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 Estonia and a look at some of its largest settlements and most interesting names and starting with the capital.
Tallinn is a comparatively modern name. While it is generally accepted this is of Estonian origins, the meaning is somewhat uncertain with the most popular explanation being 'the castle of the Danes' from Taani-linna. Alternatively this could prove to be tali-linna 'winter castle' or talu-linna 'farmstead at the castle'. Prior to the arrival of the Danes in 1219, this had been known as Revala, the name of the surrounding area and a variation on the Icelandic Raphael. Up to the 13th century the place had been called Lindanisa, this from the mythical Linda, wife of Kalev and mother of Kalevipoeg. She is said to have carried rocks to cover the last resting place of her husband which is today known as Toompea Hill. Earlier still the place was known as Quri and also from the name of Kalev.
Tartu comes from Taara, a god in Estonian mythology often depicted as an aurochs.
Narva is a city and an ancient culture named after the River Narva, itself unclear but possibly from the Vepsian word narva meaning either 'waterfall' or 'stream'.
Kuressa had historically been known as Arensburg, where Middle High German aar 'eagle, raptor' precedes burh or 'fortification'. The present name began as the town surrounding said fortification. Kuressaarelinn referring to the linn or 'town' at Kuressaare, itself the ancient name of Saaremaa island - this leaving no doubts as to its meaning when defined as 'the island land island'.. For a short time in the latter half of the 20th century the place became known as Kingissepp after the Bolshevik Viktor Kingissell.
Haapsalu is simply an Estonian description of the place when first settled - haab salu meaning 'grove of aspen trees'.
Paide is known in German as Wittenstein meaning 'white stone', this also seen in the Latin translation of Albus Lapis. The modern name is first seen in 1564 when Paida came from paas meaning 'limestone'. These all refer to the limestone used to construct Paide Castle.
Kivioli takes its name from its principal industry, the mining of oil shale - the name translates to 'stone oil'.
Polva is undoubtedly derived from the Estonian word polv meaning 'knee', although just how this relates to the place is unknown.
Elva takes its name from the Elva River, itself with the literal meaning 'river'.
Sindi derives its name from Clauss Zindt, mayor of Parnu in 1565 who founded a manor here.
Narva-Joesuu has a name meaning 'mouth of the Narva', the river name meaning 'waterfall' or 'stream' as discussed above.
Note the spellings of the places are English as the piece is written in English.