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 to cast my net a little wider. This time Bosnia and Herzegovina and a look at some of its largest settlements and most interesting names.
Sarajevo is the capital and by far the largest city. Its name comes from Turkish saray and a later Turkish loanword evo and together refer to 'the plains around the palace'. Thus we can infer the original place, and thus the name, referred solely to the palace, with the present form coming some centuries later.
Banja Luka is quite recent, at least as far as place names go, being first seen in a document dating from 1494. Traditionally this is defined as from ban luka or 'meadow of the dignitary' and yet without any indication of the location of the meadow or, more importantly, any hint as to the identity of the dignitary. The popularity of this definition has tended to overshadow more likely origins, including banja 'bath or spa' with luka 'port'; bajna luka 'the marvellous port'; or from Hungarian Lukacsbanya 'Luke's mine'. Note the locals spelling is as two words while generally the form is to give this as Banjaluci.
Tuzla is certainly linked to a mine, this for this is the Ottoman Turkish word specifically referring to a 'salt mine' and the extensive and valuable salt deposits found beneath the city.
Mostar is named after the mostari, the 'bridge keepers' who guarded the medieval bridge over the Neretva. Built by the Ottomans in the 16th century, it is arguably the nation's most recognizable landmarks.
Prnjavor is said to be of medieval origins when the monasteries here had landed properties known as Prnjavori. This subsequently gave the locals the name of Prnjavorci and the modern town became Prnjavor.
Tomislavgrad is quite literally 'Tomislav town' and known as such since 1928 when King Alexander I of Yugoslavia suggested this a fitting tribute to his son Prince Tomislav and King Tomislav of Croatia. Previously this had been Duvno, this making a comeback from the end of the Second World War until the 1990s and is still known as such by some locals. This original name, also seen as Duvnjaci, is a reference to the Duvniak people who once inhabited this region.
Siroki Brijeg is named after a topgraphical feature and means 'the wide hill', although locals tend to abbreviate it to simply Siroki 'the wide'. Briefly, from 1945 to 1990, this had been renamed after another local feature, the Listica river.
Modrica is thought to be named as it could be found near 'the small river with blue mountain water', this thought to be the Dusa.
Note the spellings of the places are English as the piece is written in English.