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 Indian cities.
Mumbai comes from Mumba or Maha-Amba, the goddess of the Koli community. As many will know it was known as Bombay for many years. This has never been the local name but came from the Portuguese bom baim 'good little bay'.
Delhi has more suggestions as to the derivation of its name than the number of letters in the word. Among these are Dhilu or Dilu, a king who built the city here in 50BC; or from Hindi dhili meaning 'loose' and a reference to an iron pillar of Delhi which, owing to poor foundations, had to be relocated; or from the local coinage, the dehliwal, although it would seem more likely to have been named after the place; or the fort of dehali built by King Prithiviraja, although there is no suggestion as to its origins; or from Dilli and a corruption of dehleez or dehali meaning 'threshold' and 'gateway' respectively.
Bangalore is the Anglicised version of Bengaluru, itself from vira gallu or 'hero stone' and referring to a battle fount in the 11th century.
Hyderabad is supposed to refer to 'Haydar's city', where haydar abad translates as 'lion city'.
Ahmedabad could be named after the founder, Sultan Ahmed Shah, in 1411 or, according to other sources, four saints named Ahmed.
Chennai comes from the name of Damarla Chennappa Nayakudu, here in the 17th century.
Kolkata, from Bengali Kolikata, has several explanations: 'field of Kali', a goddess; 'flat area'; 'canal' or 'dug'; or from koli chun or 'quicklime'.
Pune is an abbreviation of Punya-Vishaya meaning 'sacred news'.
Jaipur is named after its 18th century founder Maharaja Jai Singh II.
Lucknow is the Anglicised spelling of Lakhnau and named after Lakshamana, the hero of the Hindu epic Ramayana.
Kanpur may come from 'the town of Khan' or 'town of Karna'.
Nagpur may be named after the river Nag, the origin of which is uncertain.
Visakhapatnam is generally held to be named after the temple built here to Vaisakha, itself lost to rising sea levels.
Indore is named after the Indreshwar Temple.
Thane is from the Sanskrit word sthana or 'place'.
Bhopalis named after or by the 11th century Paramara king Bhoja.
Patna takes its name from Patan, the Hindu goddess Patan Devi.
Vadodara is traditionally held to come from the Sanskrit word vatodar, meaning the belly of the Banyan tree.
Coimbatore comes from, among many suggestions, 'new town of Kovan'.
Madurai may come from the 'sweetness', the idea being this refers to the divine nectar showered on the city by the Hindu god Siva and from his matted hair.
Note the spellings of the places are English as the piece is written in English.