What Does “Panama” Mean?

By BobbyRica | May 27, 2010

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The name of the country supposedly originated from the city. But nobody can give me a direct answer on what the name really means. As it turns out, it’s all of the stuff below. And all you have to do is to pick one.

From history books, Panama’s Spanish conquerors during colonial times got the name from a fishing village. Now this fishing village was not far from the capital where they set up their camp. The funky Spanish must have liked the village so much, they didn’t mind calling two places “Panama”. Which probably created headaches to the mailmen and the natives, which most likely motivated everyone to revolt. I kid. Again, the village was named after an old Indian word which means an “abundance of fish”.

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Another possible theory is that Panama is another word from another dialect which means an “abundance of butterflies”. I guess if you have a green thumb, you’d gravitate towards this definition.

Another definition may be from the common trees that abundantly grow from the region. Yep, you guessed it: the Panama tree. It was supposedly named for the village and then the country.

Asking the definition to the locals can either be a weird experience or a fun one, because no two answers are alike. The wackiest one being “to sleep on a bed of crabs”. Hmmm, not particularly appetizing.

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So when you’d go geeky over meanings, just choose any of the above, or if you like more interesting answers, ask a native.

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