Sunday, 13 March 2016

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

Prague is most likely from the Old Slavic prah meaning either ‘ford’ or ‘rapid’, depending upon context, but certainly referring to some early crossing point on the Vltava river. Other sources would give this as the Czech word prah, meaning ‘threshold’ and points to the story of Princess Libuse ordered the city be built ‘where a man hews the threshold of his house’. The problem with the latter story is this princess is mythical.

Brno has a number of suggested origins, including the Old Czech brnie ‘muddy, swampy’, Slavic brniti ‘to armour, fortify’, or a Celtic tongue related to Welsh bryn and thus meaning ‘hill’.

Ostrava took its name from the Ostra river on which it stands, now known as the Ostravice.

Liberec had been known as Reychinberch by the 14th century, this describing ‘the rich or resourceful mountain’. Later Czech versions are simply corruptions of the earlier German name.

Olomouc is another corruption of an early name. Here the Roman fort of Iuliomontium described ‘Mount Julius’.

Usti nad Labem had been known by its German name Aussig. It comes from the Old Czech ustie to describe ‘the mouth of the river Elbe’.

Hradec Kralove is one of the oldest settlements in the country and is named for being the ‘castle of the queen’, a reference to Elisabeth Richeza of Poland (1286-1335) who became the second wife of two Bohemian kings: Wenceslaus II and Rudolph I of Hapsburg.

Most is a name meaning simply ‘bridge’, a reference to the many bridges once linking the dry ‘islands’ in this area of swamps by the 10th century.

Jihlava is derived from the German name Iglau, itself from igel or ‘hedgehog’ as the animal appears on the city’s coat of arms.

Karlovy Vary is named after its founder, Charles IV, King of Bohemia and Holy Roman Emperor, who founded this place in 1370.

Jablonec is from the Old Czech jablon and means ‘apple tree’.

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

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