prince. They were Lech, Rus, and Czech. Legend has it that they were on a hunting trip and were following prey in different directions with Czech in the west, Lech in the north, and Rus in the east where they settled in the land that is modern-day Czech Republic, Poland, Russia, and Belarus respectively.
Countries Named After Deities
Djibouti gained its independence in 1977. It got its name from an Egyptian deity called Thoth who was also known as “Djehuti.” Djibouti means “land of Thoth.”
Modern Greece got its independence in 1830 and was a descendant of Ancient Greece which emerged in 8 BC. Greece got its name from Hellen which is another name for Greece. Hellen was the son of Zeus and Pyrrha.
Ireland was created in 1922 and got its name from Eriu, a Celtic fertility goddess who was the daughter of Delbaeth and Ernmas of the Tuatha De Danann.
Countries Named After Rulers
Cambodia got its name from Kambu Swayambhuva, who was the king of Aryadesa and the celestial nymph Mera who united to establish the Cambodian Solar royal dynasty which was known as Kambu-Mera in the 10th century. Kambu is believed to be a literal corruption of Kamboja.
Denmark, Sweden, Norway
The Kingdom of Denmark emerged in the 10th century and got its name from Dan, who was one of the early Kings of the Dane. Dan was one of three sons of a primeval King known as Ypper of Uppsala. Dan's legend states that he helped save his people from Emperor Augustus. His bothers Osten and Nori founded the modern day countries of Sweden and Norway respectively.
Hungary got its name from the legendary Hunor and Magor who were the forefathers of the Hungarians.
India was named after Bharata who was an ancient King. Bharata was chosen as the name of the nation of India in 1950. Bharata is the name used for India in several languages spoken in India.
Laos is also believed to have gotten its name from Lava who was the twin brother to Kush. Lava and Kush were children of Rama and Sita. Lava is said to have founded the city of Lahore which in ancient times was called Lavapura. However, the legend is not universally acknowledged.
Modern-day Romania was founded in 1859 and got its name from Rumulus, who was the son of Rhea Silvia who was a vestral virgin and daughter of the former King, Numitor who had been displaced by his brother Amulius. He was fathered by the god Mars who visited Rhea in the sacred grove dedicated to him. Romulus later in life killed Amulius and restored his grandfather as the rightful king. Romania means “citizen of Rome,” and Rome is believed to have been named after Rumulus.