Four-letter countries have the shortest names. All the states recognized by the United Nations have four or more letters. Four-letter countries include Chad, Togo, and Mali in Africa, Iraq, Iran, and Oman in the Middle East, Laos in Southeast Asia, Niue, and Fiji in Oceania, Cuba in the Caribbean, and the South American state of Peru. However, these are not their full names as recognized internationally by other countries or by the United Nations. Chad, for example, is officially recognized as the Republic of Chad while Oman is formally known as the Sultanate of Oman.
How Countries Acquire Names?
There are four main ways of naming a country. The geographical position of a state in relation to another state, or continent; the dominant tribe, ethnic group, or kingdom inhabiting the land; a geographical feature of the area; and a famous person who played a significant role especially during the struggle for independence or the formation of the country.
Kingdoms, Tribes, and Ethnic Groups
A third of the countries in the world are named after the tribes, ethnic groups or kingdoms that existed on the land. France, for example, is named after the Franks, Switzerland for the Schwyz people, Italy for the Vitali tribe, and Vietnam for the Viet people. After the Gold Coast gained independence from the British in 1957, it was renamed Ghana after an old empire that existed on the land in the 13th century.
A quarter of the countries are named for the geographical features in or around the land. Montenegro is an endonym for “Crna Gora” which translates to the “black mountain,” a reference to Mount Lovćen. Iceland refers to land covered by ice. It was named so in the 9th century by the first Norse settlers who realized that the land remained covered by snow throughout the year.
Approximately 30 countries are named for their location. Japan translates to “Nippon” in Japanese to mean the "origin of the sun." It was named so because the state is located east of Asia, in the direction the sun rises. Norway translates to the “northern way.” It was named so by the Anglo-Saxons who though the coast of Norway was the farthest northern point. Countries such as South Sudan are known for the geographical location in reference to the location they occupy in the former Sudanese territory. South Africa is named so because it occupies the southernmost part of the African continent.
Countries With The Longest Names
The United Kingdom, officially, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland has the longest official state name consisting of 56 characters. The Independent and the Sovereign Republic of Kiribati comes in a close second with 46 characters.