Sunday, 9 June 2019

Moldova 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 Moldovan cities.

Chisinau, also known as Kishinev, is of uncertain origin but most often said to be from an early Romanian chisla 'spring, water source' and noua 'new'. This suggests a settlement built around a water source, a comon enough beginning. Another source suggests the name came from the west and has some Hungarian influence, for in Hungarian the name is Kisjeno or 'small Jeno', this the name of one of the seven tribes who migrated east into Romania. The main support for this second theory is down to the sheer number of places named aftyer this tribe.

Balti is the plural of the Romanian balta meaning 'puddle'. This is understood as a reference to the city's location on a hill overlooking the wetlands.

Tiraspol is from two ancient Greek words: Tyras is the anient name for the Dneister River, and polis 'a city state'. The river names Tyras and Dneister mean 'rapid' and 'the close river' respectively.

Ribnita was founded in 1628 as Rybnytsia, a name describing its earliest purpose as a 'fishery'.

Cahul was renamed after the Battle of Kagul fought nearby in August 1770 and named after the Kagul River. Earlier names for the city include Frumoasa and Scheia, both of Romanian origin and meaning 'beautiful' and 'Bulgarian', respectively.

Orhei takes its name from the medieval city of Old Orhei some ten miles downriver. It is thought the name comes from the Hungarian orhely 'lookout post', a reminder of the 13th century Hungarian defences erected here.

Dubasari is a plural form of the archaic Romanian dubasar 'boatman'.

Straseni is from the Romanian strasnic, this meaning either 'scary' or 'terrible' and thought to refer to the fearsome forest which once covered this region.

Drochia takes its name from a bird known locally as the dropie and in English as the great bustard.

Calarasi translates as 'horsemen' and recalls a legend telling of how Stephen III of Moldavia fought the Ottomans and ordered his horsemen to line up and defend the city. They did so and, although every single one died in the process, gave the advantage enabling them to be victorious.

Floresti is derived from the Romanian word floare or 'flower'.

Cimislia has no known origins although the first written account comes from 1620 when Vladimir Nico explained this as meaning 'wealth'. There is no known word meaning 'wealth' but this may come from cimis, a name given to workers and bricklayers and used by Romanians and Tatar.

Slobozia comes from the Romanian slobozie meaning 'tax free place'.

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


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