In 1973 British Honduras officially became known as Belize. The origin story or stories of the name “Belize” remain obscure; but today we’ll explore some of the interesting theories historians and locals have made.
The popular consensus is that Belize is derived from the Mayan language. For those of you new to Belizean history the Mayas are the indigenous group of Belize. So, theory one! In Maya the word “Balix” translates to “muddy waters” which one can assume refers to the Belize River. Perhaps with some Spanish influence Balix was transformed to Belize. Likely? I would like to think so, especially when you consider the Mayan pronunciation of the letter “x”. The “X” carries a soft “sh” sound like in “slush”. “Balix” would then sound like “Balish”. The second theory involves the Mayan word “Belikin”. Yes, Belikin like the beer of Belize! Belikin simply means “the land facing the see”. Once again from one pronunciation to the other the Spanish Conquerors could have easily transformed Belikin into Belize – a bit of a stretch? I agree!
If it isn’t complicated enough there is one last theory. In 1638 a buccaneer by the name of Peter Wallace is believed to have created a community at the mouth of the Belize River. It is believed that Wallace named the area after himself. However, the Spaniards could not pronounce the “W” in Wallace and replaced it with a “V”. Thus becoming “Vallis” and eventually becoming “Balise”. This theory has some historical context that is believed to validate the claim.
Plot Twist! Records recently published by the Belize Archives & Records Service show that Belize was derived from a combination of the poorly translated Mayan word “Balis” and the last name “Walis”.
It doesn’t matter where the name “Belize” came from because today Belize is The Jewel of the Caribbean. The Jewel is a melting pot of culture, a home for wanderers, and an un-Belizeable experience. If you’re lucky enough to land on its shores you’re sure to fall in love with its crystal clear waters, never ending jungle, and the one of a kind people.