Sunday 25 November 2018

Jordan 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 Jordanian cities.

Amman is not only the capital city but by far the most populous city in Jordan. Its name was coined some 3,300 years ago when the Ammonites, the people who occupied this region for several hundred years, arrived and referred to it as Rabbath Ammon. Here rabbath means 'capital' while ammon, clearly referring to the people, is a Semintic word and is likely from the same source as the name of the Arnon valley. However, the origin of that name is unknown. During the Greek and Roman eras the place was known as Philadelphia, from the Ancient Greek philos 'beloved, dear' and adelphos 'brother, brotherly', most often said to refer to 'brotherly love'.

Zarqa has a name meaning 'the blue city'.

Wadi Al-Seer is from the Arabic and means 'valley of the orchards'.

Aqaba is a shortened version of al-aqabat Aylah meaning 'the mountain pass of Ayla'. Originally the name was Elath, this the Semitic name for the Pistacia tree, grown since pre-history for its edible nuts.

Al-Salt is thought to have been named after the city of Saltos, a part of the former Roman Empire, the name meaning exactly what we would expect. Of more interest than the obvious condiment is how this region was famed for its harvests of fruit and vegetables. There is some evidence to suggest it gave a name to the 'sultana'.

Ar Ramtha takes the name of the al-ramath, a local desert plant also known as saxaul. These trees are being seeded across the bed of the former Aral Sea in order to prevent the spread of the sands and produce a forest of trees, albeit the average height of this forest will probably be little more than the height of a man.

Mafraq was named by the Ottoman Turks, and means 'crossroads'.

Ma'an is held to have been named after Ma'an, the Biblical son of Lot.

Al-Husn is said to have been named for the castle ruins, for husn means 'castle' in Arabic.

Al-Karak takes its name from the Aramaic Kharkha meaning simply 'town'.

Anjara is comprised of two words from two languages. Arabic ain 'spring' and Syriac caria 'running' telling of a reliable source of fresh water.

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


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