Here’s a list of the former names and meaning of the names of selected countries of the world plus some interesting facts.
1. The former name of Thailand is Siam, named after a 19th century king. Thailand means “land of the free”. It is the only Southeast Asian country to have never been colonized.
2. Iraq is formerly known as Mesopotamia.
3. The former name of Sri Lanka is Ceylon. It was under European rule for about 450 years. In 1972 the name was change to Sri Lanka.
4. San Marino was named after Marinus, a Christian stonemason who founded the place in 301 CE.
5. Malawi means “flaming water” and is named for the sun setting on Lake Malawi, Africa’s 3rd largest lake.
6. The Philippines was named after Philip II of Spain. Two of its oldest names were Ma-I and Maniola.
7. Jamaica’s name comes from the Arawak Indian word “Xaymaca” which means “land of springs”.
8. Costa Rica which means “rich coast” is the world’s greenest country.
9. Myanmar in Southeast Asia is formerly known as Burma.
10. Gaul is the old name of France and Helle is the old name of Greece.
11. China’s ancient name is Cathay. China was taken from Chin dynasty.
12. Bolivia was named after Simon Bolivar, the liberator of many South American countries.
13. Asia Minor is the present day Turkey while Malaysia is formerly known as Malaya.
- Czechoslovakia got its name from the agglomeration of the Czech and Slovak peoples in 1918. This country dissolved into the Czeck and Slovak Republics in 1993.
- Yugoslavia means "Land of the South Slavs". It was originally Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes, created by joining Serbia, Croatia, Slovenia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Macedonia and Montenegro. It became Yugoslavia in 1929. It subsequently split into its constituent states in the years 1992-2006.
- Tanganyika and Zanzibar joined to become what is now known as Tanzania.
- Egypt and Syria were briefly joined as the United Arab Republic.
18. Malaya merged with Singapore and the northern Borneo territories of Sabah and Sarawak to become Malaysia in 1963.
19. Bangladesh in South Asia is formerly known as East Pakistan from 1955 to 1971. It was also known as East Bengal.
20. The name of Belarus is Byelorussia until 1991. It is also called White Russia.
21. The name of Belize until 1973 is British Honduras.
22. Benin is known as Dahomey until 1975.
23. Botswana in Africa is formerly known as Bechuanaland.
24. The former name of Burkina Faso is Upper Volta. Its present name was adopted in 1984. Burkina Faso means “land of honest men”.
25. Cambodia is known as Khmer Republic from 1971 to1975 and Kampuchea from 1975 to 1991.
26. Colombia was known as New Granada until 1819.
27. The former name of the Republic of the Congo is Middle Congo.
28. Democratic Republic of the Congo was formerly known as Zaire between 1971 and 1997. It was previously called Belgian Republic.
29. Until 1977, Djibouti is formerly known as French Somaliland.
30. East Timor, which is known as Timor-Leste since its independence in 2002, is known as Portuguese Timor until 1975.
31. Until 1968, Equatorial Guinea is called Spanish Guinea
32. Ethiopia in Africa is historically known as Abyssinia.
33. Ghana, an African country, is called Gold Coast until 1957.
34. Until 1958, Guinea in Africa is called French Guinea.
35. Guinea-Bissau is known as Portuguese Guinea until 1974.
36. Until 1966, Guyana is called British Guiana.
37. Indonesia, until 1945, is called Netherlands East Indies
38. Although Iran is locally known as Iran since before the Sassanids (3rd to 7th centuries AD), it also called Persia until officially named Iran in 1935.
39. Until 1948, Israel is part of the British Mandate of Palestine. It was previously renamed by the Romans to Palestine from Kingdom of Israel and Judea.
40. Before 1937, Ireland is known as Irish Free State and was at one time referred to in English as Eire.
41. The former name of Jordan is Transjordan.
42. Kiribati is known as the Gilbert Island before independence in 1979.
43. Lesotho, an African country, is previously called Basutoland.
44. Until 1964, Malawi is called Nyasaland.
45. Mali, in Africa is known until 1960 as French Sudan.
46. Mexico, in North America, is known until 1821 as New Spain.
47. Moldova is known until 1991 as Moldovia.
48. The former name of Namibia is South-West Africa.
49. Until 1997, Samoa in Oceania is called Western Samoa.
50. Serbia and Montenegro is from Federal Republic of Yugoslavia in 2003. Split into two nations, Serbia and Montenegro, in 2006.
51. The former name of Singapore, a Southeast Asian country, is Temasik.
52. Until 1972, Sri Lanka in South Asia is called Ceylon.
53. Before 1956, Sudan is called Anglo-Egyptian Sudan.
54. Suriname, in South America, is formerly known as Dutch Guiana.
55. Taiwan or Republic of Taiwan is known historically as Formosa, Tungning, and by other names.
56. The Republic of Tajikistan is known as Tajik Soviet Socialist Republic until 1991.
57. Thailand, in Southeast Asia, is known as Siam until 1949.
58. The former name of Togo before 1960 is French Togoland.
59. Tuvalu is known as the Ellice Islands before independence in 1978.
60. Vanuatu became independent from New Hebrides in 1980.
61. Ukraine is previously known as Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic until 1991.
62. The Republic of Uzbekistan is known as Uzbek Socialist Republic until 1991.
63. Western Sahara, in Africa, is formerly known as Spanish Sahara.
64. Zambia, in Africa, is formerly known as Northern Rhodesia until 1964
65. Zimbabwe is formerly known as Southern Rhodesia. It assumed the current name in 1980.