Sunday, 9 September 2018

Honduras 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 Honduras cities.

Tegucigalpa comes from the native Nahuatl tongue, but the interpretation is unclear and has been defined any number of ways. Most often said to be from taguz galpa meaning 'hills of silver', yet doubters point out the locals had no notion there were deposits of this precious metal hereabouts. A second explanation suggests a meaning of 'painted rocks' from a different local tongue; or Topogalpa the name of a small gree parrot found locally; or a similar Mexican name of Tecuztilcallipan 'place of the residence of the noble'; or Tecuhtzincalpan 'place of the home of the beloved master'; or Nahuatl for 'in the homes of the sharp stones'. From my experience with place name derivations, perhaps the first two have similar meanings in referring to light-colouring of the rocks and thus not referring to the precious metal.

San Pedro Sula is Spanish and literally translates as 'his/her Saint Peter'.

La Ceiba is named after the a ceiba tree near the old dock, this dock crumbled into the sea in 2007. These trees play an important role in the mythologies of Mesoamerican cultures.

Choluteca first mentioned by the Spanish in 1541, when known as Villa de Xerez de la Frontera de Choluteca, and officially named simply Choluteca on October 1st 1845 under the presidency of Coronado Chavez. This is from the Chorotega, the name of the indigenous peoples here when the Spanish arrived, and means either 'path of the warriors' or 'vorn on either side', depending upon who you ask.

El Progreso is Spanish for 'progress' and telling of modern development. It stands in the shadow of the mountain range known as Mico Quemado or 'blue monkey'.

La Lima means, assuming it shares an origin with the Peruvian capital, 'talker, speaker' in the Quechua language.

Puerto Cortes this 'port of Cortes' takes the name of Hernan Cortes, the 1st Governor of New Spain. Quite appropriate as cortes is Spanish for 'parliament'.

Atlantida Department is named for the ocean, the Atlantic named after Atlas, the titan in Greek mythology who held up the world and may be from the adjective durus 'hard, enduring'.

Santa Rosa is Spanish for 'holy rose'.

Tela is a contraction of the Nahua word Tetela 'land of the hills and craggy mountains'.

Olanchito takes its name from the Olancho Valley and similarly named river near where it is situated, sadly its origin in unknown.

Nacaome is named from the new town here, for naca ome does mean 'union of two races' and describes the new town this union produced.

La Esperanza is Spanish for 'the hope'.

Puerto Lempira or 'port Lempira' shares its origin with the currency of Honduras in coming from the 16thcentury ruler of the Lenca people. He is a national hero, leading the resistance against the Spanish conquistadors, albeit ultimately unsuccessfully.

Cofradia is the Spanish for 'brotherhood'.

La Entrada is Spanish for 'the entrance'.

Yuscaran has a very uncertain origin but, if related to a dialect found nearer Mexico, may well mean 'the place of the house of flowers'.

La Paz is Spanish for 'the peace'.

Coxen Hole named after the deep water bay or 'hole' and its association with John Coxen. Coxen, or Coxon, was a late 17th-century buccaneer who terrorised the Spanish main and one of five thousand pirates who lived here.

Gracias does indeed mean 'thanks' in Spanish, and perhaps the story that it was after a long and arduous trek through mountainous terrain that Spanish explorers were grateful to find flat land at last is true.

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


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