This is "The" Place
Countries and Other Creatures that are "The"

When the Soviet Union fell apart, the Ukraine came into the news. And the same NPR reporters who had annoyingly started dropping the "the" from "the United States" began to do the same to "the Ukraine". Mysteriously, presidents went to "Ukraine" now. I had to admit that I had less to complain about. Supposedly, "Ukraine" means "border" in some language, so it might have made sense to call it the Ukraine...if we were speaking that language, but we aren't - so goodbye the Ukraine and be done with it. (President Bush's advisers insisted that he speak of "Ukraine", suggesting a country, rather than "the Ukraine", suggesting a geographic region, as a sop to the incipient nationalists of the as-yet-unformed new country.)

This definite article business isn't confined to English, either. I know, for instance, that in German, although most countries have "normal" names, Switzerland is "die Schweiz" and Turkey is "die Turkei".

There are a handful of countries that have a "the" preprended to their names, or did so historically:

Some names that include a "the" are less puzzling, because we can explain them as being part of a phrase:

There is an assortment of islands, for many of which the final "Island" of the name is typically dropped:

And while we're at it, there are a few places that aren't countries, but for which the "the" is a little puzzling:

You can go to the wordplay home page.

Last modified on 05 February 2018.