Sunday, 1 November 2015

Bulgaria and its Place Names

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 Bulgaria and a look at some of its largest settlements and most interesting names and starting with the capital city.

Sofia had always been known as Serdi, a Thracian tribe who may have had Celtic origins. Under Roman rule this became Ulpia Serdica, again we see the earlier name but here with the addition of the emperor Marcus Ulpia Traianus - ulpia a deriviative of the Latin for 'wolf'. The modern name comes from Saint Sofia Church and ultimately from the Egyptian Kemetic word for 'star, door, teaching, wisdom' depending upon its context.

Plovdiv has also been known by many names throughout its history. The earliest a Thracian settlement named Eumolpias and named after the mythological figure held to be the son of Poseidon. When Philip II of Macedon conquered the city he renamed it Philippoupolis. Under Roman rule it became Trimontium or 'three hills'. The modern name is from the Slavic version of the Greek name, recorded as Poldin, Plopdiv and Ploudin.

Varna was first recorded in the 6th century, a name likely of Varangian origin. A tribe of northwestern European origin, this may be related to Swedish varn 'shield' or, if older, from Proto-Indo-European we-r 'water'.

Burgas shares an origin with the many 'burgs' across the European nations. Here the name is probably from Latin burgos 'tower', this supported by the Greek name of Pyrgos with the same meaning.

Ruse is traditionally held to be the founder of the city, a woman named Rusa whose name meant 'blond hair'. More likely this comes from the fortification founded here in the 14th century, this either from the root ru 'river' and describing its location or rous meaning 'red' and referring to the colour of its stone.

Stara Zagora is from the Slavic star meaning 'old' preceding the place name of Zagore, itself from the same tongue and meaning 'beyond the mountains'.

Pleven has two possible origins. Both are Slavic words: either this is plevnya 'barn' or plevel 'weed'.

Silven is also of Slavic origin and another name with a watery meaning, this being from silv 'pour' or more likely 'confluence'.

Dobrich is named after the 14th century Dobrotitsa, his name from the Slavic dobr meaning 'good'.

Shumen is unrecorded prior to 1153 when it appears as Simeonis. This is from the Bulgarian shuma and refers to the 'deciduous forest'.

Pernik is held to be a reminder of the Slavic god of thunder and lightning, one Perun. Alternatively this may recall a member of the local nobility by the name of Perin, he known as a boyar or 'of noble men'.

Haskovo is often said to be from the Arabic has meaning 'possession' and for obvious reasons. However there is also the Turkish has meaning 'clean', both equally plausible.

Pazardzhik is a combination of the Persian bazar 'market' and Turkic cik 'small'.

Blagoevgrad is a modern name, it from the Slavic grad 'city' and one Dimitar Blagoev, founder of the Bulgarian Socialist Party whose name translates as 'gentle, kind'.

Veliko Tarnovo is traditionally said to come from the Old Bulgarian for 'thorny' with the suffix grad or 'city'. The prefix is Bulgarian for 'great' and adopted in 1965 to show the city's former status as the nation's capital.

Vratsa takes the name of the nearby Vratsa Pass, itself from the Slavic word vrata or 'gate' with the addition of itsa meaning 'little'. Note for the ancients a 'gate' was the gap allowing access, while today a 'gate' is seen as something which bars access.

Gabrovo legend states this was named by its founder, a blacksmith named Racho. Near his forge grew a hornbeam, the tree known as gabar in the Slavic tongue.

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

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