Monday, November 13, 2017


I always hesitate when spelling South Carolina’s capital or the South American country bordering Panama. Is it Columbia or Colombia?

The U.S. city is spelled with a u. Columbia is a poetic, 18th-century term used for the United States and is depicted as a female. Though the term fell out of favor as the personification of the United States, it pops up across the country today, from the nation’s capital to a river in the Pacific Northwest, from an Ivy League school in New York to a film studio in California. Heck, it is even part of the nomenclature of a recording label, a line of sportswear and a space shuttle. Columbia is a New Latin term, based on the surname of an explorer who sailed the ocean blue in 1492. It means “Land of Columbus.”

The country famous for its coffee is spelled with an o. Colombia also derives its name from Christopher Columbus, the Italian explorer. In Spanish, however, his name is Cristóbal Colón.

Both the city and the country germinated from the surname of the same person, but the city is spelled using the root of his anglicized name (Columbus) rather than its Spanish counterpart (Colón).

In short, sometimes it is spelled Columbia, and sometimes it is spelled Colombia. Never, however, is it spelled Cloumbia.

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