Kiribati is an archipelago nation out in the Pacific Ocean, and until recently I always thought it had some kind of exotic native name. I also believed that it was pronounced like it was spelled, and, boy, was I wrong on both parts. It's actually pronounced kiri-bas, because that's the way plurals work in the local Gilbertese language. Now the word for the nation comes from the English name Gilberts (yes, there was a lot of modification), which was named after Captain Thomas Gilbert, who did a lot of discovering of islands in the Pacific-Indian ocean area. Yes, the local language is also named after him; he made a real impact on the culture, apparently. Anyway, the surname Gilbert comes from the Proto-Germanic roots gislaz, meaning "pledge", and berhtaz, meaning "bright". Respectively, these terms come from Proto-Indo-European gheydh, meaning "desire", and Proto-Indo-European bherhg, or "to shine". Despite all these IE roots, I think it's really cool how a common English last name came to be applied for not only a country's name but also the language they speak there.
Adam Aleksic, a rising sophomore studying linguistics and government at Harvard University, has been described as the internet's sixth most famous etymologist. He also has disturbing interests in politics, vexillology, geography, board games, conlanging, and law.