Saturday, 9 January 2016

Colombia 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 Colombia and a look at some of its largest settlements and most interesting names and starting with the capital.

Bogota was originally known as Bacata which means 'planted fields' - fundamentally an indication this was the first agricultural site in the area.

Medellin is recorded under several names over the centuries. The earlies Aburra de los Yamesies means 'the valley of St Bartholomew', then 'St Lawrence of the Aburra', 'St Lawrence of the Ana', and finally before the modern name Villa de la Candelaria de Medellin. This is transferred from its namesake in Spain, formerly known as Metellinum and named after the Roman general Quintus Caecillus Metelius Pius who found that place in 75BC as a fort.

Cali is the shortened form of Santiago de Cali, where Santiago is the Spanish for 'St James' and Cali from the indigenous Calima people.

Barranquilla refers to the canyons existing here. When the Spanish came here the term barranca is found several times for coastal regions and thought to be a form of Aragon in Spain. As the Spanish settled here they named the estate Barranquilla de San Nicolas from the patron saint.

Cartagena is named after Cartegna is Spain but whether this place shares anything in common with 'New Carthage' and ultimately from the original Carthage named by the Phoenicians as 'the new city' is unlikely.

Cucuta was known as San Jose de Cucuta from 1793, San Jose being the Spanish for 'St Joseph' with cucuta meaning 'the house of goblins'.

Pasto is named after the indigenous people who were here when the Spanish conquistadors arrived in the 16th century.

Valledupar is the Spanish for 'Valley of the Upar', it self named after the leader of the indigenous Chimila tribe Upar.

Villavicencio is named after Antonio Villavicencio, a celebrated patriot in the Colombian war of Independence.

Bello is a Spanish name meaning 'the beautiful one'.

Buenaventura is simply the Spanish for 'good fortune'.

Popayan is named from the native dialect where po means 'two', pa 'straw' and yan 'village', understood as 'two villages with straw roofs'.

Itagui may have come from the name of the indigenous chieftain Bitagui, although this is disputed.

Dosquebradas is a Spanish name meaning literally 'two creeks'.

Apartado means 'the river of plantains' in the language of the indigenous peoples.

Maicao is another indigenous name, here the Wayunaiki mai-ka-u means 'the land of maize'.

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

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