Sunday, 7 April 2019

Malawi 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 Malawi settlements.


Livingstonia was founded by missionaries from the Free Church of Scotland and named after perhaps the most famous missionary to Africa, David Livingstone who died in 1873.


Lilongwe is named after the Lilongwe River, itself likely meaning simply 'the big one'.


Bangula is a delightful name describing this part of Malawi as 'where lions roar', although Panthera leo has not been seen in the area for decades.


Blantyre is named after Blantyre in Scotland, birthplace of David Livingstone.The name is ultimately from Cumbric blaen tir 'top of the land'.


Monkey Bay is, as the form suggests, a very modern name and it is no coincidence this place, named because of its primates, is also the major tourist area of Malawi.


Nkhotakota is from Chichewa meaning 'corner corner'. Undoubtedly named for some obvious feature in the landscape, just what that was is difficult to know and thus impossible to say why it is plural.


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

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