Endonyms of the World’s Landmasses

Endonyms of the World's Largest Landmasses, by Jordan Engel
Endonyms of the World’s Largest Landmasses, by Jordan Engel

An endonym is the name for a geographic location in the language of the people who live there. It is contrasted with an exonym, which is a place name in the language of people who are not native to that place. For example, “America” is an exonym given to continent by a German cartographer, Martin Waldseemüller, who had never been there, and who named it for another European cartographer, Amerigo Vespucci. There are, however, many endonyms for “America.” The continent is known as Kéyah dah siʼánígíí in Diné bizaad (Navajo), Ixachitlān in Nāhuatlahtōlli (Nahuatl), Posno choba ihaanosi in Albaamo innaaɬiilka (Alabama), and Awya Yala in Runa Simi (Quechua), among others. For the purposes of this map, the name that appears is from the language that is most widely used in that area. In some cases, like “Australia,” there are no widely used indigenous endonyms. Others, like “Antarctica,” have no indigenous human population at all, though English is often used as a lingua franca among the scientists who work there.

Landmasses (continents and islands) in order of area:
Location name in English: Location endonym (Language endonym [Language exonym]) “Translation”

Afro-Eurasia: 歐亞非大陸 (中文 [Chinese])
The Americas: Awya Yala (Runa Simi [Quechua])
Antarctica: Antarctica (English)
Australia: Australia (English)
Greenland: Kalaallit Nunaat (Kalaallisut [Greenlandic]) “Land of the Kalaallit”
New Guinea: Niugini (Tok Pisin)
Borneo: Kalimantan (Bahasa Indonesia [Indonesian]) “Burning weather island”
Madagascar: Madagasikara (Malagasy)
Baffin Island:  ᕿᑭᖅᑖᓗᒃ (ᐃᓄᒃᑎᑐᑦ [Inuktitut])
Sumatra: Sumatera (Bahasa Indonesia [Indonesian])
Honshu: 本州 (日本語 [Japanese]) “Main island”
Victoria Island: Kitlineq (Inuinnaqtun)
Great Britain: Great Britain (English)
Ellesmere Island: Umingmak Nuna (ᐃᓄᒃᑎᑐᑦ [Inuktitut]) “Land of muskox”
Sulawesi: Sulawesi (Bahasa Indonesia [Indonesian])
The South Island of New Zealand: Te Waipounamu (Māori [Maori]) “The waters of pounamu”
Java: Jawa (Basa Jawa [Javanese])
The North Island of New Zealand: Te Ika-a-Māui (Māori [Maori]) “The fish of Māui”
Luzon: Luzon (Tagalog)
Newfoundland: K’taqmkuk (Míkmawísimk [Mi’kmaq]) “Land across the water”
Cuba: Cuba (Taíno)
Iceland: Ísland (Íslenska [Icelandic])
Mindanao: Mindanao (Sinugboanon [Cebuano])
Ireland: Éire (Gaeilge [Irish])
Hokkaido: アイヌ モシㇼ (アィヌイタㇰ [Ainu]) “Land of humans”
Hispaniola: Haiti (Taíno)
Sakhalin: カムィカㇻプㇳヤモシㇼ (アィヌイタㇰ [Ainu]) “”Land at the shore of the God-made (river) mouth/confluence.”
Sri Lanka: ශ්‍රී ලංකාව (සිංහල [Sinhala])
Tasmania: lutruwita (palawa kani) *palawa kani does not capitalize the first letter of a toponym
Severny Island: о́стров Се́верный (Русский [Russian]) “Northern island”
Spitsbergen: Spitsbergen (Norsk [Norwegian]) “Pointed mountains”
Kyushu: 九州 (日本語 [Japanese]) “Nine provinces”
Taiwan: 臺灣 (Chinese]) Hainan: 海南 (中文 [Chinese])
Vancouver Island: Thi Skwithe (Hul’qumi’num [Halkomelem]) “Big island”
Timor: Timor (Bahasa Indonesia [Indonesian])
Sicily: Sicilia (Sicilianu [Sicilian])
Kotelny Island: Олгуйдаах арыы (Саха тыла [Sakha])
Sardinia: Sardigna (Sardu [Sardinian])
New Caledonia: Kanaky (Paicî)
Viti Levu: Viti Levu (Na Vosa Vakaviti [Fijian])
Hawai’i (Big Island): Hawai’i (ʻŌlelo Hawaiʻi [Hawaiian])
Cape Breton Island: Únamakika (Míkmawísimk [Mi’kmaq])

*An earlier version misspelled the Ainu name for Sakhalin. Thanks to Charles Lippert for the correction.


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