Sunday, 8 March 2015

Origins of Place Names: Swedish Cities

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. This time we continue the tour of Western Europe and a look at the largest Swedish cities.

Stockholm is of uncertain origins, although the suffix is undoubtedly Swedish holm or 'island'. It would seem logical to assume the first part is from the same language, yet this assumes they were named at the same time which is highly unlikely, however, if so, this would be stock or 'post, pole' and used as a marker. Alternatively this may be an old Germanic word referring to a fortification, today still used in 'stockade'.

Gothenburg has the suffix seen in English place names as Old English burg and seen here as from borg. The first element refers to the Geats, those who lived in the region known as Gothia and corresponding to modern-day southern Sweden. It is related to the better-known word 'Goth' and shares a common etymology which is understood to have the highly simplistic meaning of 'men'.

Malmo's earliest record gives the name as Malmhaug which, depending upon how this is viewed, could refer to 'gravel pile' or 'ore hill'.

Vasteras is a Swedish name coming from vastra aros meaning 'the mouth of the Svartan (river)'. The Germanic name of the river is not difficult to see when we reveal this is 'the black river'.

Orebo gets its name from a feature also associated with aforementioned Svartan river. Here the literal translation is of 'the bridge of the gravel banks', this being where the river drains into Lake Hjalmaren.

Linkoping's first element is thought to originate from the Lionga ting political assembly - the suffix certainly comes from koping or 'market place'.

Helsingborg has the same suffix as Gothenburg, borg being related to Old English burg. The first element is shared with the Danish city of Helsingor which lies across the narrow strait and this is exactly what hals or 'neck' alludes to.

Jonkoping another place with the suffix koping or 'market place'. Here the first element comes from the small river known as the Junebacken.

Norrkoping and yet a third example of a koping or 'market place', here said to be 'to the north'.

Lund shares an origin with Lundy Island in the Bristol Channel. This comes from Old Norse lund, which in the case of Lundy is defined as 'puffin' but probably used in a looser sense here rather than relating specifically to this awkward-looking sea bird.

Note the spellings are, for the most part, English as the piece is written in English.

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