According to HEALTHINCLUDE, the name Madagascar was given to this island by mistake. In fact, the current island of Madagascar was discovered in 1500, while already in 1491 this name appeared on the terrestrial globe of Martino Behaim, in Nuremberg, but attributed to an imaginary island. Not that Madagascar was unknown to the Greeks in ancient times and to the Arabs in the Middle Ages, but the names of Menuthias, of Diafuna, of Chezberia under which they designated it and the exact, but scarce, information they left of it, had not recalled the attention of European geographers. Marco Polo, based on the news received from the hands of Indian sailors, describes, in the Million, the two most important states of East Africa: the state of Madagosho or Madagascar, as he writes in a fantastic spelling, and the state of Zanzibar, located to S. of the former. For a very explainable mistake on the part of those who, having not personally visited those regions, learned of it from the Orientals, whose spirit and language do not lend themselves to a precise geographical description, he believed that the two states were formed by large islands and entitles the chapters he dedicates to their description: Island of Madagascar; Zanzibar Island. Based on these names, Martino Behaim drew two imaginary islands on his globe which by a singular case each found their correspondent in reality with much approximation when the Portuguese, having rounded the Cape of Good Hope, found the existence of a large land off the coast of Mozambique and of an islet on the coast of Zanguebar. It is true, however, that it was necessary to considerably modify its position, size and shape. It was only in 1502, in the planispheres of Cantino and Canerio that, for the first time, Madagascar appeared more or less in exact position and with a shape close to true, under the double name of Madagascar and Comorbiniam (Comordiva, Comora island); these maps had been drawn according to the data brought by Cabral, on his return to Lisbon in 1501, on the great African island that he had then discovered. In 1507 the Portuguese geographer Pedro Reinel gave a true description of the island, and from then on this was indifferently called Madagascar or the Island of St. Lawrence,
Until the middle of the 18th century, all cartographers represented Madagascar by copying their predecessors more or less closely, without taking into account the documents provided by the Portuguese explorations made in the 16th century and, after the 17th, for the coasts of the SE. and E., from the travels of the French colonists of Fort-Dauphin; only after 1760 were surveys carried out in various points of the coasts by French officers and engineers, especially in 1776 by d’Après de Mannevillette, and by various English and Dutch sailors. These maps were first perfected in 1802 by David Inverarity, then above all, in 1872, by Captain Owen, whose works – both on the west and east coasts – then served as the basis for all cartographic publications on Madagascar. Partial studies were made later, but up to in the modern age, no overall hydrographic works had been completed; after the creation of the French protectorate, very exact surveys were made, by Favé and Cauvet in 1887-88, by Mion and Fichot, and finally by Rollet de l’Isle, Driencourt, Cot, Cauvet, Lesage and de Vansay The topography of the interior, very poorly known until 1870, has been the subject of increasingly complete works by A. Grandidier first, then by Fathers Roblet and Collin and by various explorers and missionaries both English and French, MEF Gautier, G. Grandidier and finally of the Geographic Service which was established by General Gallieni in 1896, so much so that today the topography of Madagascar can be said to be well known.
The residents of Madagascar (Malagasy) did not have any name by which to designate the complex of their country until the modern age, they called it the “All” or the “Land that is in the middle of the sea”. It was only after the beginning of the 19th century that the Hovas, having conceived the project of becoming masters of the whole island, adopted the name given to their country by the Europeans. They did not even have a collective name to designate all the residents, they used and still often use the word Ambanilanitra, which means “those who are under the skies”, since, for the indigenous people of Madagascar, as for many residents of islands, the limits of the universe are confused with those of their island.