Sunday, 26 January 2020

Serbia 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 Serbian cities.

Belgrade, the capital, is the Anglicised version of the Serbian Beograd meaning 'white city'. The settlement began as the Celtic city of Singidunum, founded by the Scordisci tribe in the 3rd century BC. Here the suffix meaning 'fortress' follows an uncertain first element which could be related to seng 'slender, narrow'; Sings, the Thracian tribe who may have occupied the area previously; sin-gi 'old prayer'; or perhaps the Sinds a Scythain tribe named by Herodotus as living hereabouts in the 5th century BC.

Novi Sad is from the Serbian for 'new orchard'.

Nis is said to get its name from the Nisava River. However, it seems more likelt to be from Serbo-Croat niz meaning 'along the course of'. If this idea is correct, it means an early settlement gave its name to the river and not vice versa.

Kragujevac is from a Serbian word, kraguj refers to a species of hawk. Common to the area and used for hunting, the city's name of 'hawks' roost' reflects this era.

Subotica appeared earlier as Zabotka or Zabatka, possibly from szabad a derivative of svobod or 'peace'. Alternatively the South Slavic word of zabat or 'gable' and thus a reference to a different style of house in the area.

Krusevac is from the Serbian krusac or 'river stone', a common material used in building houses at that time.

Kraljevo is a name meaning 'the kings' town', this given by King Milan I of Serbia (d1889) and a reference to the six Serbian kings who had been crowned in this region.

Pancevo has an uncertain origin but possibly comes from an Old Slavonic term referring to this being largely marshland.

Zrenjanin was named after Zarko Zrenjanin (1902-1942) in 1946 as he was one of the leaders of the Vojvodina Communist Partisans during the Second World War.

Sabac is first recorded in 1454, the origin uncertain but may share an origin with the local River Sava, itself thought to come from Proto-Indo-European sewh meaning 'to take liquid' (and a root also giving us the English 'sup') but here with the suffix -eh to describe 'that which waters' and a reference to it irrigating the land.

Cacak was once known as Gradac or 'little town'. First recorded as Cacak in a document dated 3 January 1409, it may be from cackovit referring to lumpos of frozen or dried mud used as a building material, alternativel this could represent skak or 'jumping', although it is not clear how the latter would work etymologically.

Novi Pazar means 'new bazaar', a name used since the 15th century when there was another well-established market less than two miles east of here.

Sombor takes the family name Czobor, first used in 1543, who owned this area in the 14th century. Earlier had been known as Czoborszentmihaly.

Sremska Mitrovica gets the latter from Saint Demetrius. Added to the area of Syrmia, an ancient region now divided between Serbia and Croatia, named from and ruled by the city of Sirmium - itself now known as Sremska Mitrovica. Sirmium means 'flowing water, wetland' and refers to its location by the River Sava.

Loznica began as lozica, the Serbian for 'small vine'.

Pozarevac can be translated as 'fire town', this thought to refer to a burning of a settlement here.

Jagodina is first recorded as jagodna a word meaning 'strawberry' in Serbian.

Zajeca is from the Torlak dialect zajec 'hare' and thus this place was once renowned as 'the man who breeds hares'.

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

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