name of a modern nation (since 1960) and ancient kingdom of northwest Africa, also the name of a Roman province corresponding to parts of modern Morocco and Algeria, from Latin Mauretania, from Greek Mauritania, "the country of the Mauri" (Greek Mauroi, singular Mauros; see Moor). Related: Mauritanian.
"utopian," 1896, from Ruritania, name of an imaginary kingdom in "The Prisoner of Zenda" (1894) by Anthony Hope (1863-1933), who coined it from Latin rus (genitive ruris) "country" (see rural) + Latinate ending -itania (as in Lusitania, Mauritania). Ruritania as a recognizable generic name for an imaginary country lasted into the 1970s.
early 15c., Atlantyke, "of or pertaining to the sea off the west coast of Africa," from Latin Atlanticus, from Greek Atlantikos "of Atlas," adjectival form of Atlas (genitive Atlantos) as used in reference to Mount Atlas in Mauritania (see Atlas). The name has been extended since c. 1600 to the ocean between Europe and Africa, on one side, and the Americas on the other. As a noun late 14c., Athlant, from Old French Atlante.
1580s, in Greek mythology a member of the older family of Gods, later regarded as a Titan, son of Iapetus and Clymene; in either case supposed to uphold the pillars of heaven (or earth), which according to one version was his punishment for being war-leader of the Titans in their battle with the Olympian gods. "Originally the name of an Arcadian mountain god; the name was transferred to the mountain chain in Western Africa" [Beekes].
The Greek name traditionally is interpreted as "The Bearer (of the Heavens)," from a-, copulative prefix (see a- (3)), + stem of tlenai "to bear" (from PIE root *tele- "to lift, support, weigh"). But Beekes compares Berber adrar "mountain" and finds it plausible that the Greek name is a "folk-etymological reshaping" of this. Mount Atlas, in Mauritania, was important in Greek cosmology as a support of the heavens.