Not Sports: A Color Coded Map of Every National Anthem’s Subject

Apologies in advance for not staying in my lane, but this one truly had a sporting origin.  While sitting and watching the UEFA 2016 tournament, I really enjoy watching Spain take the pitch for the national anthem as their fans sing the unofficial lyrics while the team members themselves stand stoically. It made me wonder what the distribution of national anthems were by theme. I took the lyrics from the respective Wikipedia page of the nation, then I divided them into the six categories mentioned below. In cases where multiple categories applied, I took the “most right” option, judging from the lyrics (and assuming they were translated accurately to English).


Without further ado, the map, and then some clarification below:

National Anthem Map


1. National Anthems About The Country Itself

In some regards, every national anthem is somewhat about the nation itself. It is the aural symbol of the country in question. However, while some anthems are tangentially about the country they are about, quite a few are solely about the country. As a whole, these anthems go something along the lines of “Oh ______, you are so great. You have beautiful land, strong people, and a bright future, and you will always be the fatherland/motherland/my native land.” Relevant examples include: “O Canada,” “Advance Australia Fair,” and my personal favorite “Libya, Libya, Libya.”1  Most of the world has anthems like these.


2. National Anthems About Some Sort of Battle (whether real or hypothetical)

These are the fun anthems. Usually militaristic with strong rhetoric, talking about how they violently fought colonialism, or overthrew the old, ruthless, despots. This is the second most common type of anthem. France, Sudan, and Colombia all have this in common with one another, with France winning this entire group’s lyric contest with the amazing imagery of “La Marseillaise.”

3. Songs About The Flag Itself

This one is pretty self-explanatory.  USA, Switzerland, Somalia, Albania and Turkey! What an amazing mix of countries. Now, there’s some question about whether the US song is about a battle or about the flag, with the song taking place in the Battle of Baltimore, a reference to Fort McHenry holding against the British bombardment. Since the song itself is called “The Star Spangled Banner” I have opted to put it in the flag category. You are free to disagree, however.

4. Songs About A Person or People

This one is generally about the leader of the country, though a handful of nations have this about the collective population of their nation. See: “God Save The Queen,” “March of the Volunteers” (China).

5. Songs About A Language

Moldova. Who knows.


6. Songs About Friendship

Slovenia used a historic poem that does not specifically mention any of the above.

  1. To my knowledge, this song is not sung in the same tone as the Brady Bunch’s “Marcia, Marcia, Marcia”

14 thoughts on “Not Sports: A Color Coded Map of Every National Anthem’s Subject”

    • It’s literally in the first verse…

      O! say can you see, by the dawn’s early light,
      What so proudly we hailed at the twilight’s last gleaming,
      Whose broad stripes and bright stars through the perilous fight,
      O’er the ramparts we watched, were so gallantly streaming?
      And the rockets’ red glare, the bombs bursting in air,
      Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there;
      O! say does that star-spangled banner yet wave
      O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?

      It’s about a flag, surviving a battle.

  1. You left out the best part of Moldova’s national anthem. Not only is it about their national language, but their national language is Romanian.

  2. About flag in Switzerland? not at all!. Is a religious chant like in the church. It talk about our souls and Good and the peaceful in the mountains. Is boring to died.

  3. Why is the United States national anthem listed as being about the flag? The poem that became the song is about a battle when the British Navy was attacking Fort McHenry in the War of 1812. The only part about the flag is that it was still flying over the fort in the morning, and that meant that the United States hadn’t lost the battle. It’s not about the flag, but the battle.

    • Actually Bosnia and Herzegovina Anthem does not have lyrics. There is proposition for lyric from 2009 but as many other open thinks it is still waiting for acceptance from parliament and Ministry assembly, but I strongly doubt it will be accepted in this decade.

  4. March of the Volunteers is about the Second World War in China, it’s called the March of the Volunteers because the Volunteer army used it.

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