Every country has different names, for example “China” vs “People's Republic of China”. But when I look back into history I see that countries in the past only had one name. For example the ancient name of Egypt did not include the form of it’s government, the legendary ancestral home of the Aztec peoples was named only "Aztlán" and I sure that a lot of similar examples can be found.

For some reason people started adding words like "Kingdom" and "Empire" to the official name of their country. My understanding is that this was due to their ego at first and only that later it began to have more practical purpose.

Can you give more light on the subject?

Thank you for your time

  • In ancient scripts different areas and countries often called different names (see China or Japan). So the "long names" i believe just a standardization of countries as legal entities and the titles of the rulers.
    – Greg
    Mar 26, 2017 at 8:44

3 Answers 3


The ancient Roman Republic was referred to as the Senatus PopulusQue Romanus ("The Senate and People of Rome") (abbreviated SPQR) as early as the first century BC, but it is unclear when, if ever, this was the official name of the country as opposed to being just a useful or favored descriptive term.

  • 2
    I don't think they had anything like "official" names at that point in history. Mar 26, 2017 at 17:31
  • 4
    What is official? There was no "long name" question in the UN application form that time. SPQR was widely used in military signs, cpims and places which are generally considered official nowadays.
    – Greg
    Mar 27, 2017 at 2:13

The long names phenomenon is an artifact of modern times. There were two reasons; 1) a "multiplicity" of government types and 2) the desire of some countries to confuse one type for another.

Until the 18th century, there was basically one type of government; rule under a single ruler, which could be subdivided into monarchies and empires. This was not totally true, because Greece experimented with democracy, and Rome with a republic, but this was true enough until modern times, because Greece and Rome were special cases. I would also consider the United Kingdom of Great Britain and (Northern) Ireland ( a union of several states into a country) a special case.

"Greece and Rome" were rediscovered in Europe during the Renaissance, and their forms of government were debated in the 17th century by scholars of the Enlightenment. It wasn't until the late 18th century that these ideas were once again put into practice after the American and French Revolutions as a democracy in the U.S. and a republic in France.

More forms of government, such as Communism, fascism, and fundamentalism were added in the 20th century. That's where you get the long names, as these newer, totalitarian forms of government tried to take on the trappings of the more respected republics and democracies, with the (Communist) People's Republic of China, or the German Democratic Republic (formerly Communist East Germany), or the Islamic Republic of Iran.

  • 1
    Seems to me this ignore the Hanseatic League cities, Venice under the Doges (maybe Genoa as well), the Papal States, the Holy Roman Empire through the Middle Ages, and the Commonwealth of England under Cromwell just for starters. Mar 27, 2017 at 0:16
  • I don't consider the Hanseatic League, Venice or Genoa, "countries," just "city states." I did mention the United Kingdom (in a revision) as a special case.
    – Tom Au
    Mar 27, 2017 at 15:30
  • in fact the cities of the Hanseatic league weren't independent states at all. They were cities in their host countries that formed a mutually beneficial trade network, they still fell under their host countries for matters of foreign policy, military matters, etc.
    – jwenting
    Mar 28, 2017 at 13:21

Well, "Holy Roman Empire of German People" is a long name that includes the intended form of government. This is probably not the oldest name like that though.

  • The title of "Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation" never became very popular and was used in only a minority of official documents. Emperor Maximilian I reacted to the diet adopting that title by changing his own title to Emperor Elect of the Romans, Always Augustus, and King of Germany", making it clear that he considered the empire to be Roman and Germany to be a kingdom in it.
    – MAGolding
    Mar 29, 2017 at 4:12

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