Sunday, 6 March 2016

Cyprus 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. As thoughts turn to the summer, or perhaps even winter sun, a look at the names found in Cyprus. If this does anything for Cypriot tourism I look forward to receiving suitable recognition - quite fancy a little winter sun myself.

Nicosia has been inhabited continuously for at least 4,500 years and unsurprisingly has had a number of different names over this time. The city-state of Ledra existed after the end of the Trojan War, it is probably named after Lefkos, son of the Egyptian ruler Ptolemy I. Under Roman and Byzantine rule this became Leukousia and officially became the capital in the 11th century. The modern Greek name for Nicosia is Lefkosia, while the name of Nicosia is only found from the 12th century. Then held by the Knights Templar, these Crusaders used the Frankish Nikosia, pronounced so as to stress the second syllable 'o', but altered this to the modern pronunciation.

Famagusta had been known as Arsinoe, named after Arsinoe II of Egypt, the sister of Ptolemy II. Later this became a place 'hidden in the sand' or Ammochostos to the Greeks, which developed to Famagasta under Turkish influence.

Larnaca could well be derived from the many sarcophagi found in the area, this from larnakes, and appropriate as archaeologists claim to have evidence of at least 3,000 such burials here.

Paphos is held to be founded by the goddess Aphrodite. Paphos was the son of Pygmalion - unless you read Ovid who changes the sex of the child - whose ivory statue was brought to life by the goddess and became Galatea.

Aglandjia is of Turkish origin, coming from eglence and quite literally meaning 'entertainment'.

Akanthous is traditionally said to be derived from the name of a thorny bush growing locally, itself named from the extraordinarily beautiful Anthousa, providing her with a hiding place when hunted by Arab sailors.

Amathus, another name of traditional beginnings, had been founded by Cinyras and named after his mother Amathous.

Arminou has at least two explanations, the first simply saying it represents the first inhabitant Arminos, while the second points to it being named after the Armenian settlement during the Byzantine era.

Athienou is said to come from the Greek Atta or Atha meaning 'large rock'. While the area is indeed rocky, there is also a suggestion this simply came from the early settlement by Greeks from Athens.

Asha is said to come from Askia, Greek for 'without any shade' - indeed there are still very few trees in the area.

Ayia Napa is from the former Venetian monastery, itself from agia 'holy' and napa 'wooded valley'.

Ayios Dhometios is named after St Dometios, a 4th century Christian originating from Persia who lived in a cave and converted many until stoned to death in 362 AD on the orders of the Emperor Ioulianos.

Buffavento is of Italian origins and describes 'the defier of the winds', an apt description of the high speeds winds can reach at the point where the castle of this name stands some 950 metres above sea level.

Geroskipou is held to be where the Greek goddess Aphrodite had her sacred gardens, with yeros kipou meaning 'holy garden'.

Kaimakli is often said to be named from kaymak meaning 'froth' and thus comes from the local coffee. However the Turks also used this name for a farm where clotted cream was produced, thus the idea of frothy or white is probably correct.

Lefkara comes from the Greek lefka ori 'the white mountains'.

Kormakitis has several explanations. Most often this is said to be named from the Maronites from Koura, they describing the place as Nahni jina wa Kour ma jit, this translating to 'We came here but Koura didn't'. Another version says it was named by the Phoenicians from Korma jdide or 'the new Kormia'.

Kornokipos is from the ancient Greek for 'beautiful garden'.

Kythrea is traditionally from its foundr, Chytros, grandson of the Athenian ruler King Akamas. Alternatively this is a transferred name, brought here along with the millstones from the island of Kythera.

Kyperounta takes its name from the plant Cyperus rotundus which grows here and takes the second element of its name from the Latin for 'round'. Often known as 'nut grass' and 'nut sedge' the 'nuts' are tubers thought to resemble nuts but have no other connection to nuts of any description.

Lefka is either named after the son of Ptolemy, or perhaps the Christian girl Lefka (it means 'poplar' in Greek) who came here because of the clean air and lived here for so long that when she died they named the town after her.

Louroujina is said to have been named after Lorenziya, the woman held to have founded the place. It was renamed by the Turks in 1958, the new name Akincilar meaning 'Ottoman raiders'.

Milia is a simple name and one which paintas a picture for there is no question of what we might find here as milia is the Greek for 'apple tree'.

Omorfita is thought be derived from the ancient Greek for 'beautiful'.

Pachna has two opposing views as to the origins of the name. Either this is ancient Greek pachni and a reference to the white frost which can form here during the chilliest nights on the island, or this means 'manger' and a pointer to how the location is protected by surrounding high hills.

Paralimni means 'by the lake', although this did not refer to the place we see today on the coast. The original location on a hill did indeed stand by a lake drained for agriculture around a century ago. Most place names were coined as signposts, descriptions of who or what could be seen here. In the case of Paralimni the modern name is completely inaccurate, while the original location would have been as confusing much of the time as for about six months of the year it was dry.

Pedoulas is from the Greek pediada laos 'the valley people'.

Pegeia is thought to be derived from the Latin baia meaning 'bay'.

Periserona comes from the Greek peristeri meaning 'dove, pigeon'.

Fyti is an astonishingly modern name on an island where the culture pre-dates history. This comes from the village becoming an educational centre in the early 20th century, when the Greek foito aptly described this place as 'study'.

Pissouri (I was tempted to make a joke about the Missouri here) is thought to be a modern version of its ancient name of Voosoura, once explained as a place having the darkest of nights and when three hundred German saints arrived to find it pitch black. However the real origin is the sap coming from the pine trees, once collected in vast quantities, and known as pissa.

Psimolofou either takes its name from 'hill', there is a small but striking hill nearby, or from 'bread' as some think said hill resembles a loaf of bread.

Pyla comes from the Greek for 'entrance', as once it would have been the only way to gain access to the plain of Mesaoria to the west.

Strovolos is thought to be from the Greek strovilos, a shortened form of anemo-strovilos or 'whirlwind'.

Templos was almost certainly named for the Knights Templar.

Troulloi is a Greek name meaning 'domes'.

Tymbou may be from the 'tombs' found in the nearby caves.

Xylofagou is from the Greek xylo preceding fagou, a still-popular barbecue-style dish prepared on holidays.

Varosha is from the Turkish varos meaning 'suburb'.

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

1 comment:

  1. Anthony - very pleased to have found your blog! I'm an archaeologist/landscape historian currrently writing a report on a medieval landscape survey in one small area of Cyprus (around Pissouri) that I've been researching over the last 20 years and led a small team surveying in 2014 (hence the belated report). One aspect of this research is to attempt to recreate the pre-Frankish landscape of the area using toponym evidence to help ascertain both what may have been produced in certain areas and to exclude later Frankish, Venetian or Ottoman toponyms where they occur. Not sure if this is of interest to you - if it is my email is>