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Where did these countries get their nicknames from?

When countries go to the pub, they're not called by their actual names – of course not! They're called by their nicknames (obviously). But have you ever stopped to think where they got their nicknames from?

When countries go to the pub, they’re not called by their actual names – of course not! They’re called by their nicknames (obviously). But have you ever stopped to think where they got their nicknames from?

To shed a little light on this pressing problem, we’ve decided to give you the low down on the history behind five country’s nicknames, with some random country nicknames thrown in for good measure.

Ready to get your learning on?



1. Australia – The Lucky Country


First off, let’s talk about our own country, “The Lucky Country.”

Australia’s nickname as The Lucky Country actually stems from the title of a book published in 1964 book by a guy called Donald Horne. Originally, the term wasn’t meant to make us look good… And I quote:

“Australia is a lucky country run mainly by second rate people who share its luck. It lives on other people’s ideas, and, although its ordinary people are adaptable, most of its leaders (in all fields) so lack curiosity about the events that surround them that they are often taken by surprise.”

Donald Horne, opening paragraph, The Lucky Country.


These days, the term is used in reference to the our seemingly endless natural resources, our awesome weather, our excellent standard of living and our distance from problems elsewhere around the world.

Random country nicknames:

Afghanistan – Graveyard of Empires

Israel – The Holy Land

Lebanon –Switzerland of the Middle East


2. China – The Red Dragon


The Chinese have long used the symbolism of the legendary dragon in their folklore and mythology to represent power, success and good fortune. Indeed, being born in the Year of the Dragon is about the best set of circumstances you could hope for in Chinese culture.

The dragon is as much part of Chinese culture today as it has been throughout the centuries; hence it has become the country’s nickname. But why is it called the “Red” Dragon? This is likely due to China being a communist country, but it also stems from the fact that red has always been the traditional colour associated with the Chinese emperor.

Random country nicknames:

Egypt – The Gift of the Nile

Italy – The Boot

South Africa – Rainbow Nation


3. North Korea: The Hermit Kingdom


This country’s nickname stems from the fact that North Korea has isolated itself from the rest of the world. Apart from some contact with other communist states, strict isolationist policies mean that North Korea is basically left to its own devices – for better or for worse (they do have their very own one-star airline though!) – hence being called the Hermit Kingdom.

Random country nicknames:

Slovenia – The Sunny Side of the Alps

Ireland – The Emerald Isle

England – Land of Hope and Glory


4. Japan: The Land of the Rising Sun


In Japanese, Nippon and Nihon (both of which mean Japan in Japanese) roughly mean the “sun’s origin,” or in other words, the place where the sun originates. That’s why it’s often translated as the Land of the Rising Sun.

But get this: It was the Chinese who gave this name to Japan, as from China’s perspective, Japan was to its east and it’s in this direction that the sun rises; hence, the Land of the Rising Sun.

Random country nicknames:

Iceland – Land of Fire and Ice

Chile – Land of Poets

Mongolia – Land of the Blue Sky


5. New Zealand: Land of the Long White Cloud


This one is actually pretty simple. The Land of the Long White Cloud is the most common translation of Aotearoa, which is the   Maori name given to New Zealand.

According to Maori lore, when Kupe and his wife, who are considered to be the first Polynesians to discover the land mass, first saw laid eyes on the archipeligo, it was completely covered in cloud, and so this initial impression stuck with them when it came time to name their new home.

And the rest, as they say, is history.

Random country nicknames:

Philippines – The Pearl of the Orient Seas

Sir Lanka – India’s Teardrop

Thailand – Land of Smiles

Source: Skyscanner

Did you learn anything today?