Tuesday, 21 May 2019

Mauritania 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 Mauritania settlements.


Nouakchott is the administrative and economic centre of Mauritania, its name is a corrupted form of the original Berber Nawasksut or 'place of the winds'.


Akjoujt has a long history of mining, archaeologists dating the earliest workings here as at least three thousand years old. The name does not reflect the history of metals but does mean 'wells'.


Hodh Ech Chargui is an Arabic name and refers to its location as the 'eastern basin region'.


Senegal River has three common explanations, most often said to be the name of a Wolof chieftain, or alternatively from the Wolof phrase sunu gaal or 'our canoe'. Despite these being the most common explanations, neither stand up to scrutiny. Most agree it is more likely to come from a Portuguese term, Azenegue referring to the Berber Zenaga people residing here when they arrived.


Adrar is a region and plateau both named from the Berber word for 'mountain'.


Hodh El Gharbi is named from the Arabic and means 'western basin region'.


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

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