What’s in a country name? (Probably Sanskrit): Sanskrit etymologies of countries

This is article #3 – part of deep trip series on Sanskrit.

Before you proceed, please read the previous articles in the series.

Click here for Article #1Click here for Article #2

Asia, the largest & the most populous continent, has been widely influenced by the language Sanskrit. The first complete language of the world was received so well. The formal study of a language in fact started with Panini in 500 BCE when he formulated 3959 rules of Sanskrit morphology.

Anyway, this article focuses on countries that share Sanskrit roots or at least share a Sanskrit name. While speaking a ‘proper noun’ like the name of a country, we do not incite the part of our brain that wants to find meaning behind each word. We rather see an entity or an image instead of the meaning. This thought struck me while I was doing research on the geographical expanse that the language of Sanskrit enjoyed during its heyday. So I started compiling a list of countries that somehow have a name that could be traced back to Sanskrit.

The field of etymology is absurd at times in the sense that the same word/name would have different meanings at different places. User discretion is advised in disputable cases. Some of the below mentioned countries have an alternate etymology as well; some are just speculations and some are real facts.

Asia is by convention divided into 5 sub-regions: South Asia, South East Asia, Central Asia, East Asia & Middle East. For the topic in concern, we will talk about 3 sub-regions here- South Asia, Central Asia, and South East Asia

South Asia: Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan & Sri Lanka.

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We shall discuss Afghanistan & Pakistan along with Central Asia

Central Asia: Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan

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South East Asia is further divided into two geographic regions:

Maritime Southeast Asia: Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Brunei

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Mainland Southeast Asia: Cambodia, Laos, Burma, Thailand, Vietnam, West Malaysia

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Even though some of the above are just speculations and even after we remove the speculated ones, we can still say that most of the Asia stood influenced during the glory days of Sanskrit.

Image Source: Google Maps

About Hardeep Pathak

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