Vietnam Country Names

Vietnam's country name through history

From the time when Vietnamese create their first dynasty until today, there are various titles for the territory in which the people have lived. The first name was Van Lang, which referred to the initial kingdom in northern Vietnam that was governed by the Hung King family. The name remained until 258 B.C, which then was replaced by the title Au Lac when An Duong Vuong unified the Van Lang and the Au Viet tribes into one integrated country that saw their territory stretched to the Guangxi region.

After the collapse of the Au Lac kingdom, Vietnam was divided into 2 parts called Giao Chi and Cuu Chan. However, in an interruption of such rule, Ly Bi, a historic national hero, stood up to and established a dynasty named Van Xuan before it was eliminated in 602 A.D. 

However in 968 A.D, when Dinh Bo Linh reunited the infighting factions, the new kingdom was changed name to Dai Co Viet, which merely translates as “The Giant Vietnam”. Nevertheless, this title came to be for only 86 years, and once again replaced by the Ly Dynasty with the name Dai Viet which also meant “The Huge Vietnam”. This title had the longest applied time in the history of Vietnam, from the beginning of the Ly Dynasty in 1054 to the days of the Nguyen in 1800s.

However, during this time, there was also a 7-year-period that Vietnam had been called Dai Ngu which referred to “Great Peace” by the Ho Dysnasty, and another 20 years with no title. In 1804, the title Dai Viet was finally superseded and substituted by the name Vietnam which had been used until today. The official country name is the Socialist Republic of Vietnam.

What does Vietnam mean?

Vietnam should be correctly written as Viet Nam. Viet is the name of the people, which covers the 54 different ethnic groups in the country. Nam means South. Viet Nam means the Viet people living in the South. 

To many people, Vietnam is not an unfamiliar name as it had been on the international press and media for such a long time. But what have been left in their minds are just images of war in a secluded corner of Southeast Asia, nothing more. So hardly does anyone know the meaning of the name and the long established history of that remote country. 

The name Vietnam came about when Emperor Gia Long desired to rename the country Nam Viet which was the combination of names of regions in Vietnam, including An Nam and Viet Thuong, and later change to Vietnam as seen today. There are many other assumptions about the meaning of the name and the most rational explanation is that the name is the fine combination of both geographical and ethnic factors. 

In brief, Vietnam means the Viets of the South according to the second explanation or is synonymous with the reunification of different regions in Vietnam in accordance with the first explanation.

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