The origins of the Roman name Hispania, and the modern España, are uncertain, although the Phoenicians and Carthaginians referred to the region as Spania, therefore the most widely accepted etymology is a Levant-Phoenician one. There have been a number of accounts and hypotheses of its origin:

The Renaissance scholar Antonio de Nebrija proposed that the word Hispania evolved from the Iberian word Hispalis, meaning “city of the western world”.

Jesús Luis Cunchillos argued that the root of the term span is the Phoenician word spy, meaning “to forge metals”. Therefore, i-spn-ya would mean “the land where metals are forged”. It may be a derivation of the Phoenician I-Shpania, meaning “island of rabbits”, “land of rabbits” or “edge”, a reference to Spain’s location at the end of the Mediterranean; Roman coins struck in the region from the reign of Hadrian show a female figure with a rabbit at her feet, and Strabo called it the “land of the rabbits”. The word in question (compare modern Hebrew Shafan) actually means “Hyrax”, possibly due to Phoenicians confusing the two animals.

Hispania may derive from the poetic use of the term Hesperia, reflecting the Greek perception of Italy as a “western land” or “land of the setting sun” (Hesperia, Ἑσπερία in Greek) and Spain, being still further west, as Hesperia ultima.

There is the claim that “Hispania” derives from the Basque word Ezpanna meaning “edge” or “border”, another reference to the fact that the Iberian Peninsula constitutes the southwest corner of the European continent.

Two 15th-century Spanish Jewish scholars, Don Isaac Abravanel and Solomon ibn Verga, gave an explanation now considered folkloric. Both men wrote in two different published works that the first Jews to reach Spain were brought by ship by Phiros who was confederate with the king of Babylon when he laid siege to Jerusalem. Phiros was a Grecian by birth, but who had been given a kingdom in Spain. Phiros became related by marriage to Espan, the nephew of king Heracles, who also ruled over a kingdom in Spain. Heracles later renounced his throne in preference for his native Greece, leaving his kingdom to his nephew, Espan, from whom the country of España (Spain) took its name. Based upon their testimonies, this eponym would have already been in use in Spain by c. 350 BCE.

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