This has been a mystery to me for some time. When should the Esperanto name of an island group receive the plural ending -j?

  • Sejŝeloj, Filipinoj, Ferooj, Ŝetlandoj, Orkadoj, Falklandoj are usually plural
  • Fiĝio is sometimes in the singular, sometimes in the plural, Fiĝioj
  • Lots of island groups are always in the singular: Mikronezio, Tuvalo, Malto (cf. the English expression the Maltese Islands)

I guess that some of these names are shortened from the expression ”-aj insuloj”, like Feroaj Insuloj > Ferooj. But the same expression could be used with any of the above names, e.g. Mikroneziaj Insuloj. And while we’re at it, why not Japanioj for Japan, another island group? The whole system seems very chaotic to me; hope somebody can help. :-)

  • Sub-question: Is there any reason that we say Feroaj Insuloj (> Ferooj) rather than Feroa Insularo, which would result in Feroo (and add consistency to the names)?
    – Bjørn
    Commented May 2, 2018 at 14:49
  • (1) Mind: not only islands: the Netherlands (fortunately became Nederlando, as the Duth themselves names it). (2) Mikronezio is a group word like -uj' (3) Country names are very naturalistic, near to the native description = chaotic.
    – Joop Eggen
    Commented Nov 27, 2021 at 16:37

2 Answers 2


It depends what the term actually refers to, a political or a geographical entity.

Japanujo refers to the country, not the physical islands; hence it is in the singular. The same would apply to Malto and the other examples. Same as in English, where you talk about Malta as the political entity, and the Maltese Islands when you're referring to the actual pieces of rock in the water.

The Orkneys, Falkland Islands/Islas Malvinas etc are not a political entity, but a group of multiple islands, hence you're using the plural.

  • But Filipinoj, Sejŝeloj, Maldivoj and Fiĝioj are also political entities?
    – Bjørn
    Commented May 1, 2018 at 11:41
  • 1
    Good point. The Philippines and Maldives are also plural in other languages, so I would think they are exceptions, and Fiĝio would be the country, while Fiĝioj is the islands. The full title of the country is Respubliko Insuloj Fiĝio. Unfortunately nothing in language is ever black and white. Commented May 1, 2018 at 11:54
  • Yes, many of the names are probably just carried over from other languages, whether it makes sense or not… :-/ (For example, I don’t see the reason that Maldivoj should be plural and Indonezio not.) Fiĝio(j) is a really confusing example. Does it mean that one could make a similar distinction when talking about other countries either in the sense of states or island groups? Like: Malto (state) – Maltoj (island group), or Tuvalo (state) – Tuvaloj (island group). And what if Falklandoj/Malvinoj became independent, should the state be called Falklando/Malvino?
    – Bjørn
    Commented May 2, 2018 at 14:46
  • Mind that -nez- comes from the greek for islands, so it's like x island nation. It does make sense that this is always singular.
    – LaPingvino
    Commented Dec 16, 2021 at 17:07

There is no rule. It tends to follow the form of the name of the country by which it is known internationally. In the case of Fiji, I have no idea which language influenced the use of the plural. Indeed, checking two dictionaries, one has only Fiĝioj (PIV), and the other only Fiĝio (ReVo). In any case, there's no logic to this, some things just have singular or plural names, just like in English.

La Akademio de Esperanto recommends Fiĝio.

  • Exactly. By international law a state chooses its own name. In this case Matanitu ko Viti, Republic of Fiji or फ़िजी गणराज्य (in the official languages in the order given in Wikipedia). In the name of reciprocity other states try to follow this proper name, so in Esperanto the official name is Respubliko Fiĝio, inofficially Fiĝio. I have no idea where the plural name comes from, it certainly is not the name of the state. Commented Nov 29, 2021 at 7:48

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