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The Top Ten: Dearly departed names of countries

John Rentoul
Saturday 07 November 2015 18:05 GMT

Place names are almost never changed for the better. David Head was taken by the Despotate of Epirus, a medieval state in Albania and western Greece. But, partly because it's why I know them, I restricted this list to countries that have issued postage stamps.

1. Tanganyika

Rolls round the tongue better than Tanzania, invented for the merger with Zanzibar in 1964.

2. Abyssinia

Now Ethiopia.

3. The Kingdom of Araucania and Patagonia

1860-1862; later colonised by Argentina and Chile. Revisited by David Crawford.

4. Nyasaland

Became Malawi in 1964. Remembered by David Crawford, Brian Ford and Richard Moodey.

5. Dahomey

Became Benin in 1975. From Richard Moodey and Clive Carpenter.

6. Persia

Became Iran in 1935. Paul Bexon travelled back in time.

7. The Trucial States

Took their name from the Perpetual Maritime Truce signed with the British government in 1853. Became the United Arab Emirates in 1971. Clive Carpenter.

8. Transjordan

Lost the Trans in 1948. Richard Moodey again.

9. Bejam

Now Iceland. Very droll, Keith Austin.

10. Ceylon

British version of the Portuguese Ceilão. Arabs called it Serendip. Became Sri Lanka in 1972.

Next week: Idioms from other languages (such as the Chinese phrase 'to sleep like a dead pig')

Coming soon: Longest-reigning British monarchs. Send your suggestions, and ideas for future Top 10s, to

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