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Thread: Toponymy, the study of place names

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    Toponymy, the study of place names

    Toponyms are place names, Toponymy is the study of place names, their origins, meanings, use, and typology.

    Learning about the origin of place names is immensely satisfying, mythology, legend, history, and linguistics are all intertwined, an eye-opener to rich human cultures.

    Share the origin of your city's name, other cities, countries, villages, river names, anything you find interesting, even the names of ethnicities.

    Baghdad:

    The site where the city of Baghdad developed has been populated for millennia. By the 8th century AD, several villages had developed there, including a Persian hamlet called Baghdad, the name which would come to be used for the Abbasid metropolis.

    Arab authors, realizing the pre-Islamic origins of Baghdad's name, generally looked for its roots in Persian. They suggested various meanings, the most common of which was "bestowed by God". Modern scholars generally tend to favor this etymology, which views the word as a compound of bagh (Baghpahlavi.png) "god" and dād (Dadpahlavi.png) "given", In Old Persian the first element can be traced to boghu and is related to Slavic bog "god", while the second can be traced to dadāti. A similar term in Middle Persian is the name Mithradāt (Mihrdād in New Persian), known in English by its Hellenistic form Mithridates, meaning "gift of Mithra" (dāt is the more archaic form of dād, related to Latin dat and English donor). There are a number of other locations in the wider region whose names are compounds of the word bagh, including Baghlan and Bagram in Afghanistan or a village called Bagh-šan in Iran. The name of the town Baghdati in Georgia shares the same etymological origins.
    Sardinia:

    The name Sardinia is from the pre-Roman noun *s(a)rd-, later romanised as sardus (feminine sarda). It makes its first appearance on the Nora Stone, where the word Šrdn testifies to the name's existence when the Phoenician merchants first arrived. According to Timaeus, one of Plato's dialogues, Sardinia and its people as well might have been named after Sardò (Σαρδώ), a legendary woman born in Sardis (Σάρδεις), capital of the ancient Kingdom of Lydia. There has also been speculation that identifies the ancient Nuragic Sards with the Sherden, one of the Sea Peoples. It is suggested that the name had a religious connotation from its use also as the adjective for the ancient Sardinian mythological hero-god Sardus Pater "Sardinian Father" (in modern times misunderstood as being "Father Sardus"), as well as being the stem of the adjective "sardonic". In Classical antiquity, Sardinia was called Ichnusa (the Latinised form of Ancient Greek: Υκνούσσα), Σανδάλιον "Sandal", Sardinia and Sardó (Σαρδώ).
    Bangladesh:

    The etymology of Bangladesh (Country of Bengal) can be traced to the early 20th century, when Bengali patriotic songs, such as Namo Namo Namo Bangladesh Momo by Kazi Nazrul Islam and Aaji Bangladesher Hridoy by Rabindranath Tagore, used the term. The term Bangladesh was often written as two words, Bangla Desh, in the past. Starting in the 1950s, Bengali nationalists used the term in political rallies in East Pakistan. The term Bangla is a major name for both the Bengal region and the Bengali language. The earliest known usage of the term is the Nesari plate in 805 AD. The term Vangaladesa is found in 11th-century South Indian records.

    The term gained official status during the Sultanate of Bengal in the 14th century. Shamsuddin Ilyas Shah proclaimed himself as the first "Shah of Bangala" in 1342. The word Bangla became the most common name for the region during the Islamic period. The Portuguese referred to the region as Bengala in the 16th century.

    The origins of the term Bangla are unclear, with theories pointing to a Bronze Age proto-Dravidian tribe, the Austric word "Bonga" (Sun god), and the Iron Age Vanga Kingdom. The Indo-Aryan suffix Desh is derived from the Sanskrit word deśha, which means "land" or "country". Hence, the name Bangladesh means "Land of Bengal" or "Country of Bengal".
    Nile river:

    In the ancient Egyptian language, the Nile is called Ḥ'pī or Iteru (Hapy), meaning "river". In Coptic, the word ⲫⲓⲁⲣⲱ, pronounced piaro (Sahidic) or phiaro (Bohairic), means "the river" (lit. p(h).iar-o "the.canal-great"), and comes from the same ancient name.

    In Egyptian Arabic, the Nile is called en-Nīl while in Standard Arabic it is called an-Nīl. The river is also called in Coptic: ⲫⲓⲁⲣⲱ, P(h)iaro; in Ancient Egyptian: Ḥ'pī and Jtrw; and in Biblical Hebrew: הַיְאוֹר‬, Ha-Ye'or or הַשִׁיחוֹר‬, Ha-Shiḥor.

    The English name Nile and the Arabic names en-Nîl and an-Nîl both derive from the Latin Nilus and the Ancient Greek Νεῖλος. Beyond that, however, the etymology is disputed. Hesiod at his Theogony refers that Nilus (Νεῖλος) was one of the Potamoi (river gods), son of Oceanus and Tethys. Another derivation of Nile might be related to the term Nil (Sanskrit: नील, translit. nila; Egyptian Arabic: نيلة‎), which refers to Indigofera tinctoria, one of the original sources of indigo dye; or Nymphaea caerulea, known as "The Sacred Blue Lily of the Nile", which was founded scattering over Tutankhamen’s corpse when it was located in 1922.

    Another possible etymology derives it from a Semitic Nahal, meaning "river". The standard English names "White Nile" and "Blue Nile", to refer to the river's source, derive from Arabic names formerly applied only to the Sudanese stretches which meet at Khartoum.
    Europe:

    In classical Greek mythology, Europa (Ancient Greek: Εὐρώπη, Eurṓpē) is the name of either a Phoenician princess or of a queen of Crete. The name contains the elements εὐρύς (eurús), "wide, broad" and ὤψ (ōps, gen. ὠπός, ōpós) "eye, face, countenance", hence their composite Eurṓpē would mean "wide-gazing" or "broad of aspect". Broad has been an epithet of Earth herself in the reconstructed Proto-Indo-European religion and the poetry devoted to it. For the second part compare also the divine attributes of "grey-eyed" Athena (γλαυκῶπις, glaukōpis) or ox-eyed Hera (βοῶπις, boōpis).

    There have been attempts to connect Eurṓpē to a Semitic term for "west", this being either Akkadian erebu meaning "to go down, set" (said of the sun) or Phoenician 'ereb "evening, west", which is at the origin of Arabic Maghreb and Hebrew ma'arav. Michael A. Barry, professor in Princeton University's Near Eastern Studies Department, finds the mention of the word Ereb on an Assyrian stele with the meaning of "night, [the country of] sunset", in opposition to Asu "[the country of] sunrise", i.e. Asia. The same naming motive according to "cartographic convention" appears in Greek Ἀνατολή (Anatolḗ "[sun] rise", "east", hence Anatolia). Martin Litchfield West stated that "phonologically, the match between Europa's name and any form of the Semitic word is very poor." Next to these hypotheses there is also a Proto-Indo-European root *h1regʷos, meaning "darkness", which also produced Greek Erebus.

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    This thread reminds me of how some Asian cities that were former colonies have changed changed their names recently. This is because colonizers found the original names too difficult to pronounce, and renamed cities, ports, etc. to suit their tongues. The call for renaming the cities to reflect their original heritage has spurred a lot of nationalist thought and literature--some of it good, some of it vitriolic, aggressive, and hateful. I was just discussing this issue with my adivsor last week.

    For instance, the South Indian city of Chennai was Madrasapattinam (I think) under British rule. After independence, it became "Madaras." It was renamed "Chennai," however, to distance itself from undue colonial influence, as well as to have a more ethnic name.

    There are plenty of other examples.

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