How Did Andorra Get Its Name?

Andorra La Vella, Andorra. Editorial credit: Martin Silva Cosentino /
Andorra La Vella, Andorra. Editorial credit: Martin Silva Cosentino /

Andorra is sovereign microstate within the Iberian Peninsula. It is believed that Charlemagne established the country. Andorra is a principality because it is headed by the President of France and the Catholic Bishop of Urgell. The microstate covers 181 square miles and has a population of about 77,500 making it one of the smallest states by population and area. The capital city; Andorra la Vella, lies 3,356 ft above sea level and is the highest capital in Europe. Catalan is the official language, but Spanish, French, and Portuguese are also spoken. Andorra is a member of the Eurozone and the UN but not the European Union.

The Origin Of “Andorra”

It is unclear where the word “Andorra” originated from but there are several hypotheses. The earliest use of the phrase “Andorra” was by Greek historian and philosopher Polybius who described the Iberian tribe in the valley of Andorra as “Andosins.” Another hypothesis suggests that it may have been derived from the ancient word “Anorra.” A third theory proposes that the word may have been derived from the Arabic phrase “al-durra” translating to “the forest.” When the Iberian Peninsula came under the control of the Moors, the land was covered by vast forests. The towns and regions administered by Muslim rulers received designation based on the natural environment, and it is believed that the country might have also been named accordingly. A fourth theory suggests that the name may have been derived from the Navarro-Aragonese word “andurrial” which translates to “the land of scrubland or bushes.” According to folklore, Charlemagne named the land after the biblical “Valley of Andor,” where the Canaanites defeated the Midianites.

The Demographics Of Andorra

Andorra has a population of about 77,500 people. The Andorran people are a romance ethnic group of Catalan descent. A majority of the people (two-thirds) are not citizens of the country and cannot, therefore, participate in communal elections, vie for the post of the prime minister, or own more than a third of shares of a private company. Catalan is the official and historical language of Andorra. The government encourages its use and funds the development of language in the country. A majority of people in the country speak French, Portuguese, and Spanish as a first or second language because of the geographic proximity of France, Portugal, and Spain. English is less common in the general population but is quickly becoming popular among the new generation. The principality’s relationship with the Catholic Church is acknowledged by the constitution, although it is not recognized as the official religion.


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