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Countries Whose Full Names Might Surprise You

We have a tendency to shorten names to make writing and speaking a bit easier. Michael becomes Mike. William becomes Bill. Aunt Bernadette becomes Aunt B. This isn't limited to people's names, by the way; it goes for countries too. Check out the official titles of these six countries.

6

Plurinational State of Bolivia

Town of Sucre with hills behind
Credit: Dudarev Mikhail/ Shutterstock

Though we typically just call it Bolivia, the official name of the South American country is the Plurinational State of Bolivia. The well-known part of the name comes from Simón Bolívar, a soldier and politician who played a significant role in the region's fight for independence from Spain in the early 1800s. When the republic was first created in 1825, it was thus named in his honor.

The "Plurinational" part of the country's name came much later, with the passing of a constitutional referendum in 2009. The goal of the referendum was to better recognize the various groups living in Bolivia, especially those indigenous to the area.

Considering a visit? Challenge yourself with a hike in the Cordillera Real, or take in the chilling perfection of the largest salt flat in the world.

5

Kingdom of eSwatini

Ezulwini valley in Swaziland
Credit: mbrand85/ Shutterstock

Haven't heard of eSwatini? Don't feel bad — it's only been around a couple of years. You may be more familiar with Swaziland, which was the African nation's name until it was renamed by its king in 2018. As in Bolivia, the name change was in part a move away from the country's colonial past. The name eSwatini means "Land of the Swazis" in Swazi, the nation's native language.

The Kingdom of eSwatini is a landlocked country in southern Africa that shares borders with both South Africa and Mozambique. One of the last remaining absolute monarchies in the world, current King Mswati is also known as "the lion" — but he's not the only lion you'll find here. The country is also home to a wealth of majestic creatures from lions to rhinos to elephants and more.

Other attractions in the renamed kingdom? An incredibly colorful culture, and an astounding amount of natural beauty — from the Hlane Royal National Park to the Mlawula Nature Reserve — for such a small county.

4

Grand Duchy of Luxembourg

City of Luxembourg from above
Credit: Sabino Parente/ Shutterstock

For a regular vacation, it's okay to go to "Luxembourg." If you're feeling fancy, however, you'll want to be sure to let people know you're going to the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg. "Duchy" refers to the fact that Luxembourg's head of state is a duke. As for the "grand" part, however, we think there are a whole host of reasons the country is deserving of the word.

As one of the smallest countries in the world, Luxembourg has been heavily influenced by other European nations. For example, Luxembourgish, German, and French are all commonly spoken within its borders.

Outside the capital city, Luxembourg packs pastoral beauty in the form of castle ruins, dense forests, and river valleys. In Luxembourg City, check out the city's ancient fortifications, the picturesque Adolphe Bridge, as well as museums, dining, shopping, and more.

3

Brunei Darussalam

View of Mosque in Brunei
Credit: Yusnizam Yusof/ Shutterstock 

Typically called Brunei, the "Darussalam" in the country's official name means "Abode of Peace" in Arabic. Though the tiny country has had a more tumultuous past than such a name might suggest — most recently, Brunei has come under international fire for the consequences of its strict Sharia law — the nation nonetheless enjoys one of the highest standards of living in the world, thanks to its oil reserves.

Brunei sits on the island of Borneo in the South China Sea, sharing the island with both Malaysia and Indonesia. Borneo is home to some truly rare wildlife, making it the perfect destination for animal lovers of all kinds. Those unique creatures call the incredible natural scenery home, from the lake at Tasek Merimbun to the Labi Forest Reserve.

Visit Brunei's capital city of Bandar Seri Begawan, however, and you'll experience beauty of a very different kind. Due to the combination of oil money and one of the world's other absolute monarchs, Bandar Seri Begawan boasts two incredibly opulent mosques and the largest palace in the world, which you can view from a boat along the nearby Brunei River.

2

The Lao People's Democratic Republic

Boat going down river
Credit: akedesign/ Shutterstock 

Most commonly known as Laos, the Lao People's Democratic Republic is a landlocked country in Southeast Asia. The name comes from its predominant ethnic group: the Lao people. While it isn't as popular a destination as Thailand or Vietnam, Laos has a unique history and spirit all its own.

One of the best-known sites in Laos is Luang Prabang, a UNESCO World Heritage site in the mountainous northern reaches of the country. From legendary temples with luxurious décor to traditional wooden homes, the town blends elements of the native culture with western colonial influence.

Laos has more to offer than just history, though. It also has stunning natural sites sprinkled across the country, especially along the Mekong River that runs through it. A visit to the islands of Si Phan Don with the Khon Phapheng waterfalls near the southern border.

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The Republic of North Macedonia

River canyon with boats in Macedonia
Credit: mbrand85/ iStock

The last one on our list, the Republic of North Macedonia is another recent change. Formerly known as Macedonia, the country added the "North" designation in 2019. This happened after a decades-long dispute with Greece, which has a region called Macedonia itself.

As a former republic of Yugoslavia, the Republic of North Macedonia has only been an independent country since 1991. Its young status as a nation, however, doesn't mean it lacks a rich history. Thanks to its location in the Balkans, the nation has long been a crossroads of European and Middle Eastern cultures.

Explore ancient sites in the capital city of Skopje like the Old Bazaar with its mosques, monuments, and more, or the Skopje Fortress which dates all the way back to the 6th century. In the south of the country, take in the diversity of natural beauty at Pelister National Park, with its stone rivers, glacial lakes, and pristine alpine forests.

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