There are currently 195 countries in the world. As history demonstrates, however, the status, political borders, and governmental systems of nations can undergo significant shifts over the course of many years. Whether due to political upheaval, social change, religious, environmental, or economic factors countries and their borders evolve with maps routinely needing to be redrawn in order to accurately reflect the political changes and jurisdictional shifts taking place around the planet.
The official name given to a country plays an important role in establishing that nation’s unique identity. Country names also serve to provide important information as to the political, historical, and/or cultural make up or beliefs of the people who live in them. Many countries around the world are named after people. A good example of this is the United States of America which takes its name from Amerigo Vespucci, an Italian explorer whose first name in Latin translates to Americus. Although Vespucci didn’t discover the Americas, he theorized that the lands being found by explorers such as Columbus were not part of the known world at the time but rather part of totally new land masses (ie. the New World).
Christopher Columbus, who history credits with discovering America in 1492, made four voyages to the New World. Columbus was an Italian explorer who established permanent colonies in various regions throughout the North and South America. Along with the country of Columbia, a number of other place names have been derived from Christopher Columbus. In the US these include the District of Columbia as well as the cities of Columbus (Ohio) and Columbia (South Carolina).
Other countries named after people include Bolivia which was derived from Simón Bolívar, a military and political leader who was born in Venezuela and lived from 1783 to 1830. Bolivar served as the President of the Second Republic of Venezuela during the years 1813 to 1814 and played a key role in gaining independence from Spain for a variety of South American nations.
Religious figures have also lent their names to an array of nations. El Salvador, for example, literally means The Saviour in reference to Jesus Christ. Israel takes its name from the Biblical figure of Jacob (later referred to as Israel) who is regarded to be one of the key patriarchs of the Bible.
A wide array of countries around the globe were also named after Christian saints. These nations include the island of Saint Lucia in the West Indies which takes its name from Saint Lucy, a martyr who is also commemorated with the annual Feast of Saint Lucia which takes place on December 13th. The European Republic of San Marino was named after Saint Marinus, a Christian stonemason who founded both a monastery and chapel in the year 301. The Dominican Republic in the Caribbean is named after Saint Dominic who is credited with establishing the Dominican Order of Catholic priests. Other examples of countries named after people include the Marshall Islands which took its name from John Marshall, an explorer of British descent, the middle eastern country of Saudi Arabia, which is named after Muhammad bin Saud who was a chef and soldier, and the island nation of the Seychelles, which took its official name from Jean Moreau de Séchelles, a politician from France.