A Map Shows What Every Country in the World Calls Itself in its Own Language: Explore the “Endonyms of the World” Map

I live in South Korea, but the South Kore­ans don’t call it South Korea. The coun­try has its own lan­guage, of course, and that lan­guage has its own name for the coun­try, dae­han min­guk (대한 민국), or more com­mon­ly hanguk (한국) — not that it stops the glob­al brand­ing-friend­ly let­ter K, which has made its way from “K‑pop” to “K‑beauty” to even (albeit much less suc­cess­ful­ly) things like “K‑food.” As far as our much-report­ed-on north­ern neigh­bor, South Kore­ans call it bukhan (북한), but its inhab­i­tants call their land joseon min­ju­jueui inmin gongh­waguk (조선민주주의인민공화국). And as with Korea South and North, so with every coun­try in the world: each one has an endonym.

“An endonym is the name for a place, site or loca­tion in the lan­guage of the peo­ple who live there. These names may be offi­cial­ly des­ig­nat­ed by the local gov­ern­ment or they may sim­ply be wide­ly used.” So says the front page of the Endonym Map, which labels every coun­try (or dis­put­ed ter­ri­to­ry) in the world with its endonym, writ­ten in the lan­guage’s own script.

When you first learned the names of for­eign coun­tries, you actu­al­ly learned their exonyms, their names in a for­eign lan­guage: yours. “South Korea” and “North Korea” are exonyms, as are names like “Japan,” “Fin­land,” “Turkey,” and “France.” Nihon-koku (日本国), Suomen tasaval­taTürkiye Cumhuriyeti, and la République française all appear on the Endonym Map, as do many oth­er well-known coun­tries you might at first glance assume you’ve nev­er heard of. 

The map’s cre­ator notes that “the most com­mon offi­cial or nation­al lan­guage in the world is Eng­lish, with 86 coun­tries or ter­ri­to­ries,” which rep­re­sents “one-third the num­ber of total coun­tries and approx­i­mate­ly 30% of the plan­et’s land area.” Because of that, peo­ple all over the world do tend to know the Eng­lish exonym for their own coun­try, but that’s hard­ly an excuse not to learn its real name should you decide to pay them a vis­it. And that counts as the first step toward actu­al­ly learn­ing its lan­guage, a jour­ney that the For­eign Ser­vice Insti­tute’s lan­guage-learn­ing map we fea­tured last year can help you plan. Hwait­ing, as we say here in the Kore­anized Eng­lish — or Eng­lishized Kore­an? — of hanguk.

You can view the Endonym Map in a larg­er, zoomable for­mat here.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

The Favorite Lit­er­ary Work of Every Coun­try Visu­al­ized on a World Map

The “True Size” Maps Shows You the Real Size of Every Coun­try (and Will Change Your Men­tal Pic­ture of the World)

A Map Show­ing How Much Time It Takes to Learn For­eign Lan­guages: From Eas­i­est to Hard­est

1934 Map Resizes the World to Show Which Coun­try Drinks the Most Tea

“Every Coun­try in the World”–Two Videos Tell You Curi­ous Facts About 190+ Coun­tries

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities and cul­ture. His projects include the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

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Comments (8)
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  • Petteri says:

    No it does­n’t. Or maybe if you sep­a­rate the coun­try from the peo­ple… I don’t think the peo­ple usu­al­ly call their coun­try “the repub­lic of” or some­thing like that. I would have pre­ferred a map that shows what the peo­ple call their coun­tries (in their major­i­ty lan­guage at least). I’m finnish and it would­n’t occur to me that my coun­try is called “Suomen Tasaval­ta” (“the finnish repub­lic”) as it would obvi­ous­ly be just Suo­mi to all finnish speak­ers.

  • Danny Tuteleers says:

    It’s strange that the name of Bel­gium (Bel­gië) only is writhen in Dutch (or Flem­ish or Ned­er­lands), while Bel­gium has 3 (three) offi­cial lan­guages: Dutch, French and Ger­man..
    Dutch is also spo­ken in The Nether­lands and a (very small part) of France.
    French is not only spo­ken in France but also in Bel­gium, Lux­em­burg and Switzer­land. And a small part of Italy.
    and Ger­man is spoken.….is Ger­many, Switzer­land, Aus­tria and even a small part of …Italy.
    The Euro­pean bor­ders are not the bor­ders of lan­guages, not the bor­ders of dif­fer­ent peo­ple but the bor­ders of con­flicts & wars, pol­i­tics & mar­riages, for­got­ten king­doms and fall­en republics.

  • Steven Ball says:

    Your map is incor­rect.
    New Zealand is indige­nous know as Aotearoa… please cor­rect. Thanks

  • Eileen Galen says:

    I was excit­ed to trav­el to and around Bhutan, hop­ing, among oth­er things, to set­tle once and for all its pro­nun­ci­a­tion, Boo-tan or Boo-tahn? The Bhutanese call their coun­try “Druk.”

  • parsamparham says:

    like google

  • Brendan Carton says:

    It’s dis­ap­point­ing that Éire is labelled only as “Ire­land”. The coun­try has two offi­cial lan­guages, and streets and towns are sign-post­ed in both.

    Tá sé díomách nach bhfuil Éire lipéadaithe ach mar “Ire­land”. Tá dhá thean­ga oifigiúil ag an tír, agus tá sráidb­hailte agus bailte araon ain­m­nithe sa dá thean­ga.

  • ragged-gothic says:

    I agree with Pet­ter­i’s mes­sage. While some of the endonyms may be the legal name of the gov­ern­ment for those coun­tries, almost no one would iden­ti­fy their home­land that way. Ger­mans just call Ger­many “Deutch­land” in nor­mal par­lance, and the French call their coun­try “la France”. If some­one, espe­cial­ly a non-native lan­guage trav­eller, were to go around these places con­stant­ly call­ing them “la Répub­lic Française” or “Bun­desre­pub­lik Deutch­land” the locals would soon put such a per­son down as a pompous idiot! Sec­ond­ly, it seems to me that the point of a web­site is com­mu­ni­ca­tion. This web­site is (most­ly) in the Eng­lish lan­guage, as so appar­ent­ly is intend­ing on com­mu­ni­cat­ing the endonyms of coun­tries to Eng­lish speak­ers. If that is the intent, it helps those speak­ers not a bit to ren­der the names in Cyril­lic or Ara­bic script. How is some­one, whose native writ­ten lan­guage uses Latin char­ac­ters, to gain any use­ful infor­ma­tion from words writ­ten in char­ac­ters that they can’t read. If an Eng­lish speak­er is vis­it­ing Egypt, it helps them to know Egyp­tians call their coun­try “al Misr”. Con­front­ed with “مصر”, how­ev­er, with no expe­ri­ence with Ara­bic script, they will just give up. If you want these endonyms to be use­ful to the peo­ple who read your site in the lan­guage it’s pri­mar­i­ly writ­ten in, I sug­gest you ren­der the endonyms in Latin char­ac­ters to make it leg­i­ble to users.

  • Kathe Ofenweller says:

    Good com­ments. Very inter­est­ing. I agree with all of them.

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