Do You Know the Correct Ways to Spell These Countries?

WORLD

Laura DeFazio

6 Min Quiz

If you know the old joke about how this country got its name, you'll surely remember how to spell it.

The joke goes like this: Three explorers were debating what to name the country they'd just settled in, and they eventually decided to just pull letters out of a hat. The first explorer pulled out a letter and read, "C, eh?" The second pulled out a letter and read, "N, eh?" The third pulled out a letter and read, "D, eh?"

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Brrr ... Can you spell the name of this tiny, Scandinavian country?

Denmark and its neighbors, Norway and Sweden, make up the chilly European region known as Scandinavia. Denmark consists of Jutland, a small peninsula that extends north from Germany, and an archipelago of more than 400 islands that lies just to the east.

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Head down to the southern part of Africa and you'll find this country. Do you know how to spell it?

This landlocked nation was formerly a British protectorate called Bechuanaland. It declared independence in 1966 and boasts Africa's longest-running multi-party democracy. It's known as one of the continent's most stable, peaceful and democratic nations.

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We think this Central Asian country might just be the hardest one to spell on the entire planet. What do you think?

Doesn't it look like it could use a few more vowels? This mountainous, predominantly Muslim country lies between the Middle East and China. It was conquered by the Russian Empire in 1876 and subsequently fell under Soviet rule, finally declaring independence in 1991.

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What this country lacks in size, it makes up for with its long, difficult name. Can you identify the correct option?

Nestled between Switzerland and Austria, this tiny constitutional monarchy is barely over 60 square miles in area. Its capital is Vaduz. Liechtenstein may be tiny, but is widely cited as being the world's largest producer of false teeth.

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Only one of these spellings is correct. Can spot it?

This Spanish-speaking South American country looks small compared to its neighbors, Brazil and Argentina. Uruguay has had a relatively peaceful and stable history compared to the rest of the continent, although military regime rule in the '70s and '80s was somewhat of a blight.

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This island nation is the only country to sit in all four hemispheres. Can you spell it?

Located in the central Pacific Ocean, the Republic of Kiribati consists of one island and 32 atolls (coral islands) sitting astride the Northern, Southern, Eastern and Western hemispheres. Because of the timezone in which it is located, Kiribati (along with Tonga and Samoa) leads the world in ringing in the New Year.

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A 2004 film about genocide in this country won several Academy Awards. Can you spell the country's name?

"Hotel Rwanda" was released with much critical acclaim in 2004. It was based on the tragic events that took place in Rwanda during the 1990s, during which time tensions between the Hutu and Tutsi people's led to the genocide of Tutsi and others at the hands of Hutu elite.

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Shake your head if you can spell this country. Nod it if you can't. (That's how they do it there, anyways ...)

This European country is located on the Balkan Peninsula. Besides its unconventional reversal of the whole "nod means yes, shake means no" thing the rest of the world does, Albania is also known as the birthplace of Mother Teresa and the country where Voldemort hid out in the forest after baby Harry Potter stripped him of his powers.

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This miniscule, hard-to-spell nation is known for having Disney and Star Wars characters on its money.

Niue is a island nation state in the South Pacific under free association contract with New Zealand. Its currency is the New Zealand dollar, but the coins boast images of Mickey Mouse, Pikachu, Yoda, Darth Vader and Rapunzel, to name just a few.

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One of only two "double landlocked" nations, this country is not an easy one to spell.

This decently sized, landlocked Central Asian country is surrounded by five other landlocked countries (all ending in -stan, incidentally), making it "double landlocked." The only other country to share this distinction is tiny Liechtenstein, which is tucked between landlocked Austria and Switzerland.

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More than 20 languages are spoken in this Central American country, but can you spell its name in English?

Although Spanish is the predominant language of Guatemala, 21 indigenous Mayan languages still survive there today. A few of the most common are K'iche', Q'eqchi' and Kaqchickel. Two other non-Mayan native languages are spoken there as well: Garífuna and Xinca.

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This African country is completely encircled by the much, much larger nation of South Africa. Can you spell its name?

Lesotho covers about 11,720 square miles of land on the African continent. It is completely contained within South Africa, but is its own nation. It's the only independent nation in the world that lies entirely above 1000 meters (0.62 miles) in elevation. It's home to the highest pub in Africa.

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Can you spell the name of this super-rich Middle Eastern nation?

This teensy country is far and away the wealthiest on the planet, with a Gross National Income (GNI) of more than $128,000 (as of 2018). Next up is Macao, which is a special administration region of China and not a fully autonomous nation. The GNI there is around $96,300 (as of 2016), which although exorbitant, is still much less than $116,000.

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Over half of this forested country is protected land. Can you spell it?

... And over 4% of its population are beekeepers, making Slovenia one of the leading countries in conservation. If you want to tackle a significantly harder spelling word, try its capital, Ljubljana.

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Located on the Caspian Sea between Turkey, Georgia and Iran, this country is notoriously difficult to spell. Can you spell it?

Azerbaijan is a singular nation. It has a city built on stilts and waterborne oil rigs, their national sport is played in pantaloons on horseback to music, and it's home to more mud volcanoes than any other country.

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This is the only Central American country where English is the official language. Do you know its correct spelling?

Although English is its official language, you'll also hear plenty of Spanish, Creole and various Mayan dialects spoken in Belize. This tiny country is rich in Mayan history and archaeology, with a dozen major, well-known ruins and hundreds upon hundreds of smaller sites.

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This African country has one of the most interesting-sounding names. Can you spell it?

If you had trouble spelling that, take a look at the spelling of its capital: Ouagadougou (pronounced kind of like "Gua-gah-doo-goo"). In the native language, this is often translated to "You are welcome here with us."

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Despite the way it's phrased, this is only one country. Can you identify its correct spelling?

This country's history is fraught with war, name changes, conquerings and annexations. It was under Ottoman rule for several hundred years and later became part of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia. It was conquered by the Nazis and later ceded to Croatia, leading to tragic persecution and genocide. Bosnia and Herzegovina declared independence in 1992.

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This small country isn't the first one to come to mind when thinking about South America. Can you spell it, though?

Sandwiched between French Guiana and Guyana on the northern coast of South America, Suriname is home to a larger number of Hindustani people than those of any other ethnic group. They make up more than a quarter of the population and are largely descended from 19th century immigrants.

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Can you spell the name of this country, located near the mid-point of Europe?

Slovakia boasts the world's highest number of castles and chateaus per capita, as well as more than 6,000 caves. Its capital, Bratislava, touches Austria and Hungary, making it the only capital in the world that shares borders with two other countries.

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How do you spell this Western Pacific nation?

Named for King Philip II of Spain, the Philippines is the world's second-largest archipelago. It's made up of more than 7,000 islands, many of which are uninhabited. Thousands of them are still unnamed on official maps!

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Called Ceylon under British rule, this Asian country got a little harder to spell when it changed names and became a republic. Do you know which spelling is correct?

Located off the southeastern coast of India, Sri Lanka is a leading exporter of tea and cinnamon and was the first country in the world to have a female Prime Minister. Sirimavo Bandaranaike was elected in 1960 and served three non-consecutive terms before resigning in 2000 due to failing health.

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This northeast African country technically has no official language, but can you spell its name in English?

Located on the Red Sea, Eritrea does not have an official language (its constitution recognizes all languages as equal) but has several nationally recognized ones. The most commonly spoken are Tigringa, Tigre, Arabic and English.

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Just north of Poland, this is Europe's southernmost Baltic state. Can you tell which spelling is on point?

Lithuanian is one of the oldest spoken languages in the world, and one of the world's greatest spelling challenges would have to be the 37-letter word, 'nebeprisikiskiakopusteliaujantiesiems'. (It's not a very useful word, mind you; it's usually translated to something like, "we never used to pick up shamrocks enough for ourselves.")

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In February 2019, this country took on the prefix "North" to end a dispute with Greece, which has a historically significant province of the same name. "North" isn't the part of its name that poses the spelling challenge, though.

The naming dispute had been ongoing since 1991 and the breakup of Yugoslavia. Greece's qualms came from the fact that Ancient Macedonia (where Alexander the Great was from) was geographically more approximate to Greece's province of Macedonia than the country called Macedonia immediately to the north.

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Can you spell this Caribbean island nation?

It may be best known for Bob Marley, reggae, Rastafarians and dancehall music, but Jamaica is also home to some of the fastest runners in the world, evidenced in all the Olympic medals they've taken home over the years.

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This African country shares a name with its capital. How do you spell it?

Pronounced more or less like "jih-boo-ti," this is the third-smallest country in continental Africa. Arabic and French are the official languages, but according to Ethnologue, a reference guide about the world's languages, the majority of the population speaks either Afar or Somali as a first language.

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Can you identify the correct spelling of this Eastern European country?

Belarus is known as "the lungs of Europe," thanks to its plentiful forests and wetlands. It's home to Europe's largest old-growth forest (and quite the spelling challenge itself), Belovezhskaya Pushcha.

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This minute country, the 16th smallest in the world by land area, is tucked in between Spain and France. How do you spell it?

Andorra, located in the Pyrenees Mountains, is the only nation to have Catalan as its official language (it's the only official language there). Catalan is a Romance language spoken in parts of Spain (notably Catalonia), smaller parts of France and smaller still parts of Sardinia.

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Countries that end in "-stan" are infamously hard to spell. Can you guess the correct option for this one, the largest landlocked country in the world?

At 1.1 million square miles (bigger than all of Western Europe), Kazakhstan is the world's largest landlocked country, but that doesn't mean it doesn't have a navy. The Kazakhstan navy operates on the Caspian Sea, which is, fittingly, the world's largest landlocked sea.

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Two archipelagos make up this small island nation. How do you spell its name?

The islands of Sao Tome and Principe (part of an extinct volcano range) lie about 140 miles west of the coast of Gabon, Africa. The country gained its independence from Portugal in 1975.

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This country has an illustrious ancient history. Can you spell its name?

Perhaps the most iconic of Egyptian monuments, the Great Pyramids of Giza were listed as one of the "Seven Wonders of the Ancient World" (a list of notable ancient structures that were popular among Hellenic-age tourists of the Mediterranean region). The others were the Lighthouse of Alexandria (also in Egypt), the Colossus of Rhodes, the Temple of Artemis, the Mausoleum at Halicarnassus, the Statue of Zeus at Olympia and the Hanging Gardens of Babylon.

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This country is also the third-largest island in the Mediterranean. How do you spell it?

The two largest islands in the Mediterranean (Sicily, which is followed by Sardinia) are both part of Italy. Cyprus was long disputed by Greece and Turkey before finally gaining its independence in 1960.

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How do you spell this long, narrow country?

Although Chile extends 2,653 miles north to south, it never gets any wider than 217 miles, averaging only averages about 110. Penguins live in its southernmost reaches, and it's also home to one of the driest places on Earth, the Atacama Desert.

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Image: Sylvain Sonnet / DigitalVision / Getty Images

About This Quiz

Scroll down to begin your journey around the globe, from South America to Southeast Asia, Eastern Europe to Eastern Africa and everywhere in between! 

The first countries you think of are probably easy to spell because you've seen and heard their names so often. (You'll find a few of them on this quiz.) However, there are plenty of less frequently talked about countries whose names might give pause to even the wickedest spelling bee champs. Some of these nations are tiny, scattered across archipelagos in the middle of the ocean, or tucked in between larger, better-known nation-states. Others dot the coasts of South America or North Africa or lie in the remote corners of Europe and Asia, where few tourists wander. "Is that even its own country?" you'll wonder upon seeing the answer choices, followed by, "Now, which could it possibly be?"

Besides lack of familiarity, there's another major factor making some countries' names so difficult to spell. Many of them come from foreign languages whose alphabets may or may not translate well to English. Sounding words out is tricky when the rules of spelling and pronunciation aren't intuitive, as is remembering the order of their letters. 

Does this sound like enough of a challenge? Give this quiz a go. Not only will you sharpen your spelling skills, but you'll pick up a lot of bizarre geographical trivia and national know-how along the way! (Bear in mind, however, that for this quiz, we're using the American-English spellings of country names.)


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