Sunday, 3 January 2016

Chile 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 to cast my net a little wider. This time Chile and a look at some of its largest settlements and most interesting names and starting with the capital.

Santiago brings no surprises, it is simply the Spanish for 'St James'.

Puente Alto is of even simpler origins, this translates to 'high bridge'.

La Florida shares its Spanish origin with its internationally more famous namesake, the state of the USA, describing thiis place as 'the flowery'.

Vina del Mar is, once again, another straight translation and means 'the vineyard of the sea'. It is also known as La Ciudad Jardin or 'the garden city'.

Antofagasta is a name having several explanations offered, for the language of origin has never been agreed. Perhaps this is from the Canco words anto faya gasto understood as Pueblo del Salar Grande or 'town on the great salt lake'. Another suggests Quechua anta pakay or Escondrijo del Cobre, literally 'copper cache'; a third theory points to th Chango language translating to Spanish Puerta del Sol or 'sun gate'; while a fourth suggests this was named Antofagasta de la Sierra (the name of a volcanic feature) by Manuel Mariano Melgarejo who stayed here in 1870.

Valpariso was named when men from the expedition led by Diego de Almagro arrived in 1536. The Santiaguillo supply ship was under the command of Juan de Saavedra, who named it after his native village in Cuenca, Spain. There Valparaiso de Arriba describes itself as 'valley of paradise fields'.

Temuco has the most interesting of names. The local people are the Mapuche, their language giving us a meaning of 'temu water'. The temu is a tree used by them for medicinal purposes, one known to science as Blepharocalyx cruckshankii.

Penalolen is also from the local Mapudungun language and describes this as 'the fraternal meeting place'.

Pudahuel is a third place named by the Mapudungun language, this describing 'the place of pools' or alternatively 'place where seagulls gather'.

El Bosque is clearly Spanish, this meaning 'the forest'.

Nunoa is back to the Mapudungun tongue again, here meaning 'the place of yellow flowers'. Incidentally their language means 'earth speak', the people the Mapuche or 'earth people'.

Talcahuano is also from the Mapuche people, here the chief Talcahuenu gave his name to a place meaning 'thundering skies'.

Puerto Montt was named in the middle of the 19th century after President Manuel Montt. Prior to this it had been known as Melipulli, the Mapuchean name meaning 'four hills'.

Chillan is another local place name, one with the delightful meaning of 'where the sun is sitting'.

La Granja is Spanish for 'the farm', the only name known for this place as the earlier local name is unknown.

Orsono, or correctly New Orsono, was founded in March 1558 by Governor Hurtado de Mendoza and named in honour of his grandfather, Count of Osorno.

Punta Arenas is the Spanish for 'sandy point', known officially as such since the middle of the 19th century.

Estacion Central is another Spanish name, it means 'central station' which also gives an indication of how recently it was founded.

Quilpue has several theories as to its origins. Some suggest this means 'place where there are pigeons' from cullpo hue; other sources give this as 'place of the stone lancet' as the native Mapuche people were experts in producing these stone implements used in medical procedures. In truth both pigeons and the stone tools have been found in great numbers in this area.

Calama comes from another local language, this time the Kunza language where ckara ama means 'town in the middle of the water'. Until the middle of the last century marshlands and the river Loa did almost encircle this site.

Quilicura is another Mapuche name, here kla kura describing 'the three stones', which are actually three hills.

Pedro Aguirre Cerda is named after former the president who ran the country for almost three years from 1938 until his death from tuberculosis in November 1941.

Macul comes from the native Quechua tongue and means 'to stretch out right hand', presumably meant as a welcome or similar gesture of friendship.

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

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