Sunday, 8 September 2019

Oman Place Names Explained

Having blogged samples of my books on English place names and also examined the etymologies of the nations of the world and their respective capitals I thought it time I cast my net a little wider. As English place names share some links to other tongues it would be interesting to see if any of the elements contributing to our place names could be found elsewhere. Continuing an alphabetical tour of the world and a look at the largest Oman's cities.


Adam has a very long history and thus the origin of the name is uncertain. However, most sources give this as Arabic for 'the fertile land'.


Al Ashkarah is a delightful place name, being taken from a poisonous plant indigenous to this area.


Mount Shams is the highest point in the country, hence it is appropriate that its name means 'the sun mountain'.


Al Suqayq is simply the Arabic for 'market'.


Ibra has been suggested as coming from an Arabic verb and means 'purification of guilt'.


Muscat's origins are disputed, some claim this is from Arabic where moscha means 'inflated hide or skin', although others suggest an alternative Arabic term for 'letting fall the anchor', the latter seems a little contrived. Perhaps this from the Old Persian muscat or 'strong scented', or maybe other ancient languages have contributed to the name meaning 'falling place' and 'hidden place'. The problem here is the age of the settlement. Ptolemy's map of the region give two names for this area: Cryptus Portus and Moscha Portus, suggesting the original name may have come from Old Sumerian maa-kan 'sea people'.


Nizwa possibly comes from the Arabic for 'alone' but this would be an odd meaning for a place name, although phonetically it fits much better than the water spring which has flowed here for the entire age of the settlement.


Rustaq comes from the Middle Iranian rostag or 'district'. Note this ancient tongue is close to the root word which has given similar terms in many Indo-European languages, including the modern Iranian rusta 'large village' and Latin rustica 'village'. The latter has given us the modern English 'rustic'. This is why etymology, the study of language, and toponomy, the study of place names, prove so fascinating for me.


Note the spellings of the places are English as the piece is written in English.

Sunday, 1 September 2019

Nigeria Place Names Explained

Having blogged samples of my books on English place names and also examined the etymologies of the nations of the world and their respective capitals I thought it time I cast my net a little wider. As English place names share some links to other tongues it would be interesting to see if any of the elements contributing to our place names could be found elsewhere. Continuing an alphabetical tour of the world and a look at the largest of Nigeria's cities.


Lagos is a name given to the place by the Portuguese, it means simply 'lakes'.


Kano was originally known as Dala, after Dalla Hill, and remained such until the end of the 15th century. Later it took its current name, itself borrowed from the name of the hereditary rulers named Kano.


Ibadan comes from the phrase eba odan, 'between the forest and the plains'.


Benin came from the Portuguese pronunciation of the original name of Ubinu, itself from Ile-Ibinu 'the land of vexation' as coined by Prince Oranmiyan, he frustrated in his attempts at governing this area.


Port Harcourt, built in 1912, was named to honour Lewis Vernon Harcourt, Secretary of State for the Colonies.


Jos is recorded as originally being known as Gwosh, a former village named for its position n the hills.


Enugu is derived from two Igbo words, where Enu Ugwu means 'hill top'.


Zaria was named after Queen Zaria.


Bauchi was named after a hunter called Baushe or encouraged Yaqub, of the Sokoto Empire, to build this city.


Sokoto is a modern version of the earlier Arabic name, itself from suk meaning 'market'.


Yola comes from the Fulfulde meaning 'great plain'.


Note the spellings of the places are English as the piece is written in English.

Sunday, 25 August 2019

Niger Place Names Explained

Having blogged samples of my books on English place names and also examined the etymologies of the nations of the world and their respective capitals I thought it time I cast my net a little wider. As English place names share some links to other tongues it would be interesting to see if any of the elements contributing to our place names could be found elsewhere. Continuing an alphabetical tour of the world and a look at the largest of Niger's cities.


Niamey refers to where the local tribe drew water 'to the left of the tree' from the river which gave Niger its name, the river Niger coming from the Tamashek language where gher n-gheren means 'river among rivers'.


Birni-N'Konni is derived from the Hausa language and refers to 'the walled town of Konni'.


Dogondoutchi, usually reffered to as simply Doutchi, is derived from a local phrase meaning 'high hill'.


Doro is a Beri-Beri name simply meaning 'fishing port'.


Tchintabaraden translates as 'the valley of the young girls', named because young women and girls were once forced to head to a large well on a daily basis for water. Since running water has been installed, this is no longer necessary.


Mayahi or Mayaki, is from the Hausa people's name for their ruler.


Note the spellings of the places are English as the piece is written in English.

Sunday, 18 August 2019

Nicaragua Place Names Explained

Having blogged samples of my books on English place names and also examined the etymologies of the nations of the world and their respective capitals I thought it time I cast my net a little wider. As English place names share some links to other tongues it would be interesting to see if any of the elements contributing to our place names could be found elsewhere. Continuing an alphabetical tour of the world and a look at the largest Nicaraguan cities.


Managua has two equally plausible origins. The local Nahuatl language being one and where mana-ahuac translates as '(place) by the water' or perhaps '(place) surrounded by water'. Alternatively this may represent the Mangue tongue, where managua means 'place of the big man', effectively 'chief'.


Leon was founded by the Spanish as Santiago de los Caballeros de Leon in 1524, courtesy of Franciso Hernandez de Cordoba. The original located some 20 miles east of the present city. Named after the Spanish city which, in turn, is dervived from the city's Latin name coined during the Roman occupation of Castra Legionis or 'the camp of the legion'.


Monimbo comes from the Nahuatl and means 'close to the water', that water is Lake Masaya, itself perhaps meaning 'joyful, happy' or similar.


Matagalpa, like Managua, has two suggested origins. This may come from the local tongue meaning 'leading town' for maika is 'head' and calpul 'town'. Alternatively this is from the Sumo language and translates as 'let's go where the rocks are'. Other explanations are 'here next to the water' and 'among the mountains'.


Chinandega's origins are uncertain, although most often explained as from the Nahuatl chinamitl-tacalt 'the place surrounded by reeds'.


Granada was a thriving community when the Spanish arrived and renamed it Granada in 1524. The Spaniards took the name of the city of Granada in Spain, itself derived from its earlier Arabic name of Garnatah thought to translate as 'hill of the strangers'.


Tipitapa is another with two possible origins. This could either be from a Mexican relpe-petiat-pan, literally 'stone, bedroll, place' and understood as 'place of stone backpacks'; or perhaps this is tpitzin apan 'small place' and understood as meaning 'the place of a small river'.


Juigalpa either means 'land abundant of jicaro' (otherwise known as the calabash tree) or, and I do so hope this can be shown to be the true origin, in 'place of the black snails'.


Boaco is composed of two words, boaj 'enchanters' with the suffix o 'place, town'. It seems this is probably from some long-forgotten piece of folklore, maybe related to the name of the nearby peak of El Cerro de la Vieja 'the old woman's hill'.


Bluefields was named after the Dutch pirate Abraham Blauvelt, he using this bay as a hiding place in the 17th century. The Bluefields River, an oxymoron if ever I heard one, comes from the same source.


Note the spellings of the places are English as the piece is written in English.

Sunday, 11 August 2019

New Zealand Place Names Explained

Having blogged samples of my books on English place names and also examined the etymologies of the nations of the world and their respective capitals I thought it time I cast my net a little wider. As English place names share some links to other tongues it would be interesting to see if any of the elements contributing to our place names could be found elsewhere. Continuing an alphabetical tour of the world and a look at the largest New Zealand cities.


Auckland was named in 1840 by William Hobson, Lieutenant-Governor of New Zealand. He chose the name of George Eden, Earl of Auckland and British First Lord of the Admirality. His title came from Auckland in Durham, correctly Bishop Auckland to show the area was held by the Bishop of Durham. The main part of the name comes from Cumbric, describing 'the rock on the Clyde'. Today the local river is the Gaunless but changes in river names and even different names for the same river were not only common in history but to be expected. Further details on the place name can be found in my County Durham Place Names. For the Maori this was known as Tamaki Makaurau, or 'Tamaki with a hundred lovers' and a reference to a fertile place where many rivers converge.


Wellington is named after Arthur Wellesley, first Duke of Wellington. His name chosen in 1840, not because of his earlier victory at Waterloo but, for his support for the New Zealand Company and their principles of colonisation. His title comes from the Somerset town, a name meaning 'the farmstead associated with a man named Weola'. Further details on the place name be found in my Somerset Place Names. For the Maori the area now occupied by the modern city had been known by three names. Te Whanganui-a-Tara, this the harbour area, refers to 'the great harbour of Tara'; Poneke is the transliteration of Port Nick or Port Nicholson, the central and sacred part of the city; and Te Upoko-o-te-Ika-a-Maui or 'the head of the fish of Maui' and a reference to the demi-god who is said to have fished the island from the sea.


Christchurch officially took its name on 27 March 1848. Founder John Robert Godley suggested uit as he was educated at Christ Church, Oxford. The Maori know the place as Otautahi 'the place of Tautahi', a seasonal home of chief Te Potiki Tautahi and known as such since the 1930s. Earlier the name of Karaitiana, a transliteration of the English 'Christian'.


Hamilton was found 24 August 1864 by Colonel William Moule, who named the place to honour Captain John Fane Charles Hamilton, commander of HMS Esk, killed at the Battle of Gate Pa, Tauranga in 1864.


Tauranga retains its original Maori name, it refers to the natural harbour as 'the place of rest or anchorage'.


Napier is today officially joined with Hastings, but as a place name it stands alone. It is named after the British army officer General Sir Charles Napier (1782-1853).


Hastings is a name transferred from the place on the south coast of England which comes from 'place of the family or followers of a man called Haesta', further information can be found in my East Sussex Place Names. However the name was brought here as a personal name, he Warren Hastings, the first Governor-General of Bengal. Some sources suggest the place had earlier been known as Hicksville, named after Francis Hicks who bought a one hundred acre plot which now forms the centre of the city.


Dunedin is another colony established by the New Zealand Company, here many came from Scotland and they chose to name the place for the Gaelic name for Edinburgh Dun Eideann and meaning 'the stronghold of Eidyn'.


Palmerston was known as Papa-i-Oea, 'how beautiful it is', until colonists arrived in the middle of the 19th century and renamed it in honour of Henry John Temple, 3rd Viscount Palmerston who served two terms as Britain's prime minister.


Nelson is, somewhat predictably, named after Admiral Horatio Nelson. Yet he is not the only combatant at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805, many roads and areas in the city also remember people and ships involved in the defeat of the French and Spanish fleets. The Maori name is Whakatu and means 'build, establish, raise'.


Rotorua takes its name from the Maori Rotorua-nui-a-Kahumatamomoe 'the second great lake of Kahumatamomoe', he the uncle of the Maori chief Ihenga and this the second great lake he discovered and thus named to honour his uncle.


Whangarei is another Maori name, it is derived from two words whanga 'harbour' and rei 'cherished possession'.


New Plymouth, named because it was not the original, took its name from the English city as this was where the first English settlers both migrated and arrived, just as had happened with North America. Plymouth has a rather complex origin, one explained in detail in both my Cornwall Place Names and South Devon Place Names. Briefly, it is named as being at the mouth of the River Plym, itself named for Plymstock. The Maori name was Ngamotu.


Invercargill is a created 'Scottish' place name, where the Gaelic inbhir, used in a number of Scotland place names and meaning 'river mouth' precedes the surname of Captain William Cargill, then the Superintendent of Otago.


Whanganui is the modern accepted spelling, officially changed in 2009 from Wanganui although both spellings are acceptable. The Maori whanga nui means 'big bay' and retained its original name even though the New Zealand Company called it Petre after Lord Petre who worked for the company.


Gisborne was known to the Maori as Turanga-nui-a-Kiwa or 'the great standing place of Kiwa'. In 1870 the name changed to Gisbourne to honour New Zeland Colonial Secretary William Gisborne (1825-1898).


Haast was named after Julius von Haast, a German geologist who was knighted for his services to geology in New Zealand.


Note the spellings of the places are English as the piece is written in English.