How many countries are named after rivers?

I saw a claim that 15 countries were named after rivers, but I couldn’t find a good site that listed them.

Some poking around did give me 15.

  • Belize - Belize

  • Bosnia – Bosna

  • Cameroon – Rio dos Camaroes

  • Democratic Republic of the Congo - Congo

  • Republic of the Congo – Congo

  • The Gambia – Gambia

  • India – Indus

  • Jordan – Jordan

  • Moldova – Moldova

  • Niger– Niger

  • Nigeria – Niger

  • Paraguay – Paraguay

  • Senegal – Senegal

  • Uruguay – Uruguay

  • Zambia – Zambezi

Those are all modern names. There might be others whose names have changed. And some of the names have uncertain origins.

I also don’t know what to do with Argentina, whose etymology as given by the CIA is borderline.

etymology: originally the area was referred to as Tierra Argentina, i.e., “Land beside the Silvery River” or “silvery land,” which referred to the massive estuary in the east of the country, the Río de la Plata (River of Silver); over time the name shortened to simply Argentina or “silvery”

Any more out there?

Panama :slight_smile:

The river that supplies the canal is actually named the Chagres.

But that was a cute try.

Punjab means “Five Waters”, and Sindh (almost certainly) means “River”: these supply the Pa- and -S- in Pakistan. So this may count if you allow the existence of river(s) as part of your survey.
Among former countries there is Upper Volta, now Burkina Faso.

There is a list of rivers by country here:

I was looking at Paraguay and noticed the following:

derived from the Guarani word “par” meaning river, and “guay”, meaning “this side”.

Country profile: Paraguay | News | Al Jazeera

From Guarani paraguá “feather crown” and y “water” thus paraguaí “feather crown of waters”.

Paraguay - Wikipedia

one explanation has the name meaning “water of the Payagua” (an indigenous tribe that lived along the river)

said to be from Guarani para “water” + guay “born.”

paraguay | Etymology, origin and meaning of the name paraguay by etymonline

I had not appreciated before I searched how many country’s name origins are uncertain or entirely unknown.

OTOH, some historians debate the origin of America.

The naming of the Americas, or America, occurred shortly after Christopher Columbus’s first voyage to the Americas in 1492. It is generally accepted that the name derives from Amerigo Vespucci, the Italian explorer, who explored the new continents in the following years on behalf of Spain and Portugal. However, some have suggested other explanations, including being named after the Amerrisque mountain range in Nicaragua, or after Richard Amerike, a merchant from Bristol, England.

Tangentially related to this discussion: I learned some number of years ago that Missouri probably means something like “people of the dug-out canoe.” So I concluded that Missouri (the state) was named after the tribe. Not so fast. The river is named for the tribe. The state is named for the river.

There’s quite a few US states named for rivers. In fact, a quick list I made has exactly 15, just like countries. And many of those rivers were named for tribes. Only two do not have a Native American origin.


If it weren’t for Congress changing the proposed name of Columbia Territory, there’d be one more.

I was regretting my ignorance about the existence of a Nebraska River, but… there isn’t one. I assume it derives from this one?

The Platte River was originally called the Nebraska. Quoth Wikipedia:

It’s not on your list so that must be more than a pun. What do you think is unlikely about it?

Doesn’t that make it pretty clear the modern country of Argentina is named after the river, or perhaps for the river if it’s not a direct reference?

Silver in Spanish is plata, which is also the name of the river. Argentum is the earlier Latin form. Plata comes from plattus, meaning wide, because silver was hammered into sheets. Etymology is weird.

No doubt the the name an allusion to the river. The indirectness is why I called it borderline. I haven’t found any reason why the early explorers used the Latin instead of Spanish, though.

In case anyone’s mind works like mine does, the German Palatinate does not come from plata or plattus but from the Latin palātium or palace.

I thought of that, but figured I’d be run out of town or drowned.

It’s possible that in some cases the river might be named for the country instead of vice versa. I don’t know of a Canada River, but near where I live there is the Canadian River. Located in Oklahoma.

Similarly, there’s the American River in California.

The Czech Republic is composed of three historical regions: Bohemia, Moravia and Silesia. Moravia, in Czech “Morava”, is named after the river Morava, which, per Wikipedia, “…runs from its north to south, being its principal watercourse.” In the Dark Ages, Moravia was much larger and was a principality; later it became a Margraviate that was part of the Lands of the Bohemian Crown.

The people making maps often used latin. eg they put on latin versions of peoples names mentioned. Portuguese explorer called Lopo Homem wrote Argentea on a 1554 map. Using a latin word…

Also ? or perhaps because, plata could imply its silver foil or silver plated… Argentine implies solid silver.

Lopo Homem? Any relation to Lorem Ipsum?

Seriously, that’s the information I was looking for and didn’t find. Thanks.

The river Temarc in winter!