Why is Canada called Canada? What is the origin of the name Canada?

The name ‘Canada’ originates from the aboriginal word ‘kanata’ for land, village, or settlement. The explorer Jacques Cartier was the first to use it on an expedition in 1535 up the St. Lawrence River. The Iroquois used the word kanata to tell Cartier about the route to the village of Stadacona. They referred to it by using the Huron-Iroquois word for settlement or village. Cartier used the word for the entire area, and the name ‘Canada’ was soon applied to the area north of the St. Lawrence River. Cartier referred to the river as the riviere de Canada, and this name was in use until the early 17th century. While the region was called New France, the areas along the Gulf of St. Lawrence and the river were known under the name Canada.

Fur traders and explorers soon moved to territories to the south and west, and the area known as ‘Canada’ grew. In the early 18th century, the name was used for all lands that are now part of the American Midwest.

The first time ‘Canada’ was used as an official name was in 1791. Then Quebec was divided into two colonies – of Lower and Upper Canada. The two colonies were united in 1841 and named the Province of Canada. They were then known as Canada East and Canada West and had a common legislature.

The country was named Canada at the time of Confederation in 1867. The new Dominion was called the Dominion of Canada until after the Second World War. The form of confederation was first debated at conferences held in London. The delegates sought to determine how the Province of Nova Scotia, the Province of New Brunswick, and the Province of Canada were to be united. Then, a delegate from New Brunswick or Nova Scotia proposed the name Canada. Other names were also suggested, including Borealia, Albionoria, Colonia, Efisga, and Mesopelagia. The name Canada was unanimously accepted with little discussion. Walter Bagehot, an English journalist, essayist, and businessman argued that the country should be named Anglia or Northland instead of Canada. In response, the Irish journalist, Catholic spokesman, and nationalist Thomas D'Arcy McGee asked how people would feel if they found themselves being Hochelegander or Tuponian. The first Prime Minister of Canada, John Macdonald proposed the name ‘Kingdom of Canada’ at the Charlottetown Conference of 1864. The word kingdom would refer to the united provinces of New Brunswick, Quebec, Nova Scotia, and Ontario. The founders of Canada argued in favour of this name as to establish a monarchical basis for the new constitution.

The name Dominion of Canada was used until the 1950s when Canada gained autonomy and political authority. The Canada Act of 1982 marks a transition away from the use of Dominion of Canada and refers only to Canada. The British North America Acts also stipulate that Canada shall be taken as the official name of the country.