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.

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