Interesting Place Names

It is time to get surprised! Place names can be really surprising and interesting… We, as language lovers, love etymology, I know it! And the best part is you can show off your friends by telling all these short stories! 🙂 Thanks to for this compilation… 🙂

Amazon River
Early Spanish explorers noticed that women battled alongside men and so named the river for the legendary Amazon female warriors.

From the word Ostreich meaning, “eastern kingdom.”

The Celtic tribe Belgae lived in the area before the first century.

Named for the South American independence fighter Simon Bolivar.

Delaware, United States
Named for the 17th century governor of Virginia, Thomas West, the Baron De La Warr.

Ganges River
In Hindi the word “ganga” means river.

From the Gaelic name of the country, “Eire”, which is pronounced “air.”

Ivory Coast / Cote d’Ivoire, Africa
In the 19th century, the French traded ivory from this coastal colony.

Comes to us from a transliteration the Chinese phrase meaning “land of the rising sun.” In Japanese call their nation Nippon.

Mediterranean Sea
In Latin, the term “mare mediterraneum” means “sea in the middle of the earth.” At the time of it’s name, civilization surrounded the Mediterranean.

Sahara Desert
From Arabic for “brownish desert.”

Sydney, Australia
Named for the British Secretary of State Lord Sydney. Australia itself is named for the ancient mythical Greek Terra Australis, or “southern land.”

Tripoli, Libya
The name means “three cities” in Greek and is named because of three ancient cities which were once in the modern city’s location.

Reminded explorers of Venice because of native homes on stilts; Venezuela means “little Venice.”

Yellow River
This Chinese River is a translation of the Chinese and is named for the river which is yellowish due to the large amount of sediment it carries.


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3 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Lee Eisenberg on October 23, 2012 at 20:34

    I should note that Terra Australis is Latin, not Greek. The Greek name would be something like Νότα Γη (pronounced Nota Ge). Also, although Ostreich does mean eastern kingdom in German, Austria’s modern name in German is Österreich. Others:

    The US states Alabama, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Texas and Utah come from American Indian names. Dakota means “friend” in Sioux. Denali means “the great one”. Inuit means “we the people”, as does Dineh (the correct name of the Navajo). Mexico is based on Mexica, which is a mispronunciation of Mexitli/Mezitli, which means “agave hare” in Nahuatl.


  2. Posted by maria viale on October 26, 2012 at 00:46

    How interesting!


  3. Posted by Marcel on October 27, 2012 at 13:58

    What about Ramsbottom (UK) and “Little Snoring” and “Great Snoring”, also in the UK?.


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