Sunday 26 May 2019

Mauritius 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 Mauritius settlements.

Port Louis is named, as would be expected in a French-speaking nation, after a monarch of that name. Here it is King Louis XV of France, who reigned from 1715 until 1774, albeit the first eight years with a regent as he was only five years old when he succeeded. This also means he was ruling in his own right at 13, when considered having reached maturity.

Curepipe has two suggested origins, some believing it the name of a landowner during the late 18th century. However the more popular idea is that of the French phrase curer sa pipe 'cleaning the pipe', this reminding us that the town was a major supplier of tobacco.

Plaines Wilhems is named after Wilhem Leicknig, a gentleman of Prussian origins.

Riviere Noire translates as 'Black River' and refers to the river bed as the river flows quite slowly and thus the current does not flush away the silt.

Pamplemousses is named from the French for 'grapefruits'.

Grand Port is simply the French for 'large port'.

Cap Malheureux translates as 'Cape of Bad Luck', named because the successful invasion by the British in 1810 who ousted the French. Clearly history records the event not as a skilled tactical victory by the British but sheer bad luck on the part of the French.

Chamarel is named after the Frenchman Charles Antoine de Chazal de Chamarel, who lived here at the beginning of the 19th century. Note locals refer to this place as 'the village of the blacks'.

Flic-en-Flac is thought to be derived from an Old Dutch Fried Landt Flaak or 'free flat land' where the white sandy beach is one of the longest on Mauritius.

La Laura-Malenga was named as in 1859 after a sugar plantation.

Le Pouce is the third highest point on the island and named after its appearance as it means 'the thumb'.

Petit Bel Air is named after its forerunner, the aptly named Bel Air and meaning 'good air' and understood as 'breezy'.

Souillac is named after the man who created this port. Vicomte de Souillac signing the royal order on January 1st 1787.

Triolet refers to a French poetic style and meaning 'triplet'.

Tyack is a Cornish surname, the family held land here in the earliest times. It comes from the Cornish for 'ploughman'.

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


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