When the country of Bolivia was founded in 1825, they named it in honor of Simon Bolivar, a courageous soldier who fought in multiple Latin American independence wars. That's all fine and dandy, but it's interesting where the surname Bolivar comes from. Linguists trace all people with that last name back to a village in central-north Spain called La Puebla de Bolivar. The Bolivar part of that used to be written Bolibar, which is a blend of the words bolu, which was just another surname, and ibar, which meant "river". This in turn comes from the Proto-Basque word ibar, meaning "river". Yup! Basque! That weird enclave language with no other relatives, spoken in central-north Spain? Ha! And you thought it was Spanish this whole time! Nope, I never said a language; it was Basque. The truth is, the name for a Spanish-speaking country comes from a tiny European town from a linguistic oddity. Sorry, but that word really deserved a gloating surprise ending. Oh, the Bolivar is also the Venezuelan currency.
Adam Aleksic is a 220-month-old, 2800-ounce high school senior with disturbing interests in etymology, vexillology, geography, board games, limericks, and law. Adam will be studying linguistics at Harvard College in the fall.
The Etymology Nerd