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 I thought it would be interesting to see if any of the elements contributing to our place names could be found elsewhere. This time we continue the tour of Western Europe and a look at the largest Portuguese cities.
Lisbon was, according to legend, founded by the Greek hero Odysseus but this is certainly not the origin of the name. The Greeks knew the place as Olisippo, perhaps traceable to the Phoenician ippo meaning 'fence'. However most sources point to this as from the Phoenician alis ubbo, literally 'the joyful bay' but understood as a reference to a safe harbour.
Oporto is from the Portuguese o porto 'the port'. Note this is not the direct origin of the name of the country, Portugal came from the Roman name Portus cale or 'the warm harbour' (ie never freezes).
Braga was known as Bracara Augusta, the name of the Roman emperor following that of the Bracari people who lived here during the Iron Age.
Amadora was originally named Porcalhota, being the place of a woman named Porcalhota. In Italian Amadora means 'gift of love'.
Vila Nova de Gaia is 'the new place of Gaia', with the place name coming, from the Celtic peoples who inhabited the area previously, they referring to themselves as 'Gall', also seen in Gaul.
Queluz is disputed but most often said to come from the Arabic ca Llus and speaking of 'the valley where almonds grow'.
Funchal is a Portuguese city with a Portuguese name. This comes from funcho al and refers to 'the fennel plantation', the area being known for where the plant grew wild in profusion.
Coimbra was known as Conimbriga to the Romans, this unites an early Indo-European reference to a 'rocky height, an outcrop' with Celtic briga a defensive feature.
Note the spellings of the places are English as the piece is written in English.