Sunday, 17 February 2019

Libya 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 Libya cities.


Tripoli is a Greek name meaning 'three cities'. It was founded by the Phoenicians some 2,700 years ago, they named it Oea.


Benghazi was founded around 525BC and named Euesperides, a name referring to the great fertility of this area and to the garden of Hesperides. Two hundred years later the place had become Berenice and not until the Genoese merchants began trading with the tribes of the hinterland do we first see the present name, then recorded as Marsa ibn Ghazi.


Misurata gets its name from the Mirata tribe, a Berber people who inhabited this area for many years.


Zliten takes its name from the Isliten tribe, another Berber people in residence here.


Bayda is the Arabic word for 'white', although originally this was az-Zawiyat al_Bayda 'the white monastery', this the white painted zawiyah on the hill top.


Al Khums translates as 'the quintile', the name not readily understood but possibly refers to some counting quirk used when dealing in olives and olive oil.


Kufra is from the Arabic kafir, an Arabic term for non-Muslims.


Tajura is named after a princess who lost her crown with taj 'crown' and Oura the name of the princess.


Tarhuna takes its name from the Berber tribe who inhabited this region prior to the Roman occupation.


Msallata may come from the Arabic word masalla because there is a core of tall buildings.


Tawergha is from the Berber language and means 'the green island'.


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

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