Sunday, 8 September 2019

Oman 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 Oman's cities.


Adam has a very long history and thus the origin of the name is uncertain. However, most sources give this as Arabic for 'the fertile land'.


Al Ashkarah is a delightful place name, being taken from a poisonous plant indigenous to this area.


Mount Shams is the highest point in the country, hence it is appropriate that its name means 'the sun mountain'.


Al Suqayq is simply the Arabic for 'market'.


Ibra has been suggested as coming from an Arabic verb and means 'purification of guilt'.


Muscat's origins are disputed, some claim this is from Arabic where moscha means 'inflated hide or skin', although others suggest an alternative Arabic term for 'letting fall the anchor', the latter seems a little contrived. Perhaps this from the Old Persian muscat or 'strong scented', or maybe other ancient languages have contributed to the name meaning 'falling place' and 'hidden place'. The problem here is the age of the settlement. Ptolemy's map of the region give two names for this area: Cryptus Portus and Moscha Portus, suggesting the original name may have come from Old Sumerian maa-kan 'sea people'.


Nizwa possibly comes from the Arabic for 'alone' but this would be an odd meaning for a place name, although phonetically it fits much better than the water spring which has flowed here for the entire age of the settlement.


Rustaq comes from the Middle Iranian rostag or 'district'. Note this ancient tongue is close to the root word which has given similar terms in many Indo-European languages, including the modern Iranian rusta 'large village' and Latin rustica 'village'. The latter has given us the modern English 'rustic'. This is why etymology, the study of language, and toponomy, the study of place names, prove so fascinating for me.


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

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