how did canada get its name

This is how Canada got its name and the ones it was almost given

How did Canada get its name? Well, it wasn't without some trial and error first; there were many other names in the mix, ranging from Norland to Ursalia.

Although government officials ultimately settled on Canada, which likely comes from the Huron-Iroquois word "kanata" meaning "village," they almost went in a different direction.

Here are the other names Canada was almost given.

  1. Albertsland. This name was presumably after Prince Albert, who was married to Queen Victoria when Canada became a country.
  2. Albionora. Although it sounds like an island straight out of Game of Thrones, the name actually means "Albion of the North." Albion is the oldest name for Great Britain.
  3. Borealia. This name literally translates to "Northern" in Latin.
  4. Brittania. This name is yet another version of Great Britain.
  5. Cabotia. This name derives from John Cabot, an Italian explorer that mapped much of Canada's Eastern coast for England around 1497.
  6. Colonia. Yup, Canada was almost just named Colonia, presumably because we're a colony of Great Britain. It's safe to say that Canada was the better choice here.
  7. Efisga. This cumbersome acrostic was quite literally a combination of the first letters of England, France, Ireland, Scotland, Germany, and Aboriginal lands. Considering Efisga sounds a lot like what you would say after someone sneezes, it's probably best that Canada won over this name.
  8. Hochelaga. This name originally refers to an Indigenous village in what is now Quebec. The Iroquoian term is widely thought to mean "beaver path" or "beaver lake." Some people have even suggested that the name of Montreal's Osheaga music festival could be derived from Hochelaga.
  9. Mesopelagia. The word translates to "the land between seas," which is somewhat accurate considering Canada has the world's longest coastline. We're surrounded by three oceans, after all.
  10. Norland. This name breaks down to the "land in the North." It's a pretty bang-on description, although it would definitely reinforce the Canadian stereotype that we all live in igloos.
  11. Superior. No, this doesn't refer to Lake Superior; it quite literally means higher in rank or status. Canadians certainly wouldn't have the stereotype of being polite and humble if we were named Superiorites.
  12. Transatlantia. Presumably, this name means "crossing the Atlantic," which many English people would have done to migrate to Canada circa the seventeenth century.
  13. Tuponia/Tupona. This name was yet another acrostic, standing for "The United Provinces of North America." It's probably a good thing Canada didn't choose this name, considering our neighbours to the south are also part of North America.
  14. Ursalia. It sounds like the villain from the Little Mermaid, but the name actually means "place of the great bears." And considering how many bear sightings there are in Canada, it's a fairly accurate description.
  15. Vesperia. This name derives from Roman mythology, meaning "place of the evening star."
  16. Victorialand/Victorialia. Queen Victoria was the ruling monarch of the U.K. when Canada became a country in 1867, and the country was almost named in her honour.

The name Canada was ultimately chosen in 1867, more than two years after Thomas D’Arcy McGee made an impassioned speech arguing for the name.

"I read in one newspaper not less than a dozen attempts to derive a new name," McGee said. "Now I ask any honourable member of this House how he would feel if he woke up some fine morning and found himself instead of a Canadian, a Tuponian or a Hochelagander."

Fortunately, Canadians decided that they wouldn't feel very good about being called a Tuponian or Hochelagander at all, and Canada as we know it today was born.

Lead photo by

Owen Farmer


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