Sunday, 20 January 2019

Latvia 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 Latvian cities.


Daugavpils is the pils or 'castle' on the river Daugava. Also known as the Western Dvina, it is from an early Indo-European word meaning simply 'river'.


Jekabpils also features the suffix pils 'castle', here following the name of Jacob Kettler, Duke of Courland.


Jelgava, known as Mitau until 1917, a name either meaning 'the middleof the Aa' (a river name), or 'the place of trade', gets its current name from the Livonian jalgab 'town on the river'.


Jurmala is from two Latvian words jura mala or 'edge of the sea'. Although we would normally say 'seaside'.


Liepaja takes its name from the river Liva on which it stands, this from the Livonian word liiv meaning 'sand'.


Riga is the capital and largest city with a population of more than 630,000. Its name comes from the Livonian ringa meaning 'loop', this a reference to the natural harbour, a feature of a tributary of the Daugava river.


Valmeira comes from the Old German name Waldermar and its Slavic version of Vladimir. It is not clear just which person this common name refers to, but seems most likely to be a reference to the noble of the Principality of Pskov Valdimir Mstislavich, a vassal of Albert of Riga from 1212.


Ogre is possibly from a Russian source, an early name for the river on which it stands and meaning 'eels' from ugri. However an earlier name for the place was Wogene, Woga and is possibly from the Estonian voog 'stream, flow, waves'.


Talsi comes from the Livonian word talusse telling this was once a 'secluded place'.


Aluksne comes from the Latgalian word oluksna meaning 'spring in the forest'.


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

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