Toponymy

Toponymy

Overview
Toponymy is the scientific study of place names (toponyms), their origins, meanings, use and typology. The word "toponymy" is derived from the Greek
Greek language
Greek is an independent branch of the Indo-European family of languages. Native to the southern Balkans, it has the longest documented history of any Indo-European language, spanning 34 centuries of written records. Its writing system has been the Greek alphabet for the majority of its history;...

 words tópos (τόπος) ("place") and ónoma (ὄνομα) ("name"). Toponymy is itself a branch of onomastics
Onomastics
Onomastics or onomatology is the study of proper names of all kinds and the origins of names. The words are from the Greek: "ὀνομαστικός" , "of or belonging to naming" and "ὀνοματολογία" , from "ὄνομα" "name". Toponymy or toponomastics, the study of place names, is one of the principal branches of...

, the study of names of all kinds. Toponymy is distinct from, though often confused with etymology
Etymology
Etymology is the study of the history of words, their origins, and how their form and meaning have changed over time.For languages with a long written history, etymologists make use of texts in these languages and texts about the languages to gather knowledge about how words were used during...

, which is the study of the origins of words.

A toponymist is one who studies toponymy.
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Encyclopedia
Toponymy is the scientific study of place names (toponyms), their origins, meanings, use and typology. The word "toponymy" is derived from the Greek
Greek language
Greek is an independent branch of the Indo-European family of languages. Native to the southern Balkans, it has the longest documented history of any Indo-European language, spanning 34 centuries of written records. Its writing system has been the Greek alphabet for the majority of its history;...

 words tópos (τόπος) ("place") and ónoma (ὄνομα) ("name"). Toponymy is itself a branch of onomastics
Onomastics
Onomastics or onomatology is the study of proper names of all kinds and the origins of names. The words are from the Greek: "ὀνομαστικός" , "of or belonging to naming" and "ὀνοματολογία" , from "ὄνομα" "name". Toponymy or toponomastics, the study of place names, is one of the principal branches of...

, the study of names of all kinds. Toponymy is distinct from, though often confused with etymology
Etymology
Etymology is the study of the history of words, their origins, and how their form and meaning have changed over time.For languages with a long written history, etymologists make use of texts in these languages and texts about the languages to gather knowledge about how words were used during...

, which is the study of the origins of words.

Toponymists


A toponymist is one who studies toponymy. According to the Oxford English Dictionary
Oxford English Dictionary
The Oxford English Dictionary , published by the Oxford University Press, is the self-styled premier dictionary of the English language. Two fully bound print editions of the OED have been published under its current name, in 1928 and 1989. The first edition was published in twelve volumes , and...

, the word "toponymy" first appeared in English in 1876; since then, toponym has come to replace "place-name" in professional discourse among toponymists. It can be argued that the first toponymists were the storytellers and poets who explained the origin of specific place names as part of their tales; sometimes place-names served as the basis for the etiological
Etiology
Etiology is the study of causation, or origination. The word is derived from the Greek , aitiologia, "giving a reason for" ....

 legends. The process of folk etymology usually took over, whereby a false meaning was extracted from a name based on its structure or sounds. Thus, the toponym of Hellespont was explained by Greek poets as being named after Helle
Helle (mythology)
Helle was a character in Greek mythology who figured prominently in the story of Jason and the Argonauts. Phrixus, son of Athamas and Nephele, along with his twin sister, Helle, were hated by their stepmother, Ino. Ino hatched a devious plot to get rid of the twins, roasting all the town's crop...

, daughter of Athamas
Athamas
The king of Orchomenus in Greek mythology, Athamas , was married first to the goddess Nephele with whom he had the twins Phrixus or Frixos and Helle. He later divorced Nephele and married Ino, daughter of Cadmus. With Ino, he had two children: Learches and Melicertes...

, who drowned here as she crossed it with her brother Phrixus
Phrixus
In Greek mythology, Phrixus or Frixos or Phryxus was the son of Athamas, king of Boiotia, and Nephele . His twin sister Helle and he were hated by their stepmother, Ino. Ino hatched a devious plot to get rid of the twins, roasting all of Boeotia's crop seeds so they would not grow. The local...

 on a flying golden ram. The name, however, most likely is derived from an older language, such as Pelasgian, which was unknown to those who explained its origin. George R. Stewart
George R. Stewart
George Rippey Stewart was an American toponymist, a novelist, and a professor of English at the University of California, Berkeley...

 theorized, in his book Names on the Globe, that Hellespont originally meant something like "narrow Pontus" or "entrance to Pontus," "Pontus" being an ancient name for the region around the Black Sea
Black Sea
The Black Sea is bounded by Europe, Anatolia and the Caucasus and is ultimately connected to the Atlantic Ocean via the Mediterranean and the Aegean seas and various straits. The Bosphorus strait connects it to the Sea of Marmara, and the strait of the Dardanelles connects that sea to the Aegean...

, and by extension, for the sea itself.

Place names provide the most useful geographical reference system in the world. Consistency and accuracy are essential in referring to a place to prevent confusion in everyday business and recreation. A toponymist, through well-established local principles and procedures developed in cooperation and consultation with the United Nations Group of Experts on Geographical Names
United Nations Group of Experts on Geographical Names
The United Nations Group of Experts on Geographical Names was set up by the Secretary General of the United Nations on April 23, 1959....

 (UNGEGN), applies the science of toponymy to establish officially recognized geographical names. A toponymist relies not only on maps and local histories, but interviews with local residents to determine names with established local usage. The exact application of a toponym, its specific language, its pronunciation, and its origins and meaning are all important facts to be recorded during name surveys.

Scholars have found that toponyms provide valuable insight into the historical geography of a particular region. In 1954 F. M. Powicke said of place-name study that it "uses, enriches and tests the discoveries of archaeology and history and the rules of the philologists." Toponyms not only illustrate ethnic settlement patterns, but they can also help identify discrete periods of immigration.

Toponymists are responsible for the active preservation of their region's culture through its toponymy. They typically ensure the ongoing development of a geographical names data base and associated publications, for recording and disseminating authoritative hard-copy and digital toponymic data. This data may be disseminated in a wide variety of formats, including digital (Geographical Information Systems & Google Map formats) and hard-copy topographic maps.

Noted toponymists

  • Richard Coates
    Richard Coates
    Richard Coates is an English linguist. He is professor of linguistics at the University of the West of England in Bristol. He was formerly professor of linguistics at the University of Sussex, where he served as Dean of the School of Cognitive and Computing Sciences from 1998 to 2003...

  • Eilert Ekwall
    Eilert Ekwall
    Bror Oscar Eilert Ekwall , known as Eilert Ekwall, was Professor of English at Lund University, Sweden, from 1909 to 1942, and one of the outstanding scholars of the English language of the first half of the 20th century...

  • Margaret Gelling
    Margaret Gelling
    Margaret Joy Gelling, OBE was an English toponymist, Fellow of St Hilda's College, Oxford, and member of the Society of Antiquaries of London and the British Academy....

  • Oliver Padel
    Oliver Padel
    Oliver James Padel is an authority on the origin and meaning of place-names, currently Honorary Research Fellow in the Department of Anglo-Saxon, Norse, and Celtic in the University of Cambridge and Visiting Professor of Celtic at the University of the West of England.He was born in 1948...

  • Robert L. Ramsay
  • Henry Schoolcraft
    Henry Schoolcraft
    Henry Rowe Schoolcraft was an American geographer, geologist, and ethnologist, noted for his early studies of Native American cultures, as well as for his 1832 discovery of the source of the Mississippi River. He married Jane Johnston, whose parents were Ojibwe and Scots-Irish...

  • Albert Hugh Smith
    Albert Hugh Smith
    Albert Hugh Smith OBE was a scholar of Old English and Scandinavian languages and played a major part in the study and publication of English place-names....

  • George R. Stewart
    George R. Stewart
    George Rippey Stewart was an American toponymist, a novelist, and a professor of English at the University of California, Berkeley...

  • Isaac Taylor
    Isaac Taylor (canon)
    Isaac Taylor , son of Isaac Taylor, was a philologist, toponymist, and Anglican canon of York .- Life :...

  • William J. Watson
    William J. Watson
    Professor William J. Watson was a toponymist, one of the greatest Scottish scholars of the 20th century, and was the first scholar to place the study of Scottish place names on a firm linguistic basis....

  • Craig Weatherhill
    Craig Weatherhill
    Craig Weatherhill is a Cornish author both of fiction and non-fiction works about Cornwall.-Biography:Raised in St Just in Penwith and then in Falmouth, after serving in the forces he developed a career in conservation and architecture. In his younger days, the 6' 3" Weatherhill was a goalkeeper,...


Toponymy


NB for 'etymology' in below links, read 'toponymy'
  • Place name origins
    Place name origins
    In much of the "Old World" the names of many places cannot easily be interpreted or understood; they do not convey any apparent meaning in the modern language of the area. This is due to a general set of processes through which place names evolve over time, until their obvious meaning is lost...

  • Planetary Nomenclature
    Planetary nomenclature
    Planetary nomenclature, like terrestrial nomenclature, is a system of uniquely identifying features on the surface of a planet or natural satellite so that the features can be easily located, described, and discussed. The task of assigning official names to features is taken up by the International...

  • List of continent name etymologies
  • List of country name etymologies
  • List of etymologies of country subdivision names
  • Hydronymy
    • Latin names of European rivers
    • Latin names of rivers
      Latin names of rivers
      Following is a list of rivers stating the Latin and equivalent English name.¹ - Latinized spelling of a Greek name.-See also:* List of European rivers with alternative names* Latin names of Portuguese rivers* List of Roman place names in Britain...

    • List of river name etymologies
    • Old European hydronymy
      Old European hydronymy
      Old European is the term used by Hans Krahe for the language of the oldest reconstructed stratum of European hydronymy in Central and Western Europe...


Regional toponymy

  • Biblical toponyms in the United States
    Biblical toponyms in the United States
    Many cities, towns and counties in the United States are named after places from the Bible. This page lists all such examples.-Antioch:Antioch on the Orontes was a city on the eastern side of the Orontes River...

  • Toponymy in Great Britain
  • Place names in Irish
    Place names in Irish
    The vast majority of placenames in Ireland are anglicisations of Irish language names; that is, adaptations of the Irish names to English phonology and spelling. However, some names come directly from the English language, and a handful come from Old Norse and Ulster Scots...

  • Celtic toponymy
    Celtic toponymy
    Celtic toponymy is the study of place names wholly or partially of Celtic origin. These names are found throughout continental Europe, the British Isles, Asia Minor and latterly through various other parts of the globe not originally occupied by Celts....

  • Historical African place names
    Historical African place names
    This is a list of historical African place names. The names on the left are linked to the corresponding subregion from History of Africa.* Abyssinia - Ethiopia* Africa - Tunisia* Barbary Coast - Algeria* Bechuanaland - Botswana...

  • Japanese place names
    Japanese place names
    Japanese place names include names for geographic features, present and former administrative divisions, transportation facilities such as railroad stations, and historic sites in Japan. The article Japanese addressing system contains related information on postal addresses.-Administrative...

  • Korean toponymy and list of place names
    Korean toponymy and list of place names
    Most Korean place names derive either from the Korean language and its predecessors on the Korean peninsula, or from Chinese.-Geographical generics:commonly found in Korean place names:- Place names :...

  • List of English exonyms for German toponyms
  • German placename etymology
    German placename etymology
    Placenames in the German language area can be classified by the language from which they originate, and by their age.- Suffixes :# -ach, . Examples: Echternach, Salzach....

  • List of Latin place names in Europe
  • List of U.S. place names connected to Sweden
  • List of U.S. state name etymologies
  • List of U.S. state nicknames
  • Maghreb toponymy
    Maghreb toponymy
    The place names of the Maghreb come from a variety of origins, mostly Arabic and Berber, but including a few derived from Phoenician, Latin, and several other languages...

  • Names of European cities in different languages
    Names of European cities in different languages
    Many cities in Europe have different names in different languages. Some cities have also undergone name changes for political or other reasons. This article attempts to give all known different names for all major cities that are geographically or historically and culturally in Europe...

  • New Zealand place names
    New Zealand place names
    Most New Zealand place-names are derived from Māori and British sources. Both groups used names to commemorate notable people, events, places from their homeland, their ships or to described the surrounding area...

  • Place names in Sri Lanka
  • Roman place names
  • Toponyms of Finland
    Toponyms of Finland
    The toponyms of Finland result mainly from the legacy left by three linguistic heritages: the Finnish language , the Swedish language and Sami languages . Finland’s place names range from those of unknown or unrecognizable origins to more clearly derivable onomastics...


Other


External links