The commonly-held belief behind the name of Canada is that early French explorers (probably Jacques Cartier) mistook the local Iroquois' description of their village - kanata - to mean the whole land. While the name Canada probably did come from kanata, it wasn't, sadly, Cartier's mistake (as hilarious as that story is). Cartier himself wrote in his journals that the locals "called their town Canada" and he named the area "le pays des Canadas" (the country of Canadas).
Another theory is that it was actually Portuguese and Spanish explorers who named the land. After coming north looking for gold and finding none, they noted things on their maps like el cabo de nada ("Cape Nothing"), or cá nada ("nothing here"), which eventually evolved to the name we know today. I kinda wish we had embraced that story - "Cape Nothing" is an awesome, metal-sounding name, like the title of a Metallica album.
Here's another one: You know the story that Columbus named the natives of North America "Indians" because he thought he had actually sailed all the way to India? Well, another (highly unlikely) theory proposes that the name comes from those same first explorers mistaking the area as the Karnataka region of India (which, coincidentally, is populated by the Kannada ethnic group).
My favourite theory, though, is tied to another reference elsewhere in Cartier's writings. He called the province of Labrador "The Land God Gave to Cain," which, if you know anything about Labrador... is pretty accurate. You know, if you assume that God gave him the shittiest piece of real estate he could find on the planet. Somehow the "Land of Cain" became "Canada."
Little known fact: "Cain" is the biblical word for "caribou."
Actually true fact: Caribou and reindeer are the same thing.
I think that explanation is even more metal than "Cape Nothing," honestly.
My A-to-Z Blogging Challenge theme for 2017 is Weird Canadian Facts and History. To see more blog posts, click here.