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 United Arab Emirates cities.
Dubai has a number of explanations: an Arabic proverb daba dubai or 'they came with a lot of money'; or Arabic yadub meaning 'to creep' and a reference to the slow flow of the Dubai Creek; or yadub used to mean 'baby locust', as these insects dominated the area before settlement.
Abu Dhabi comes from Arabic, where abu means 'father' and dhabi 'gazelle'. Aside from the number of gazelles in this area, the 'father of the gazelle' may also be a reference to folklore and a story involving Shakhbut bin Dhiyab Al Nahyan.
Sharjah is said to be the name of an idol worshipped in ancient times or, alternatively, from the Arabic sharq or 'east'.
Al Ain is Arabic for 'the spring'.
Umm Al Quwain has had a couple of suggestions: either from umm al quwatain 'mother of the two powers' or quwain 'iron'.
Khor Fakkan is Arabic meaning 'creek of two jaws'.
Jebel Ali uses the Arabic for 'mountain'.
Madinat Zayed is Arabic for 'city of Zayed', the town established by Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan in 1968.
Ar-Ruwais, most often given as simply Ruwais, is Arabic and describes 'the small head'.
Note the spellings of the places are English as the piece is written in English.