How Belize Got Its Name

How Belize Got Its Name

What is the origin of the country name Belize?

The simple truth is that no one is quite sure how Belize got its name. In Spanish, it is known as “Belice”, but as Belize is the only country in Central America that was formerly a British colony, the English name Belize has a strange and somewhat legendary history.

The Maya were the original inhabitants of Belize, so many people have naturally assumed that perhaps the name of the country comes from the Mayan language. Belize served as the heart of the vast ancient Maya civilization that stretched from Mexico to El Salvador, and the Maya used Belize’s network of rivers to transport valuable goods such as obsidian, jade, copper, cacao, and quetzal feathers. In the Mayan tongue, “Balix” means “muddy waters”, of which there are plenty of in Belize, leading many to believe that this is how the country got its name.

Other theories involve some of the earliest English inhabitants, including pirates and privateers that used the offshore islands of Belize to harry Spanish galleons laden with silver and gold. One Scottish buccaneer, in particular, a man named Peter Wallace, set up camp near a vast forest of indigenous hardwood trees. Realizing that logging these were far more profitable than fighting the Spanish, Wallace set up permanent residence in the area. Over time, the name Wallace became Wallix, then Valis, then Balis, and later Belize.

Another version of the country’s name also relates to the pirate Wallace, only in this case, he was chased out of the Caribbean by the Spanish. With his ships destroyed, Wallace was forced to set up camp on the coastline of Belize, and from there his name was added to the entire country by Spanish, Mayan, and other people speaking different languages slowly modifying how it was pronounced.

What is known for a fact, however, is that the original name of Belize was British Honduras. While the modern nation of Honduras does not share a border with Belize, the two countries do share access to the vast Bay of Honduras, a waterway visited by Christopher Columbus himself on his fourth and final voyage to the New World.

From 1798 until 1973, the colony was named British Honduras, the only British territory in all of Central America. However, in June 1973, the autonomous colony changed its name to Belize. In 1981, Belize gained full independence from Great Britain and is, today, a proudly sovereign member of the British Commonwealth. Although Queen Elizabeth II is nominally the head of state in Belize and her portrait appears on all Belizean bank notes, Belize is a fully independent nation.

Whether the name of the country comes from its ancient Maya inhabitants who made great use of the network of “muddy waters” in the rivers and creeks to transport goods or whether a legendary Scottish pirate captain gave his family name to the land where valuable hardwoods were logged, one thing is for certain – visiting this jewel of a country is definitely an un-Belize-able experience!

 

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

BELIZE HUB SPONSORS







January 21, 2018

Steps to preserve our Garifuna language

We the Garifuna people are among the 400 million people on this earth who speak one of the 6,000 indigenous...
Read More
January 21, 2018

Excellent news! 🙂

Belize has adopted a full oil moratorium for all its offshore waters, including the entire Belize Barrier Reef Reserve System,...
Read More
January 21, 2018

10 Unmissable Things to Do in Caye Caulker Belize

Despite Caye Caulker being diminutive in size, it packs a whole lot of personality which makes visitors fall head over...
Read More
January 20, 2018

Good-Natured Fun in Ambergris Caye, Belize

The incandescence of it all—sun bouncing off sand, sea glistening, dancing boats reflecting light, scattering it—is so irresistible, so mesmerizing....
Read More
January 19, 2018

5 reasons to visit Belize

January always gets me thinking about the year ahead and our future plans for holidays. I know I seem babied-up...
Read More
January 19, 2018

Cold in Belize

It's getting warmer in Belize; temperatures now reaching the 70's - Jeje. Even so, it's been a cold January for...
Read More
January 19, 2018

8 Best Things to Do in Belize

Home to postcard-perfect beaches, lush rain forests and diverse wildlife, Belize offers all the ingredients for the ideal tropical escape...
Read More
January 17, 2018

Belize rated best ethical destination in 2018

Belize was rated one of the world’s best 10 ethical destinations in 2018 by US-based nonprofit organization Ethical Traveler.  ...
Read More
January 17, 2018

Weekend Getaway: Ambergris Caye, Belize

This narrow barrier island just off the Caribbean coast of Belize is a beloved beach getaway. Do a long weekend...
Read More
January 16, 2018

Caye Caulker Belize, A Top Vacation Destination For Solo Travelers

Whether you’re a backpacking college student or an empty nester out to explore the world, solo travel is on the...
Read More
January 15, 2018

Belize, A Top 10 awesome winter destinations of the world: Take a look

The dry season is somewhat Belize’s winter minus the snow and freezing cold. During the months of November, December and...
Read More
January 15, 2018

Grocery Shopping Isn’t Just an Errand in Belize

I will freely admit that when I moved to Ambergris Caye, the biggest of the 200 or so islands in...
Read More
January 15, 2018

From Belize to Guatemala

We join the Saint-Amours as they travel to Guatemala. This week, we share two posts in one. From October 26,...
Read More
January 14, 2018

How to buy a holiday home in Belize

It’s off the radar for most buyers, but the tiny Central American nation’s appeal is growing   The Coppolas are...
Read More
January 14, 2018

Inside Hollywood director Sofia Coppola’s jungle hideaway in Belize

This Caribbean hideaway is the director’s favourite retreat Belize may not be the obvious destination for a second home, but...
Read More
January 14, 2018

Top 5: Diving spots in Belize

With abundant marine life and a sprawling barrier reef, Belize should be on every diver’s watery wish list 01 North...
Read More
January 13, 2018

You Can Fly From Toronto To Belize For $310 Round Trip This Month

The weather in Toronto may be warming up, but the snow, ice and terrible morning commute conditions are still here. The solution? A...
Read More
January 12, 2018

Quit Your Job And Move to Belize: The Cheapest Places To Live In 2018

It's the ultimate fantasy: Escape the 9-5 by moving to a place where it's so cheap you barely need to work — and...
Read More
January 12, 2018

Belize Ends Oil Operations in Its Ocean Waters

Belize, home of the largest barrier reef in the western hemisphere, has permanently suspended oil operations in its ocean waters. The legislation...
Read More
January 12, 2018

The Most Beautiful Places in Belize that Aren’t Beaches

Belize is quickly getting a reputation for being one of the hottest spots in Central America. More than a million...
Read More

Comments

comments

1 Comment

  • Ricci zech Reply

    September 18, 2017 at 5:26 pm

    If we didn’t get our independence until modern times why is it unclear where the name originates from I’m confused 🤷‍♀️

Leave a Comment

Login

Welcome! Login in to your account

Remember me Lost your password?

Don't have account. Register

Lost Password

Register

Close
Please support the site
By clicking any of these buttons you help our site to get better
Banner-1