Sunday 3 May 2020

Syria 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 Syrian cities.

Aleppo was earlier known as Habab, which may represent the Hebrew for 'milk' and thus a reference to the tale of Abraham and how he milked his sheep to feed the poor.

Damascus comes from the Greek and describes 'the well-watered land'.

Deir ez-Zor us from Syriac for 'small habitation'.

Hama is from the Syriac for 'fortress'.

Homs is the Arabic form of the city's Latin name of Emesus or the Greek Emesa. It is thought to have been transferred from another city, the Aramean Hamath-zobah meaning near fortress'. Another theory suggests it comes from the Greek Khemps and thus means 'the female camel'.

Latakia was named after a ruling dynasty, Seleucus I Nicator honouring his mother Laodice, who married a general of Philip II of Macedon.

Quneitra is simply the Arabic word for an 'arched bridge', the town built around a series of same.

Abu Kamal means 'the family of Kamal', the name of the tribe living here. Under Ottoman rule it was called Kisla or 'military barracks'.

Kobani takes the name of the German railway company who built the railway here.

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

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