How did Australia get its name?

Updated: 4/28/2022
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The name "Australia" comes from the Latin term Terra Australis meaning "land of the south". Right from the time of the ancient Greeks, the term Australis denoted the south or the southern part of the world.

Often known as Terra Australis Incognita, i.e. "the unknown land of the South", it was the name given to the unknown continent believed to exist south of the equator. This unknown land was included on European maps from the 15th to the 18th century.

The Australian continent was variously known as Locac or Lucach, India meridional (South India), Java le Grande and Terra Australis by Mercator (and others) in the latter half of the 1500s.

Spaniard sailor Pedro Fernández de Quirós (in Portuguese Fernandes de Queirós), searched for this new land in 1606 while serving in the navy,mand called it Austrialia del Espíritu Santo, literally meaning 'Austria of the Holy Spirit'. The word "Austrialia", slightly different from the current "Australia", was a mixture formed by "Austria" and "Austral" ("Southern"). In those times the current nations of Spain and Portugal were under the rule of the same crown. The word Austrialia was intended to be a compliment to King Phillip III of Spain who was a member of the House of Habsburg (Austria). Different variations on the name were used in many languages. There was, however, a German document dating back to 1545 describing a southern land mass as Australia. (note the link below for a reference to this document)

The first use of the word "Australia" in English was in 1625-the words "A note of Australia del Espiritu Santo, written by Master Hakluyt.

In 1638, the Dutch, who were responsible for charting much of the western coast, used the word Australische (the Dutch version of southern) throughout the publication Generale Beschrijvinge van Indien describing Dutch voyages in the East Indies, to describe regions south of the East Indies. Whoever compiled the index, however, used Australia in the index rather than Australische.

Matthew Flinders, who was the first known European explorer to circumnavigate the Australian continent in 1801-1802, is credited with suggesting the name 'Australia' be given to this continent, as his were the first known charts to be inscribed with Australia. The name did not immediately receive universal approval. He first proposed the name "Terra Australis" be adopted instead of "New Holland", the name by which the Dutch knew Australia, or "New South Wales", which Cook had named the eastern half when he claimed it for England. In 1814 when Flinders published his work 'A Voyage to Terra Australis', he used the term 'Australia' within the book. Around 1818, Governor Lachlan Macquarie, arguably the most influential man in Australia at the time, also requested that the name "Australia" be officially ascribed.

The name 'Australia' was formally adopted in 1824.

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Q: How did Australia get its name?
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