They say it’s a small world, but it’s the biggest place most of us will ever be. And if you want to know it well, learning the countries of the world is a great place to start.
With 197 countries in the world, it takes some practice and skill to name them all. Almost everyone on Sporcle gets the most obvious ones (United States, Canada, Russia), and a majority get the middle-guessed options (Philippines, Taiwan, Dominican Republic). But eventually, you’re likely to run into trouble.
The next time you find yourself stuck, pull up one of the facts from this list to jog your memory.
The Most Forgotten Countries • Percentage of Sporcle Users Who Correctly Answered
Burkina Faso • 46.4%
Burkina Faso is a landlocked country in West Africa. (It’s the only non-island/non-archipelago nation that makes the bottom 10.) The country was called the Republic of Upper Volta from 1958 to 1984. The name was changed after the country declared independence from the French to Burkina Faso, which literally translates to “land of the upright men”. And the capital is Ouagadougou… which isn’t one of the most forgotten world capitals.
Timor-Leste • 45.6%
Timor-Leste is a country in southeast Asia that has land across several islands. It is closely intermingled with Indonesia. It was colonized by Portugal up until 1975. ‘Timor’ is derived from the Malay word for ‘east’, so the name can be interpreted to mean “east-east”, and in Malay, the country is called ‘Timor Timur’. Almost 41% of the population of the country was under 14 years old as of 2017 estimates.
Antigua and Barbuda • 45.2%
The country of Antigua and Barbuda is made up of several islands in the West Indies, between the Caribbean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean. Antigua and Barbuda are the biggest of these islands, but all together the land area is still quite small – the country is the 14th smallest in the world. The highest point on Antigua is named Mt. Obama, and yes, it is named after the US president.
Vanuatu • 43.9%
Vanuatu is a volcanic archipelago in Oceania. Prior to independence in 1980, Vanuatu was known by the name given to it by explorer James Cook: New Hebrides. A season of the reality show Survivor was filmed and named for the island, which might be the most prominent moment for the nation in Western pop culture. The country has three official languages: Bislama, French, and English, and political divides often fall along linguistic lines.
Palau • 43.5%
Palau is a small island country in Oceania, in the western Pacific. It was taken from Japan in World War II by US forces, but Palau declared their independence in 1981. They still use the US dollar as official currency and receive services from the US. Palau is one of the few countries of the world with a strongly matrilineal society.
Comoros • 43.5%
Comoros is an archipelago of the coast of Eastern Africa. It’s one of the smallest countries in Africa, and 27th smallest in the world. Comoros was colonized by the French for some time, and considered part of the territory of Madagascar. The government of Comoros reached an agreement to be independent from France in 1978 – but a small part of the archipelago elected to stay a French territory.
Tuvalu • 42.8%
Tuvalu is another archipelago nation, located in Oceania about halfway between Hawaii and Australia. Their cultural history is primarily Polynesian, and like several other nations colonized in Oceania, Tuvalu gained their independence and changed their name in the late 70s. Tuvalu is also the 4th smallest country in the world.
São Tomé and Príncipe • 41%
São Tomé and Príncipe is an archipelago off the western coast of central Africa. The islands were apparently uninhabited when discovered by Portugal in the late 1400s. Portugal claimed the territory, and started settling the islands with deported Portuguese civilians, who were primarily Jewish. The modern religious make-up of the island is primarily Catholic now, however.
Kiribati • 40.8%
Kiribati is another archipelago in Oceania that gained independence and a name change in the late 1970s. The islands of the archipelago are spread quite far apart from each other, and used to be split by the international date line. Kiribati is very threatened by any changes to sea level that may occur from global warming. The government has been encouraging citizens to migrate off of the islands. If sea levels rise too much, the country will be submerged.
Nauru • 40.8%
Nauru is an island country also in Micronesia, (a subset of Oceania). They are the 3rd smallest country in the world. Nauru was previously known as “Pleasant Island” and gained independence in 1968. They are closely politically associated with Australia. Nauru used to be primarily known for phosphate mining, but much of the resource has been stripped from the island and they now rely on other industries.
This concludes our list of the most forgotten countries of the world. Do you think you can name every country? Test yourself by taking this quiz.
Haley is a Content Moderator at Sporcle. She’s likely to walk into the office with a pastry and a book in hand, and a couple weird blog post ideas in her back pocket. Working at Sporcle is a constant learning experience, but she’s probably never mastering the capitals of the world.