Why isn’t Iceland called Greenland and Greenland called Iceland?

17/02/2013 § 1 Comment


It’s something I’ve pondered sometimes over, and I know foreign people wonder about it when they see Iceland. It turns out Iceland is much more green and livelier than Greenland and Greenland has much more ice and snow than Iceland(hence the name of this post). So I thought I would explain why the heck it isn’t the other way around and why it hasn’t been changed in my opinion. Basically what is Iceland.

In My Own World

First of all, no. The viking was not drunk that named Iceland (or at least I think not). He was just incredibly angry.

I’ll explain.

Iceland has had many names:

Thule, Snæland (Snowland, named by Naddodd, a Faroese viking) and Garðarshólmur (Garðar’s Islet, Garðar Svarvarsson was a swedish man, today that name would be recognized as an Icelandic one, I’ll do a post and explain later about Icelandic names).However this is just how it was called Iceland, like it’s called today.

So a man called Flóki Vilgerðarson, he was called Hrafna-Flóki (Raven-Flóki) because he had two ravens as pets that helped him find land during sailing. He was a Scandinavian man who sailed to Garðarshólm (Iceland) and docked at Barðarsströnd( Barðar’s beach, which today is one of the most beautiful beaches you can find in Iceland that is natural, unlike Nauthólsvík that is a beach close to Reykjavik that was made).

Anyway, he stayed one winter at that area, but it was a very cold winter and all of his sheep died, he was furious, stormed out and walked up a cliff near by. He looked over the land and saw nothing except ice and snow, and named the country Ísland (Iceland), for that was all it was ever going to be in his eyes.

And since then it’s been called that. Iceland.


My country is not just ice and snow. It has mountains, glaciers, hot springs, waterfalls, volcanoes, green valleys, moss-covered land, puffins, northern lights but barely any trees.

The first Vikings chopped them all down and took more than they needed. Thanks a lot ancestors…(notice sarcasm)…


But the nature here is very preserved, not ruined completely by humans, and it’s very unique, which attracts tourists during the summer.

Don’t get me wrong, I love my country, but I am a little angry towards my ancestors:

1)Vikings: when the ruined Iceland a little for not realising it wasn’t like Norway or Denmark and the nature is more fragile.

2)Old chiefs: (farmers that kept sheep) when they didn’t allow fishing because they only wanted to sell sheep meat to other countries, but not use the chance of really making good fortune by fishing and selling fish to other countries. People were starving and poor and there was no work. In fact, if they had allowed fishing back then, we would actually be a much more stronger country, richer and more modern like other countries.

But non the less, I’m happy to be Icelandic! And I like the name, there is no reason to change our country’s name since we all like it.

As for Greenland however, a viking called Erik the Red settled there during a summer and it was more green there then today, he named it Greenland. His son Leifur heppni(Leifur the lucky) however looked over the horizon and saw a country and discovered it (AMERICA!) and called it Vinland, and made trades I believe with Native Indians(not sure about that part, long time since I’ve learned this). And this happened WAAAY before Columbus, we Icelandic were good at writing back then and all this was recorded into a book, like all our other Saga’s and Íslendingabók ( a book that holds every Icelander and their family tree’s). However there were a few people who were before Leifur, but still Columbus was absolutely not first!

Make a Wish


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