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 Madagascan settlements.
Antananarivo, the capital, was founded in the early 17th century when Merina King Andrianjaka defeated and expelled the Vazimba people of what was then known as Analamanga. Tradition has it that he depolyed a thousand soldiers to capture and then guard the place. Then, some fifty years later, it was during the reign of King Andriamasinavalona the place took its present name which refers to 'the city of a thousand' to honour those soldiers.
Toamasina means 'like salt' or perhaps 'salty'. Situated on the coast and protected by a coral reef, this produces increased salinity through evaporation and hence the name.
Antsirabe is a Malagasy name and, as with the previous name, means 'the plae of much salt'. However here the reference is to the brine springs in the area as Antsirabe is about as far from the coast as it is possible to get.
Fianarantsoa is a cultural and intellectual centre for the entire island nation and fully merits its meaning of 'good education'.