Why Is Iceland Called Iceland?

Do you ever wonder why countries get called by specific names? There seems to be a story behind every country’s name, and Iceland is no exception.

It’s the only country in the world whose name directly hints at its geography. But how did Iceland come to be known as “Ice-land”? In this article, we’ll explore this unique connection between Iceland’s name and its frigid climate – and the fascinating story behind it all.

So let’s take a deep dive into understanding why this Nordic country is called Iceland.

Why is Iceland called Iceland?

The name Iceland may make you think of glaciers and midnight sun, but why is it called Iceland?

Iceland is a beautiful country located in the North Atlantic Ocean, near the Arctic Circle. It is home to world-renowned hot springs, majestic mountains, incredible glaciers, and breathtaking fjords. But why is it called Iceland and not somewhere else?

The Origin of the Name

The original name given to the island by the first settlers was ‘Island’ which is derived from the Old Norse words ‘īs’ meaning “ice” and ‘land’ meaning “land. ” The combination of the two words is Iceland.

This name was used by the Icelanders as early as the 9th century.

Early Viking Settlers

In 874 AD, Norsemen from Norway and Denmark sailed to Iceland and became its first settlers. They had heard about the seas and islands north of Scotland and the Orkney Islands, and decided to explore the area.

After three weeks at sea, they spotted land and named it Iceland.

The Meaning of Iceland’s Name

Iceland’s namesake, ‘īs’, is an ancient Norse word referring to the country’s natural ice.

This is a reference to the snow and glaciers that still cover much of the Greenland ice cap today. The second word ‘land’, naturally refers to the country itself. Therefore, the literal translation of Iceland is “Ice Land”.

Uninhabitable Land Becomes Habitable

When the Norsemen arrived in 874 AD, the land was covered in snow and was not suitable for inhabitation. However, due to the warmth of the Gulf Stream, the land eventually became inhabitable and possible to farm. This enabled the settlers to make a living by fishing and raising sheep and cattle.

Nickname: The Land of Fire and Ice

Due to Iceland’s breath-taking landscapes and unique geology, the country is often referred to as the “Land of Fire and Ice”. This nickname comes from the many active volcanoes and glaciers that are a part of the country’s terrain.


In conclusion, Iceland was given its name by the first settlers who arrived in 874 AD. They named the island ‘Island’ in the Old Norse language which translates to Iceland in English. This referred to the country’s vast and heavy snow cover, glaciers and incredible nature. Today, Iceland is known as the “Land of Fire and Ice” due to its stunning and diverse landscape.

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