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. This time we continue the tour of Western Europe and a look at the largest of the places in Finland.
Helsinki is by far the largest and most populous of Finnish cities. Founded as recently as 1550 as Helsingfors, the Swedish name for the place, it takes the name of the tribe, the Helsingi with Swedish fors or 'waterfall' - this a reference to the rapids on the River Wanda and at the original site of this settlement.
Espoo takes the name of the River Espoo, itself from the Swedish Espaa which connects a or 'river' with aspe or 'aspen'. This is understood as referring to 'the river marked by a border of aspen'.
Tampere is of undertain etymology. Possibly this is of Swedish origins where damber means 'mill dam'. Alternatively, should this be of Scandinavian beginnings, this could represent pambr or pambion meaning 'thick bellied' and 'swollen belly' respectively. Should the latter be the correct definition, the swelling referred to the river and specifcally the rapids, a warning by and/or to roaming hunters these could be treacherous places to try and cross.
Vantaa has only been in offical use for the place since 1974. However the River Vantaa is recorded as such as early as 1351, itself simply meaning 'river'.
Oulu is yet another place named after a river. Here the river is the Oulujoki, itself taken from the lake Oulujarvi. Some believe Oulu to be from the Sumi for 'flood water', in which case it would be related to other words such as aulo 'melted snow'; aulot 'thaw', and oalli 'river channel'. It should be noted there are several other suggestions.
Turku is from turgu, an Old East Slavic word meaning 'market place'.
Jyvaskyla has two possible origins. Most often this is said to be jyvas and associated with an Old Prussian word juwis in which case this refers to 'yew trees'. Others argue there is also the possibility of this element referring to the sun's reflection on the waters here, yet this would not be a common source for a place name in any language or culture. In either case the suffix is kyla or 'village'.
Kuopio is another with more than one potential origin. Traditionally this is said to be the from the 16th century when an influential character named Kauhanen changed his name to Skopa, which became pronounced locally as Skopa, Coopia, and eventually Cuopio. However this does not explain the reason for the name, so perhaps this represents kuopia meaning 'paw' in the sense of a horse pawing the ground and understood to refer to the depression created by such. The most popular is a man's name, one Prokopij being a Karelian name recorded in the Middle Ages.
Note the spellings of the places are English as the piece is written in English.