Sunday, 16 December 2018

Do You Speak Reindeer?

It's that time of year when certain individuals get to don a certain suit of red. One of the delights of such is hearing what the little ones want for Christmas and having no idea what it is. Requests from more mature individuals have included a blonde of 18 and a Land Rover. Why she wanted an inexperienced driver for such a car when surely half the pleasure is in driving it, I have no idea.

As always I was stumped by one question. A young chap asking "What language does the reindeer speak?" I told him "reindeer" and moved the conversation quickly on. But it did get me thinking as to what animals are heard to sound like in other languages. A quick search failed to reveal anything about speaking reindeer, but I did find this fascinating list of dogs barking, ducks quacking and frogs croaking in other languages.

These alternative sounds can be found here'

Sunday, 9 December 2018

Kenya Place Names Explained

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. Continuing an alphabetical tour of the world and a look at the largest Kenyan cities.


Nairobi derives its name from the River Nairobi, itself the Maasai phrase Enkare Nairobi or 'cool water'.

Mombasa, to understand this name we have to go back to pre-colonnial days of the Portuguese. Folklore speaks of the founding of the settlement by two rulers, the pagan queen Mwana Mkisi and Shehe Mvita. Mkisi founded Kongowea, the original settlement on what is now known as Mombasa Island. Mkisi comes from ukisi or 'holy' in the liLongo language. Similarly Kongowea is the Swahili form of Kongo. On the arrival of the Portuguese in 1502 the place first became known by two names: Mvita in Swahili and Manbasa in Arabic, both having the same origin and meaning.


Kisumu was founded as a trading post, with the name either from the local adhi kisuma 'I'm going to trade' or an Anglicised version of kusuma, the Maragoli word for 'trading'. Either way the name is true to its origins.

Eldoret is based on the Maasai phrase Ole Mpere N Tomito and means 'stony river'. This is the Sosiani, a tributary of the Nile.

Kikuyu is named after the Kikuyu people, they took their name from the Swahili Gikuyu meaning 'large sycamore tree'.


Kitui, a name also seen for Kitui County, comes from the many metalworkers who settled here before the Europeans arrived and describes 'a place where iron goods are made'.

Thika has two possible origins, either the Kikuyu word guthika 'to bury' and a reminder of two Maasai tribes who fought a great battle; or perhaps the Maasai sika or 'subbing something off the edge' and a topographical description.

Karuri derives its name from the main chief, the Karuri Wa Gakure.


Nyeri is where the British defeated the native Kikuyu warriors a little over a century ago. The Maasai warriors referred to this as Na-aier 'the little hill'.

Mumias is named after the King Nabongo Mumia, ruler of Wanga.

Ngong is the Maasai word for 'knuckles', a delightful reference to the four peaks of the overlooking ridge of land.

Litein is derived from the word liteito, a stone used for sharpening iron objects in the times before the Europeans arrived and showed the locals better ways of producing the casting.

Kericho may be from kerichek, a Kipsigis word meaning 'medicine' as this was where the first hospital was built by the British at the beginning of the 20th century. I say 'may' because this does sound rather stretching the truth.

Kakamega is a modern name, one apparently derived from a word meaning 'pinching', a description of the European settlers attempts to feed themselves the traditional maize meal dish without using cutlery. This does not seem overly likely.


Kapsabet comes from the local kap sabit or 'the place of life'.

Bungoma is from the Bukusu word engoma or 'drums'. This being the meeting place for Bukusu elders who would be summoned by the sound of the drums.

Webuye, possibly one of the best origins I have ever discovered, for it is named after a cobbler who once repaired shoes for the railway workers.


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

Sunday, 2 December 2018

Kazakhstan Place Names Explained

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. Continuing an alphabetical tour of the world and a look at the largest of Kazakhstan cities.


Almaty has its origins in an earlier settlement near the site of the present city, the largest in Kazakhstan, and known as Almatu. There are to possible origins of the name: either this represents the Kazakh word for apple and means 'full of apples' or is from the Russian Amma-Ata 'father of the apples'.


Shymkent comes from two Sogdian words, this the language spoken in the Central Asian area and an Eastern Iranian tongue, where chim kent refers to 'the city in the grasslands'.


Karaganda is derived from the Caragana arborescns, the most abundant flora in the area.

Astana has only been named as such since 1998 and simply means 'capital city'. Earlier, from 1992, it was known as Akmola. or 'white grave', and prior to that Tselinograd 'city of tselina' from 1961 and as Akmolinsk since its founding in 1830.


Pavlodar refers to itself as 'the city of Paul', chosen to mark the birth of the Grand Duke Pauk Alexandrovich of Russia.

Aktobe is from the Kazakh ak teoe or 'white hill', a reminder of the high ground on which the settlement was founded.

Oral is the Kazakh translation of Ural'sk, itself named from the river which, in turn, took its name from the Ural Mountains, this thought to come from the Turkic for 'stone belt'.

Petropavl, founded in 1752, is named after two saints, the apostles Peter and Paul.

Kyzylorda had earlier been known as Ak-Mechet or 'the white mosque'. It's present name is a Kazakh rendition of its Turkic name meaning 'red city'.

Aktau is a Kazakh name referring to it being overlooked by the cliffs, it means 'white mountain'.

Temirtau takes its name from the Kazakh for 'iron mountain', previously known as Zhaur, a reference to the hill on the opposite side of the river.


Atyrau is the Kazakh for 'island', although in truth this is simply a bank in the mouth of the Ural River.

Ekibastuz is derived from the name of the nearby lake, itself coming from eki bas tuz 'the two-headed lake' and a reference to its shape.

Kokshetau comes from the Kazakh meaning 'a smoky-blue mountain'.

Zhanaozen means 'new river' in Kazakh.


Baikonur is best known as the launching site for the Russian space programme. The name comes from the Kazakh for 'wealthy brown', a reference to fertile land which produces a variety of fauna and in excellent quantities. Previously the name had been Tyuratam, a name still used by the railway station and one meaning 'Tore's grave''. Tore, or formally Tore-Baba, was a noble and descendant of Genghis Khan.

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

Sunday, 25 November 2018

Jordan Place Names Explained

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. Continuing an alphabetical tour of the world and a look at the largest Jordanian cities.


Amman is not only the capital city but by far the most populous city in Jordan. Its name was coined some 3,300 years ago when the Ammonites, the people who occupied this region for several hundred years, arrived and referred to it as Rabbath Ammon. Here rabbath means 'capital' while ammon, clearly referring to the people, is a Semintic word and is likely from the same source as the name of the Arnon valley. However, the origin of that name is unknown. During the Greek and Roman eras the place was known as Philadelphia, from the Ancient Greek philos 'beloved, dear' and adelphos 'brother, brotherly', most often said to refer to 'brotherly love'.


Zarqa has a name meaning 'the blue city'.

Wadi Al-Seer is from the Arabic and means 'valley of the orchards'.

Aqaba is a shortened version of al-aqabat Aylah meaning 'the mountain pass of Ayla'. Originally the name was Elath, this the Semitic name for the Pistacia tree, grown since pre-history for its edible nuts.


Al-Salt is thought to have been named after the city of Saltos, a part of the former Roman Empire, the name meaning exactly what we would expect. Of more interest than the obvious condiment is how this region was famed for its harvests of fruit and vegetables. There is some evidence to suggest it gave a name to the 'sultana'.

Ar Ramtha takes the name of the al-ramath, a local desert plant also known as saxaul. These trees are being seeded across the bed of the former Aral Sea in order to prevent the spread of the sands and produce a forest of trees, albeit the average height of this forest will probably be little more than the height of a man.


Mafraq was named by the Ottoman Turks, and means 'crossroads'.

Ma'an is held to have been named after Ma'an, the Biblical son of Lot.

Al-Husn is said to have been named for the castle ruins, for husn means 'castle' in Arabic.


Al-Karak takes its name from the Aramaic Kharkha meaning simply 'town'.

Anjara is comprised of two words from two languages. Arabic ain 'spring' and Syriac caria 'running' telling of a reliable source of fresh water.


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

Sunday, 18 November 2018

Japan Place Names Explained

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. Continuing an alphabetical tour of the world and a look at the largest Japanese cities.


Tokyo has been known as such only since 1868, it translates as 'east capital'. As many crossword addicts will know it was previously known as Edo, itself aptly describing the location of a place beginning as a small fishing village for it means simply 'estuary'.

Yokohama has a long history and is another beginning as a fishing village. The sandbar gave it its name for it means 'horizontal beach'.


Osaka translates from the Japanese as either 'large hill' or 'large slope'.

Nagoya was written in two different ways but both read the same, the most likely interpretation is as 'peaceful'.

Kyoto, the former capital, has a name meaning 'capital'. After the capital was moved to Tokyo this place was known as Saikyo for a short time, a name meaning 'western capital'. To confuse matters still further, Kyoto is sometimes referred to as the thousand year capital.


Saitama comes from the district of Sakitama and can be interpreted as 'colourful promontory'.

Chiba is a name meaning 'thousand leaves', not particularly appropriate today but would certainly have been when named as such more than a thousand years ago,


Niigate is first recorded in 1520, it translates as 'new lagoon city'.

Shizuoka has been populated since prehistory and always known as 'the calm hills'.

Ota is the abbreviated form of Ota-ku, literally 'big rice field'.

Edogawa is simply 'the estuary river'.

Suginami is a part of Tokyo named for its 'cedars avenue'.


Itabishi translates as 'plank bridge', a wooden crossing of the Shakujii River dating from some 1,200 years ago. That the name has survived is testament to how striking the bridge would have been in its day.

Higashiosaka literally translates as 'east Osaka city',

Matsuyama translates as 'pine mountain'.


Koto translates as 'river east'.

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

Monday, 12 November 2018

Jamaica Place Names Explained

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. Continuing an alphabetical tour of the world and a look at the largest Jamaican cities.


Kingston is a common enough English place name and refers to a tun or 'farmstead' held by the crown.

Montego Bay is of far more interesting origins. The explorer Christopher Columbus named the place in 1494 as Golfo de Buen Tiempo or 'fair weather gulf'. The modern name is suggested as being a corruption of the Spanish word manteca 'lard', so-named because this was where beef, leather and lard were exported from.


Spanish Town is simply named as it was founded as a home for Spaniards by Francisco de Garay in 1534, although it has been known by other names during its history.

Mandeville was named in 1816, taking the name of Viscount Mandeville, eldest son of the Duke of Manchester, the then governor of Jamaica.


Port Antonio was named in 1723 when officially created as a parish by the Duke of Portland, after whom it is named.

Ewarton is almost certainly named from a person named Ewart but there is no record of anyone with such a name.

Ocho Rios means 'eight rivers', but is probably a misnomer as there are not that many rivers in the area. It seems more likely to be a corruption of the Spanish name Las Chorreras 'the waterfalls'.

Falmouth took the name of the port in Cornwall. Falmouth stands, as the name suggests, at the mouth of the River Fal, itself of unknown origins.


Yallahs has two equally plausible suggestions for its origin. It may simply have come from Captain Yallahs, a privateer in the later 17th century, or from the Spanish yalos meaning 'frost', not that frost is seen here but the white cliffs visible from the sea do appear similar to having a coating of frost.

Runaway Bay was aptly named as an escape route for runaway slaves.

Spalding is named after the Lincolnshire town, itself derived from the name of the tribe who settled there, the Spaldingas.

Annotto Bay is named for the many annotto trees growing in the area. The tree has been introduced to much of the tropical regions of the Americas and is grown and used for products used in dyes, and it proves quite ornamental, too.

Porus is named after the porous soil found in the area, a very different origin to that of its earlier name of Vale Lionel, taken from the governor of Jamaica Sir Lionel Smith at its founding in 1840.

Lionel Town, founded in 1836, shares the name and origin of Sir Lionel Smith.


Negril is an abbreviation of the Spanish Negrillo or 'little black ones', named by the Spanish when they settled in 1494.

Oracabessa is from the Spanish Oracabeza or 'golden head', a reference to the natural light seen here in the afternoons.

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

Sunday, 4 November 2018

Israel Place Names Explained

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. Continuing an alphabetical tour of the world and a look at the largest Israeli cities.


Jerusalem is a name which dates from the Bronze Age, where Sumerian yeru is the first element and shows this refers to 'the foundation (settlement) of the god Shalem', this the god of this Bronze Age city. However the settlement is at least four thousand years old and had earlier names, too. Around 1330 BCE we find the name given as Urusalim and six centuries prior to that as Rusalim, both with identical meanings but different languages.

Tel Aviv is the Hebrew translation of the German Altneuland and speaks of 'the old new land'. The German name is from Nahum Solokov, he taking the name of the Mesopotamian site near Babylon mentioned in Ekekiel. The name is very new, chosen in 1910 from a number of suggestions.

Haifa was, around 2,000 years ago, known as Sycamium or 'the mound of the Ficus sycomorus trees'. The first mention of anything approaching the modern name is during Roman rule around the end of the 1st century, when Efa (later Hefa and Hepha, where the meaning is the same as the earlier name.


Rishon LeZion is derived from the Biblical verse "First to Zion are they and I shall give herald to Jerusalem".

Petah Tikva is Hebrew for 'opening of hope' and a comparatively recent name.

Netanya is from the Hebrew for 'God gave'.

Beersheba has several suggested origins, most often said to come from Hebrew be'er 'well' and sheva 'seven' or perhaps 'oath'. Both would refer to the story of Abraham.

Bnei Brak gets its name from the ancient city of Beneberak, meaning 'son of Iraq'.


Holon is from the Hebrew word holon meaning 'little sand'.

Rehovot is named for its 'wide expanses' by founder Israel Belkind.

Ashkelon is probably Western Semetic and therefore means 'to weigh', an indication of a trading post.

Beit Shemesh means 'house of the sun' or perhaps 'temple of the sun', a reference to the Canaanite sun-goddess Shemesh.


Kfar Saba means 'grandfather's village' but nobody has any idea why this name was chosen.

Herzliya is, quite simply, named after Theodor Herzl, who founded the settlement in 1924.

Hadera is Hebrew for 'the green one'.

Nazareth is a Hebrew word for 'branch', and is taken from the book of Isaiah.

Ra'anana is the Hebrew for 'fresh'.

Rahat has several meanings depending on which language the word originates. This could represent Arabic 'group', Aramaic 'run' or Hebrew 'trough'.

Hod HaSharon translates as 'splendour of the Sharon'.

Givatayim is the Hebrew for 'two hills'.

Nahariya is named from its location on the Ga'aton river, the Hebrew for 'river' being nahar.


Umm- al-Fahm is Arabic and can be translated to .Mother of Charocal', the forests around here were a plentiful suplly of wood for charcoal.

Kiryat Gat is named for Gath, one of the five major cities of the Philistines. From the Hebrew where gat means 'winepress'.

Eilat, a name found in the Old Testament, may come from the Hebrew of ayl which gave elah and refers to the Pistacia trees. These trees are found across across Africa, Eurasia and the southern part of North America, where these are cultivated for their seeds, today known as pistachios.

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

Sunday, 28 October 2018

Ireland Place Names Explained

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. Continuing an alphabetical tour of the world and a look at the largest Irish towns and cities and this takes in both sides of the border.


Dublin is from the Irish for 'black or dark pool'.

Belfast is derived from the Irish for 'river mouth of the sandbar'.

Cork is from corcach meaning 'marsh'.

Wexford was originally named by the Vikings as 'inlet of the mud flats' or Veisafjordr and the modern name is simply derived from that.


Derry translates as 'oak grove or wood'.

Lisburn comes from the local name meaning 'the ringfort of the gamesters or gamblers'.

Newry is an Anglicised version of the Irish An Luraigh 'the grove of the yew trees'.

Galway comes from the Irish Gaillimhe or 'fort Gaillimh'.

Kilkenny comes from 'the church of Cainnech', Saint Cainnech of Aghaboe was a 6th century Irish abbot known as Saint Kenneth in Scotland.


Limerick is first recorded in AD561, although the original meaning is unclear but often said to be 'a bare or barre spot of land'.

Waterford is not what it seems but comes from the Old Scandinavian meaning 'wether or ram's ford'.

Swords does not mean what it seems but was originally Sord meaning 'pure, clear' and a reference to the local well, said to have been blessed by Saint Colmcille.

Dundalk is simply 'Dalgan's fort'.

Bray is the Irish for 'hill' or perhaps 'rising ground'.

Navan is thought to mean 'the cave'.

Ennis is a simple enough name meaning 'island'.

Carlow is the Anglicised verion of the Irish Ceatharlach meaning 'the four lakes' or 'the four-legged' depending upon who you ask.


Tralee speaks of itself as 'the strand of the river Lee'.

Newbridge brings no surprises and is only included to prevent emails asking why I left it out.

Balbriggan is claimed to mean 'Brecan's Town', although others maintain this is from the river name of Bracken, itself meaning 'little trout'.

Athlone is the 'town of Luan's ford'.

Celbridge is from the Irish for 'the church by the bridge'.

Bangor is derived from the Irish Beannchor meaning 'horned or peaked curve'.

Craigavon is a planned town and named after Northern Ireland's first prime minister James Craig, 1st Viscount Craigavon.

Ballymena is from the Irish for 'the middle townland'.

Carrickfergus is the Irish for 'Fergus's rock'.

Coleraine is from the Irish for 'nook of ferns'.

Antrim comes from the Irish for 'lone ridge'.


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

Sunday, 21 October 2018

Iraq Place Names Explained

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. Continuing an alphabetical tour of the world and a look at the largest Iraqi cities.


Baghdad a name which is certainly pre-Islamic and its origin is uncertain but no shortage of suggestions such as 'bestowed by God', from Old Persian bagh dad.


Basra, historically given as Basrah, which is Arabic for 'the overwatcher' and thought to refer to this as a former military base.


Kirkuk, a name in use since the 7th century, was named after King Seluecus as Karkha d' Bth Slokh 'fort Seleucus'. Earlier it had had several names including a Syriac Beth Garmai 'house of bones', thought to be a reference to the many corpses of slaughtered Achaemenids following a decisive battle.

Sulaymaniyah was named in 1784 by Prince Pasha Baban after his father Sulaiman Pasha.


Al Hillah is thought to be derived from the Arabic for 'beauty'.

Nasiriyah was founded by Nasir al-Saadun Pasha and named after him.

Karbala has many suggested orings, most often from the Arabic word Kar Babel and a reference to where the grave of the martyr Husayn ibn Ali is located.


Fallujah is thought to come from Syriac name of Pallgutha referring to 'canal regulator'' as it stands where the Euphrates divides into a canal.

Erbil is mentioned over four thousand years ago as Urbelum which seems to come from Arbilium meaning 'four gods'.


Baqubah is taken from the Aramaic bet Yaqub or 'Jacob's house'.

Dahuk may come from Taok, the Kurdish for 'grapevine'.


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

Sunday, 14 October 2018

Iran Place Names Explained

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. Continuing an alphabetical tour of the world and a look at the largest Iranian cities and starting with the capital, Tehran.


Tehran's origins are uncertain. The name probably dates back to the earliest days of the city itself, that history goes back at least 7,000 years. Of course that has not stopped speculation. Perhaps it comes from Tiran or Tirgan and meaning 'the abode of Tir', he the Zoroastrian equivalent of the Greek deity Mercury. Another idea is this represents 'a warm place', while an official guide gives Tah 'end or bottom' and Ran 'mountain slope' and it does lie at the foot of the Alborz Mountains.

Mashhad is named after the last resting place of Imam Reza, the eighth Shia Imam. Interred in the village of Khorasan, this was changed to the modern name of Mashhad meaning 'the place of martyrdom'.

Isfahan comes from the Middle Persian Spahan, understood as 'place of the gathering army'.

Shiraz is more than four thousand years old, yet the oldest record of the name is less than half that. It is derived from the son of Shah Tahmuras.

Tabriz has several explanations, most often to come from tap-riz and a reference to the thermal springs here. Others suggest the King Tiridates II of Armenia gained revenge for his brother's death by driving out Ardashire I of the Sassanid Empire in AD246, with ta-vrezh meaning 'the revenge'.

Ahvaz has a rather complex history but is thought to come from an Old Persian and referred to 'the land of the Huzis'.

Urmia is thought to come from Indo-Iranian urmi 'wave' and urmya 'undulating, wavy'. This refers to the location near a lake and surrounded almost entirely by rivers, and thus the inference is 'water town'.

Rasht is thought to be from the verb reshtan meaning 'weaving' and a reference to one of the many early industries here.

Zahedan is a plural form of the Arabic zahed meaning 'pious'.

Yazd is from Yazdegerd I, a Sassanid ruler of Persia, his name meaning 'made by God'.

Ardabil comes from the Avesta Artavila and means 'holy place'.

Bandar Abbas has a long history and always uppermost known as a port and the names reflect that. Indeed, Bandar Abbas literally translates as 'harbour port'. For most of its existence it was known as Gameroon, this from gumruk with in root in 'commerce'.


Arak is a term given to this place since the medieval period and means 'the edge'.

Sanandaj had originally been known as Saneh or 'castle'. Subsequently it became known for the location of the castle and Sanandaj means 'castle at the foot of the mountain'.

Dezful speaks of itself as 'the fortified bridge' from the Persian diz pul.

Khomeyni Shahr was named to honour the Ayatollah Khomeini, but had earlier been known as Sedeh, from seh dedge 'three castles'.

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

Sunday, 7 October 2018

Indonesia Place Names Explained

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. Continuing an alphabetical tour of the world and a look at the largest Indonesian cities.
Jakarta is from Jayakarta, itself from two Sanskrit words meaning 'victorious deed', 'complete victory', or 'complete act'. It refers to the troops of Fatihillah driving off the Portuguese forces in 1527.

Surabaya is derived from the Javanese sura ing baya or 'bravely facing danger'. This refers to the psychic king who foretold of a fight between a giant white shark and a great white alligator. This is thought to be the prediction of the Mongol hordes invading under Kublai Khan in 1293.

Medan was originally said to come from the Tamil word maidham meaning 'ground' but latterly there has been the suggestion of the alternative meaning of 'get better, recover'.

Depok is an acronym standing for De Eerste Protestantse Organisatie Kristen Protestan Pertama of the 'First Protestant Christian Organisation'. However folklore would have us believe this is a Sundanese word meaning 'hermitage'.


Palembang's origins are disputed. Some think it from the Malay pe-limbang and 'the place to pan for gold and look for diamond ores'. Others opt for lembang, the Malay term giving 'the place where water leaks' (ie a constant supply of water). WHile folklore maintains this came from four brothers who survived a shipwreck when bound for a new settlement. As the vessel descended beneath the waves all they were able to save was a large wooden box which they utilised as a raft and paddled to safety. Not the safest mode of transport, the box wobbled under the action of the waves - limbang-limbang used to refer to this unstable raft.

Pekanbaru is thought to come from the Malay words for 'new market'.

Bogor is thought to come from the Javanese word for 'sugar palm' or bhogor 'cow'. When founded in the 7th century it was known as Pajuan Pajajaran meaning 'a place between the parallel rivers' of Ciliwung and Cisadane.

Denpasar is from the Balinese words den pasar or 'northern market'.


Malang may be uncertain but most often said to come from the Malay for 'God has destroyed the false and enforced the right'.

Samarinda is literally 'equal in height' and a reference to how the houses were built and rafts and were therefore generally of equal height.

Cimahi is also the name of the river here, this from the Sudanese meaning 'enough water'.

Pontianak is from Malay meaning 'ferocious female ghost'. Folklore refers to the story of how the army of Syarif Abdurhamman Alkadrie shot cannonballs into the nest of ghosts hiding in the cave until they dispersed.

Manado comes from the Minahasan language where manadou or wanazou means either 'on the far coast' or 'in the distance' respectively. This a reference to the two offshore islands.

Yogyakarta means 'a city that is fit to prosper'.


Cirebon is from a local tongue known as Jawareh and probably means 'mixed'. Yjis refers to a blending of Sudanese, Javanese, Arabic and Chinese cultures.

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