Sunday, 24 July 2016

Georgia 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 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. Continuing an alphabetical tour of the world and a look at the largest of Georgia's cities.

Tblisi is said to have been dounded when, while hunting with his falcon, King Vakhtang I Gorgasali spotted a pheasant and unleashed his bird. Both falcon and pheasant fell into one of the hot springs found here, both birds dying from extensive burns. The king decided to cut down the trees and found Tblisi in 458 AD. Archaeologists have shown this region has been in continual occupation since at least 800 years earlier than this, thus this tale is unlikely to be true. However the name certainly refers to the hot springs, for in the Old Georgian tongue T'pilisi literally translates as 'warm location'.

Batumi can trace its name back to the times when this was a Greek colony and the Greek bathus limen or 'deep harbour'.

Rustavi is a Persian word meaning 'rural district'.

Zugdidi is unknown before the 17th century but is certainly from the Mingrelian tongue and simply means 'big hill'.

Gori shares a similar meaning to the previous example, albeit from athe different Georgian language where gora just means 'heap' or 'hill'.

Poti has several suggested origins, hence the actual answer is nobody really knows. The problem here is down to the original language, for if this is Greek then it comes from phasis and a river name. Yet this does seem more likely to be of Georgian origin, where the names Zan-Poti and Svan-Pasid have been put forward, as has a Semitic origin meaning 'gold river'.

Zestaponi can trace its name back to its original settlement on the river Kvirila, for Georgian zeda phoni describes its location on 'the upper bank'.

Akhalsikhe describes itself in the Georgian tongue as 'the new castle'.

Sagarejo was known as Tvali meaning 'an eye' in the 11th century and later took on its present name meaning 'of Gareja'. This shows the area was held by the David Gareja monastery, a complex of cells, churches, chapels, refectories and homes hollowed out of the rock.

Tsalenjikha is from the Mingrelian tongue and either means 'the fortress if Chan' or 'the lower fortress'.

Dedoplistsqaro is traditionally held to be after the 11th/12th century Queen Tamar, the name does literally mean 'the queen's spring' although there is no reason to believe others may not have similar claims.

Ninotsminda translates as St Nino, a Georgian from the 4th century BC who is held to have performed several miraculous feats of healing and held to be a relative of St George.

Jvari is a Georgian word meaning 'cross'.

Baghdati sgares its name with the capitalk of Iraq, both meaning 'God-given' or perhaps 'God's gift'.

Tetritsqaro means 'white spring' in Georgian, exactly as its earlier Azerbaijani name of Agbulakhi did.

Tskhaltsitela is a river named for an 8th-century Arab massacre, this derived rather ominously from 'red water'.

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

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