As much as I try, I can never correctly recall the Chinese name for China when I am trying to impress people: it sounds something like Jong-Guò and it’s written Zhōngguó, which means “country in the center”. The name China (or rather something that closely resembled this name) is first recorded in ancient Indian texts and has been later adopted by basically the rest of the world, but it never stuck in China itself.
There are many examples of countries which bear an unfamiliar name in a foreign language. We have decided to gather here just the most peculiar examples.
Österreich (DE) – Austria (IT – ES) – Autriche (FR)
Rakúsko – Slovak (and Czech)
Where is this even coming from?
Russia (EN) – Russland (DE) – Russie (FR) – Rossija (RU)
Venäja – Finnish
Don’t put your nose between neighbours’ quarrel.
Polska (PL) – Poland (EN) – Polen (DE) – Polonia (IT)
Lengyelország – Hungarian
I am sorry, what?
Germania (IT) – Germany (EN) – Deutschland (DE) – Allemagne (FR)
Oh, yes, Germany has a lot of names, but all of them have some ring of familiarity, except maybe …
Vācija – Latvian
Inghilterra (IT) – Angleterre (FR) – Anglia (PL) – England (DE)
Sasana – Gaelic
They clearly had a sense of who came there first, the Celts …
Sverige (SE) – Sweden (EN) – Svezia (IT) – Suede (FR)
Ruotsi – Finnish
Didn’t they just get confused with another country?
Svizzera (IT) – Switzerland (EN) – Schweiz (DE) – Suisse (FR)
Elvetia – Greek (and Latin)
France (FR) – Francia (IT) – Frankreich (DE)
Bro-C’hall – Gaelic
Those barbaric Teutonic Frankish invaders, they stole our land but at least they got robbed of their own language.
Greece (EN) – Grecia (IT) – Grece (FR) – Griechenland (DE)
Yunanistan – Turkish
Who’s this Yunani anyway?
And Number 1 …
Italia (IT) – Italy (EN) – Italie (FR) – Italien (DE)
Olaszország – Hungarian
Well, ok, Hungarian is weird, we knew this already. But what about this?
Wlochy – Polish
And then they say the Poles are the Italians of the North …