Sunday, 3 March 2019

Lithuania 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 Lithuanian cities.

Vilnius derives its name from the Vilnia River, itself from Lithuanian vilnis or vilnyti meaning 'a surge' and 'to surge' respectively. Clearly this is a warning the river can rise quickly and without warning.

Kaunas is probably from a personal name, other forms in Polish, Russian and Yiddish very much support this, but what that name was and what it represents are unknown.

Klaipeda has only been the official name since 1945, it is from Lithuanian klaidyti 'obstruct' and peda 'foot' and understood as a reference to the boggy ground here.

Panevezys is first recorded in 1503, its name meaning 'alongside the Nevezis River'. While it is often said to mean 'a river without crayfishes', the river does boast a sustainable population of crayfish. The confusion is down to this not being from the Lithuanian vezys 'crayfish', but from the Finnic nevo 'swamp'.

Maryampol is named after the Virgin Mary Marya with the addition of the Greek suffix pol 'town'.

Mazeikiai is undoubtedly named after a person known as Mazeika.

Taurage is comprised of two words, tauras 'aurochs' and ragas 'horn', both are found on the town's coat of arms.

Ukmerge was originally known as Vilkmerge from the river of the same name. According to tradition the name means 'she wolf', this based on the idea that Vilkmerge was raised by wolves. While vilkas 'wolf' and merga 'maiden' are possible, the real suffix is likely to be merg 'to dip'.

Silute gets its name from an inn, one offering hospitality to travellers as this place is halfway between Memel and Tilsit.

Radviliskis took its name from the family of nobles, the Radziwill, who ruled here for more than two centuries from the middle of the 16th century.

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


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