Sunday, 14 October 2018

Iran 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 Iranian cities and starting with the capital, Tehran.


Tehran's origins are uncertain. The name probably dates back to the earliest days of the city itself, that history goes back at least 7,000 years. Of course that has not stopped speculation. Perhaps it comes from Tiran or Tirgan and meaning 'the abode of Tir', he the Zoroastrian equivalent of the Greek deity Mercury. Another idea is this represents 'a warm place', while an official guide gives Tah 'end or bottom' and Ran 'mountain slope' and it does lie at the foot of the Alborz Mountains.

Mashhad is named after the last resting place of Imam Reza, the eighth Shia Imam. Interred in the village of Khorasan, this was changed to the modern name of Mashhad meaning 'the place of martyrdom'.

Isfahan comes from the Middle Persian Spahan, understood as 'place of the gathering army'.

Shiraz is more than four thousand years old, yet the oldest record of the name is less than half that. It is derived from the son of Shah Tahmuras.

Tabriz has several explanations, most often to come from tap-riz and a reference to the thermal springs here. Others suggest the King Tiridates II of Armenia gained revenge for his brother's death by driving out Ardashire I of the Sassanid Empire in AD246, with ta-vrezh meaning 'the revenge'.

Ahvaz has a rather complex history but is thought to come from an Old Persian and referred to 'the land of the Huzis'.

Urmia is thought to come from Indo-Iranian urmi 'wave' and urmya 'undulating, wavy'. This refers to the location near a lake and surrounded almost entirely by rivers, and thus the inference is 'water town'.

Rasht is thought to be from the verb reshtan meaning 'weaving' and a reference to one of the many early industries here.

Zahedan is a plural form of the Arabic zahed meaning 'pious'.

Yazd is from Yazdegerd I, a Sassanid ruler of Persia, his name meaning 'made by God'.

Ardabil comes from the Avesta Artavila and means 'holy place'.

Bandar Abbas has a long history and always uppermost known as a port and the names reflect that. Indeed, Bandar Abbas literally translates as 'harbour port'. For most of its existence it was known as Gameroon, this from gumruk with in root in 'commerce'.


Arak is a term given to this place since the medieval period and means 'the edge'.

Sanandaj had originally been known as Saneh or 'castle'. Subsequently it became known for the location of the castle and Sanandaj means 'castle at the foot of the mountain'.

Dezful speaks of itself as 'the fortified bridge' from the Persian diz pul.

Khomeyni Shahr was named to honour the Ayatollah Khomeini, but had earlier been known as Sedeh, from seh dedge 'three castles'.

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

Sunday, 7 October 2018

Indonesia 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 Indonesian cities.
Jakarta is from Jayakarta, itself from two Sanskrit words meaning 'victorious deed', 'complete victory', or 'complete act'. It refers to the troops of Fatihillah driving off the Portuguese forces in 1527.

Surabaya is derived from the Javanese sura ing baya or 'bravely facing danger'. This refers to the psychic king who foretold of a fight between a giant white shark and a great white alligator. This is thought to be the prediction of the Mongol hordes invading under Kublai Khan in 1293.

Medan was originally said to come from the Tamil word maidham meaning 'ground' but latterly there has been the suggestion of the alternative meaning of 'get better, recover'.

Depok is an acronym standing for De Eerste Protestantse Organisatie Kristen Protestan Pertama of the 'First Protestant Christian Organisation'. However folklore would have us believe this is a Sundanese word meaning 'hermitage'.


Palembang's origins are disputed. Some think it from the Malay pe-limbang and 'the place to pan for gold and look for diamond ores'. Others opt for lembang, the Malay term giving 'the place where water leaks' (ie a constant supply of water). WHile folklore maintains this came from four brothers who survived a shipwreck when bound for a new settlement. As the vessel descended beneath the waves all they were able to save was a large wooden box which they utilised as a raft and paddled to safety. Not the safest mode of transport, the box wobbled under the action of the waves - limbang-limbang used to refer to this unstable raft.

Pekanbaru is thought to come from the Malay words for 'new market'.

Bogor is thought to come from the Javanese word for 'sugar palm' or bhogor 'cow'. When founded in the 7th century it was known as Pajuan Pajajaran meaning 'a place between the parallel rivers' of Ciliwung and Cisadane.

Denpasar is from the Balinese words den pasar or 'northern market'.


Malang may be uncertain but most often said to come from the Malay for 'God has destroyed the false and enforced the right'.

Samarinda is literally 'equal in height' and a reference to how the houses were built and rafts and were therefore generally of equal height.

Cimahi is also the name of the river here, this from the Sudanese meaning 'enough water'.

Pontianak is from Malay meaning 'ferocious female ghost'. Folklore refers to the story of how the army of Syarif Abdurhamman Alkadrie shot cannonballs into the nest of ghosts hiding in the cave until they dispersed.

Manado comes from the Minahasan language where manadou or wanazou means either 'on the far coast' or 'in the distance' respectively. This a reference to the two offshore islands.

Yogyakarta means 'a city that is fit to prosper'.


Cirebon is from a local tongue known as Jawareh and probably means 'mixed'. Yjis refers to a blending of Sudanese, Javanese, Arabic and Chinese cultures.

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

Sunday, 30 September 2018

India 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 Indian cities.

Mumbai comes from Mumba or Maha-Amba, the goddess of the Koli community. As many will know it was known as Bombay for many years. This has never been the local name but came from the Portuguese bom baim 'good little bay'.


Delhi has more suggestions as to the derivation of its name than the number of letters in the word. Among these are Dhilu or Dilu, a king who built the city here in 50BC; or from Hindi dhili meaning 'loose' and a reference to an iron pillar of Delhi which, owing to poor foundations, had to be relocated; or from the local coinage, the dehliwal, although it would seem more likely to have been named after the place; or the fort of dehali built by King Prithiviraja, although there is no suggestion as to its origins; or from Dilli and a corruption of dehleez or dehali meaning 'threshold' and 'gateway' respectively.

Bangalore is the Anglicised version of Bengaluru, itself from vira gallu or 'hero stone' and referring to a battle fount in the 11th century.


Hyderabad is supposed to refer to 'Haydar's city', where haydar abad translates as 'lion city'.

Ahmedabad could be named after the founder, Sultan Ahmed Shah, in 1411 or, according to other sources, four saints named Ahmed.

Chennai comes from the name of Damarla Chennappa Nayakudu, here in the 17th century.

Kolkata, from Bengali Kolikata, has several explanations: 'field of Kali', a goddess; 'flat area'; 'canal' or 'dug'; or from koli chun or 'quicklime'.

Pune is an abbreviation of Punya-Vishaya meaning 'sacred news'.

Jaipur is named after its 18th century founder Maharaja Jai Singh II.

Lucknow is the Anglicised spelling of Lakhnau and named after Lakshamana, the hero of the Hindu epic Ramayana.


Kanpur may come from 'the town of Khan' or 'town of Karna'.

Nagpur may be named after the river Nag, the origin of which is uncertain.

Visakhapatnam is generally held to be named after the temple built here to Vaisakha, itself lost to rising sea levels.

Indore is named after the Indreshwar Temple.

Thane is from the Sanskrit word sthana or 'place'.

Bhopalis named after or by the 11th century Paramara king Bhoja.

Patna takes its name from Patan, the Hindu goddess Patan Devi.

Vadodara is traditionally held to come from the Sanskrit word vatodar, meaning the belly of the Banyan tree.

Coimbatore comes from, among many suggestions, 'new town of Kovan'.

Madurai may come from the 'sweetness', the idea being this refers to the divine nectar showered on the city by the Hindu god Siva and from his matted hair.


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

Wednesday, 26 September 2018

Iceland 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 Icelandic places.


Reykjavik is the Icelandic for 'smoke cove' and refers to the steam from hot springs synonymous with the island.

Kopavogur translates as 'seal pup inlet' and a seal pup can be found on the town's coat of arms.

Hafnarfjordur means simply 'harbour fjord'.

Keflavik describes itself as 'driftwood bay'.

Selfoss is an oddity as the suffix is Iceland for 'waterfall' and yet there are no waterfalls to be found here today.

Isafjord can still be seen as 'ice fjord'.

Saudarkrokur takes its name from the small river running through here, this the Sauda. The name refers to where it hits the coast and means 'hook of the sheep river'.


Egilsstadir has hardly changed since it was first known as Egilsstadir's farmstead'.

Husavik is held to be the first place ever settled in Iceland, this by Gardar Svavarsson around 870. When he left, Gardar's farmstead consisted of a man named Nattfari and a male and female slave. As the only signs of human habitation on the island, it is easy to see why the name meant 'bay of houses'.

Hofn is an Icelandic word meaning simply 'harbour'.

Thorlakshofn is named after Saint Thorlak who was bishop here and thus the name means 'Thorlak's harbour'.

Gardur refers to this as 'garden'.

Neskaupstadur refers to itself as 'the headland (or ness) of Egill the red'..

Dalvik can be translated to 'valley bay'.

Stykkisholmur takes its name from the small island at the mouth of the harbour describing 'the piece of dry land'.

Hvolsvollur translates as 'hill field'.


Hella comes from the caves near the river, where Irish monks lived in the first settlement.

Patreksfjordur is further evidence of Irish influence for it means 'Patrick's fjord'.

Vopnafjordur translates as 'weapon bay', itself named from a nickname of one of the early settlers, Eyvindur vopni.

Note the majority of Icelandic names were coined to be recognisable from the sea, not the land. Just as the names of Greenland were in my earlier post.

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

Sunday, 16 September 2018

Hong Kong 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 Hong Kong places.


Victoria City is predictably a reminder of British rule and named after Queen Victoria, indeed it had originally been known as Queenstown.

Kowloon means 'nine dragons', named for the eight mountains and the emperor.


Tseung Kwan O means 'general's bay' but who that general was and why he had a bay named in his honour is a mystery.

Aberdeen is named to honour the memory of George Hamilton-Gordon, 4th Earl of Aberdeen and former British prime minister.

Cheung Chau means 'the long state' and aptly known as such owing to its shape, also the reason it is nicknamed 'dumbbell island'.

Kennedy Town is named after Arthur Edward Kennedy, 7th Governor of Hong Kong (1872-77).


Jardine's Lookout is named after William Jardine, founder of Jardine Matheson, one of the original Hong Kong trading houses. It was here the company would keep an eye out for the white sails and rush out in a fast whaleboat to collect the mail and get the first news of stocks and shares on the world market.

Kwun Tong means 'Mandarin Pond' and a reference to the salt yards.

Sai Kung was where ships came to bring gifts to the Ming Dynasty, hence its name meaning 'tributes from the west'.

Shek O translates as 'rocky bay'.


Stanley was where the British and Canadian troops made a last stand during the Battle of Hong Kong, at Stanley's Fort. The local name is Chek Chue or 'bandit's post', from the legend this was the hideout of the notorious pirate Cheung Po Tsa.

Tai O means 'large inlet', a reference to the access to the river for this traditional fishing village.

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

Sunday, 9 September 2018

Honduras 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 Honduras cities.


Tegucigalpa comes from the native Nahuatl tongue, but the interpretation is unclear and has been defined any number of ways. Most often said to be from taguz galpa meaning 'hills of silver', yet doubters point out the locals had no notion there were deposits of this precious metal hereabouts. A second explanation suggests a meaning of 'painted rocks' from a different local tongue; or Topogalpa the name of a small gree parrot found locally; or a similar Mexican name of Tecuztilcallipan 'place of the residence of the noble'; or Tecuhtzincalpan 'place of the home of the beloved master'; or Nahuatl for 'in the homes of the sharp stones'. From my experience with place name derivations, perhaps the first two have similar meanings in referring to light-colouring of the rocks and thus not referring to the precious metal.


San Pedro Sula is Spanish and literally translates as 'his/her Saint Peter'.

La Ceiba is named after the a ceiba tree near the old dock, this dock crumbled into the sea in 2007. These trees play an important role in the mythologies of Mesoamerican cultures.


Choluteca first mentioned by the Spanish in 1541, when known as Villa de Xerez de la Frontera de Choluteca, and officially named simply Choluteca on October 1st 1845 under the presidency of Coronado Chavez. This is from the Chorotega, the name of the indigenous peoples here when the Spanish arrived, and means either 'path of the warriors' or 'vorn on either side', depending upon who you ask.

El Progreso is Spanish for 'progress' and telling of modern development. It stands in the shadow of the mountain range known as Mico Quemado or 'blue monkey'.

La Lima means, assuming it shares an origin with the Peruvian capital, 'talker, speaker' in the Quechua language.

Puerto Cortes this 'port of Cortes' takes the name of Hernan Cortes, the 1st Governor of New Spain. Quite appropriate as cortes is Spanish for 'parliament'.

Atlantida Department is named for the ocean, the Atlantic named after Atlas, the titan in Greek mythology who held up the world and may be from the adjective durus 'hard, enduring'.

Santa Rosa is Spanish for 'holy rose'.

Tela is a contraction of the Nahua word Tetela 'land of the hills and craggy mountains'.


Olanchito takes its name from the Olancho Valley and similarly named river near where it is situated, sadly its origin in unknown.

Nacaome is named from the new town here, for naca ome does mean 'union of two races' and describes the new town this union produced.

La Esperanza is Spanish for 'the hope'.

Puerto Lempira or 'port Lempira' shares its origin with the currency of Honduras in coming from the 16thcentury ruler of the Lenca people. He is a national hero, leading the resistance against the Spanish conquistadors, albeit ultimately unsuccessfully.


Cofradia is the Spanish for 'brotherhood'.

La Entrada is Spanish for 'the entrance'.

Yuscaran has a very uncertain origin but, if related to a dialect found nearer Mexico, may well mean 'the place of the house of flowers'.

La Paz is Spanish for 'the peace'.

Coxen Hole named after the deep water bay or 'hole' and its association with John Coxen. Coxen, or Coxon, was a late 17th-century buccaneer who terrorised the Spanish main and one of five thousand pirates who lived here.


Gracias does indeed mean 'thanks' in Spanish, and perhaps the story that it was after a long and arduous trek through mountainous terrain that Spanish explorers were grateful to find flat land at last is true.

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

Sunday, 2 September 2018

Haiti 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 Haitian cities.


Port-au-Prince - since at least 1680 the islets were known as Les Ilets du Prince 'the islands of the prince', then French colonial commissioner Etienne Polverel named the largest settlement Port-Republican on 23rd September 1793 so, as he told the assemblage "the inhabitants be kept continually in mind of the obligations which the French Revolution imposed on them". Jacques I, Emperor of Haiti, changed the name to its current meaning of 'port of the prince' as soon as he could. This is a much more interesting and accurate explanation than the idea the place was named by Captain Saint-Andre who named the place in 1706 when he landed here in his vessel Le Prince.


Carrefour - simply the French word for 'crossroads'.

Petion-Ville - named after Alexandre Sabes Petion (1770-1818), Haitian general and president and one of the nation's four founding fathers.


Cite Soleil - translates as 'Sun City'.

Port-de-Paix - means 'port of peace'.


Gros-Morne - means 'big mountain'.

Les Cayes - a cay is a small, low-lying, sandy island forming on a coral reef.


Limonade - wonderfully named and meaning 'lemonade', it can boast as being the first place in the Americas ever to celebrate Christmas, doing so in 1492 when none other than Christopher Columbus himself. According to Wikipedia nothing else happened until 1794, when the Haitian revolutionary hero Francois Capois died. This followed by 218 years of more nothing until the completion of of the Universite Roi Henri Christophe in 2012.


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