Zimbabwe, officially the Republic of Zimbabwe, is a landlocked country located in southern Africa, between the Zambezi and Limpopo rivers. It is bordered by South Africa to the south, Botswana to the southwest, Zambia to the northwest and Mozambique to the east. The capital is Harare. Zimbabwe achieved de jure sovereignty from the United Kingdom in April 1980, following 14 years as an unrecognised state under the conservative white minority government of Rhodesia, which unilaterally declared independence in 1965.

Zimbabwe has 16 official languages, with English, Shona and Ndebele being most common. The present territory was first demarcated by Cecil Rhodes' British South Africa Company during the 1890s, becoming a self-governing colony as Southern Rhodesia in 1923. President Robert Mugabe is head of state and commander-in-chief of the armed forces. Renowned as a champion for the anti-colonial cause, Mugabe is also viewed as authoritarian, and responsible for Zimbabwe's problematic human rights record and substantial economic decline. He has held power since internationally recognised independence in 1980: as head of government since 1980 and head of state since 1987.

The name "Zimbabwe" is based on a Shona term for Great Zimbabwe, an ancient ruined city in the country's south-east whose remains are now a protected site. There are two theories on the origin of the word. Various sources hold that the word is derived from dzimba-dza-mabwe, translated from the Karanga dialect of Shona as "large houses of stone" (dzimba = plural of imba, "house";mabwe = plural of bwe, "stone"). The Karanga-speaking Shona people are found around Great Zimbabwe in the modern-day province of Masvingo. Archaeologist Peter Garlake claims that "Zimbabwe" is a contracted form of dzimba-hwe which means "venerated houses" in the Zezuru dialect of Shona, and is usually applied to chiefs' houses or graves.

Zimbabwe was formerly known as Southern Rhodesia (1923), Rhodesia (1965), and Zimbabwe Rhodesia (1979). The first recorded use of "Zimbabwe" as a term of national reference was in 1960, when it was coined by the black nationalist Michael Mawema,whose Zimbabwe National Party became the first to officially use the name in 1961. The term Rhodesia—derived from the surname of Cecil Rhodes, the primary instigator of white colonisation of the territory during the late 19th century—was perceived as inappropriate because of its colonial origin and connotations. According to Mawema, black nationalists held a meeting in 1960 to choose an alternative name for the country, and the names Machobana and Monomotapa were proposed before his suggestion, Zimbabwe, prevailed. A further alternative, put forward by nationalists in Matabeleland, had been "Matopos", referring to the Matopos Hills to the south of Bulawayo.

It was initially not clear how the chosen term was to be used—a letter written by Mawema in 1961 refers to "Zimbabweland"—but "Zimbabwe" was sufficiently established by 1962 to become the generally preferred term of the black nationalist movement. In a 2001 interview, black nationalist Edson Zvobgo recalled that the name was mentioned by Mawema during a political rally, "and it caught hold, and that was that". The name was subsequently used by the black nationalist factions during the Second Chimurenga campaigns against the Rhodesian government during the Rhodesian Bush War. The most major of these were the Zimbabwe African National Union (led by Robert Mugabe from 1975), and the Zimbabwe African People's Union, led by Joshua Nkomo from its founding in the early 1960s.