In March i wrote about a human being map whereby the nation names had been analyzed to their initial literal meanings, as far as anyone might be sure. Language, after all, is a facility and confusing thing that grows, develops and also morphs in time as dialect mix and also meanings blend.

I thought it would certainly be fun to follow it increase by delving a bit deeper and also look in ~ the urban within those countries who no doubt have actually been topic to the very same whims of adjust and misinterpretation. Unsurprisingly, the outcomes are just as interesting, out-there and also weird. Castle tell story of background and covert meaning, that founders and also conquerors, that emotions and natural wonders.

Current estimates believe there are approximately 7,106 life languages quiet being talked in the world, which is an astounding statistic far above what most would guess (hands up, i guessed approximately 500 before I researched it). Roll in the hundreds of languages now extinct and it’s easy to watch why and also how definitions have readjusted and because of this to recognize that naught is certain. Some room obvious, part a little much more obscure and also some, happily, space downright bizarre.

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So the following time she planning a city break, why not carry out a little shopping and also top up the tan through a trip to dad of the Gazelle, much more commonly well-known as Abu Dhabi. Or possibly something more remote and also chilly prefer Smoky just is your bag. In that case, publication your ticket to Iceland because you’re turn off to Reykjavik.

This map of literal meaning translations the cities around the human being from ~ above The walk Tours is together hilarious as it is informative. Here I’ve damaged it down right into continents so girlfriend can check out each individually. And also if any kind of map looks too small, simply zoom in or open the picture in a brand-new tab – lock high resolution so you should be able to read every name.

North America

North America is rife with rather predictable literal meaning translations, whether it’s the City that Angels for, er, Los Angeles come the city of the leg for, well, Bridgetown in Barbados. Yet nose a small deeper and there space some much more poetic, attractive names to digest.

The oceans and seas obviously play a large role, whether it’s Wet Land for Nassau, the Bahaman capital, or ar by the Water because that Managua in Nicaragua and the very similar By the Sea because that Tijuana top top Mexico’s northern border.

The Honduran funding Tegucigalpa is far an ext convoluted and also uncertain though. A usual theory is the it means Silver Hills native the Nahuatl ‘Teguz-Galp’, yet many specialists write that concept off together the locals can never have known that the minerals in the hills the name would have actually come from. I prefer the theory it originates from the Nahuatl ‘Tecuztlicallipan’, which equates as ar of Residence the the Noble or the similar ‘Tecuhtzincalpan’ meaning Place at the home of the lovely Master.


A yes, really smorgasbord that the weird and also wonderful, Europe is a deep fine of intriguing names. My present city the residence, fairly disconcertingly, translates merely as Swamp from the old Polabian language. Whereby is this alluring ar I’ve preferred to speak to home because that a while? Berlin, no less!

Many have actually a patent manmade, security-centric feel around them. Portugal’s capital Lisbon is the reassuring for sure Harbor, Luxembourg City the tiny Castle and also Maribor in Slovenia the encouraging Borderland Fortress. This is a continent the invaders and conquerors after all.

Elsewhere, Romania’s capital Bucharest appeals together the City the Joy, together does Norway’s capital Oslo together the meadow of the Gods. A small less poetic is Latvia’s capital, Riga who name refers to the country’s established function in the commerce in between East and also West – it merely translates as Warehouse.


Off Africa’s east coast, Madagascar’s wonderfully-named resources Antananarivo translates as City of the thousand in honour of the variety of soldiers assigned to guard it by its overcoming king Andrianjaka in the early on 1600s. The tiny neighbouring Comoros islands’ funding Moroni means Heart that Fire, most likely alluding to its place at the foot of mount Karthala, an energetic volcano.

On the mainland, Sudan’s resources Khartoum raises a smile, an interpretation End of an Elephant’s Trunk. Weird yes, however it’s obtained from the Arabic Al-Jartūm and likely describes the narrow piece of land in between the Blue and White Niles rather than the animal. Keeping the animal theme is Bamako in Mali, which method Crocodile River, and Ghanaian capital Accra together Ants, named for the proliferation that anthills in the bordering countryside.

Likely from a questionable european misinterpretation of the Shona chieftain Neharawa as ‘Haarari’, Zimbabwe’s resources translates oddly as He Does not Sleep.


Asia’s cities space proof the this is a continent of especially stories. In Armenia, Yerevan is most most likely from Erebuni which method the Abode that Heroes, however I love the early on Christian id that it originates from ‘Yerevats!’, which method ‘It appeared!’, the wordsspoken by noah aboard the Ark as he landed on Mount Ararat and also looked towards Yerevanwhere the flood receded. Following door in Armenia is the very fashionable Baku, or Wind-Pounded City, which demands no explanation.

Perhaps unsurprising, many oriental capitals are named for emotions or feelings. Ashgabat in Turkmenistan is the City of Love, Manama on tiny Bahrain the ar of Dreams and also Jerusalem in Israel the Abode the Peace, despite I’m not sure how accurate any type of of these is in the modern world.

Others are much less aspirational. I specifically liked Dushanbe in Tajikistan i beg your pardon is, literally, Monday. Then there’s Malé, the tiny island resources of the beautiful Maldives i beg your pardon means big House from the original Sanskrit, and also Yangon in Myanmar, a compound of yan ‘enemies’ and koun ‘run the end of’ native the Burmese, i m sorry is construed as an interpretation End of Strife.

South America

I’m not sure everyone would certainly agree v Ecuador’s assertively named funding Quito, which translates as center of the World.

More straight is Uruguay’s Montevideo, or I see a Mountain. When there’s no problem over that is translation referring to the hill which encounters the bay, its beginning isn’t so clear. Most likely it comes directly from the Portuguese ‘Monte vide eu’ an initial spoken by a seaman ~ above the expedition with legendary traveler Ferdinand Magellan when he observed the ‘mountain prefer a hat’. It’s by no way certain though.

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The lesser explored country of Suriname look at its capital, Paramaribo, named for the people living in ~ the mouth the the Suriname River and can be damaged down in translation as large River Inhabitants, which is slightly unnerving as to what they could be. At the other finish of the tourist scale sits Rio de Janeiro i m sorry for any type of Portuguese speak is a fast and straightforward translation come the flow of January.


Australia’s oft-overlooked capital Canberra translates an extremely directly together Meeting place from the old Ngunnawal language of the aboriginal Ngabri people, likely referring to your seasonal migration to the area come feast on the tasty sounding Bogong moths. Nothing also revelatory then, uneven you destruction a little deeper and also take words of journalist man Gale who in the 1860s speculated it means ‘woman’s breasts’ referring to the hills of mount Ainslie and also Black Mountain. He’s a journalist though, so may just have actually been stirring increase a story top top a dry news day!

As always, the islands offer great value. The lover Nuku’alofa in Tonga converts as land of Love, when Fiji’s second city Lautoka way ‘spear hit’ influenced by a duel between two chiefs, the winner of which shouted ‘lau-toka!’ once he speared his rival – literally Bull’s Eye!

Last however by no means least is the wonderful Funafuti, funding of tiny, gorgeous Tuvalu whose founding ancestors were Telematua and also his two wives Futi and Tupu. Clearly his very first wife was the favorite, as her surname was embraced for the capital. While Funa is the feminine prefix, Futi literally way Banana.


I’m insatiably obsessed through what’s about the following corner. Over the critical 15 years I’ve dedicated most the my career and complimentary time to finding out and telling those story for print and also online magazines, newspapers, travel guides, books and also businesses. My creating has appeared all over the world for the likes of Lonely Planet, Sunday times Travel, FHM, boat International, Huck, Escapism, actual Travel, Discovery, take trip Ideas, Mashable, Timberland, Men’s Fitness and many more. Even if it is it’s revelling behind bulletproof glass in high-end chalets high in the Austrian Alps or trailing a broke-down Beetle along dusty tracks searching for Senegal’s empty waves, I’m together happy in a hostel together a hotel. Brother born, life in Germany, however happiest heading for the horizon. I’m constantly interested in hearing about amazing new places and also things, so article me ~ above Instagram