Tuesday, August 14, 2012

17 English Names for Spanish Places

People often have their own, peculiar names for foreign cities and countries that don’t speak the same language that they do; for example, what we call Germany, the Germans call Deutschland; London is known to the French as Londres; and in Mandarin Chinese, the U.S. sounds like the word for “beautiful country.” Spanish place-names in the English language are no different, although the ones that have been changed were usually historically significant.

Catalan and Spanish bilingual road signs in Spain
Bilingual corpus by Börkur Sigurbjörnsson on Flickr

Here are 17 of the most common Spanish places that have different names in English. (Just so you know, on this blog, I’m going to use the Spanish names (the ones on the left) instead of the English ones, except for the Balearic and Canary Islands.)

Andalucía >> Andalusia
This autonomous community is found in the south of the country. “Andalusia” comes from the Arabic al-ʼAndalus. (Compare French, Andalousie, German, Andalusien, and Italian, Andalusìa.)

Aragón >> Aragon
This autonomous community is found in the north central part of the country.

Castilla >> Castile
This historical region of Spain is shared among the present-day autonomous communities of Cantabria, Castilla y León, Castilla-La Mancha, Madrid, and La Rioja. The English form is probably due to French influence, “Castille.

Cataluña/Catalunya >> Catalonia
This autonomous community is found in the northeast of the country. “Catalonia” is the Latin name.

Córdoba >> Cordova
This city was the capital of Moorish Spain for centuries, and now is one of the biggest cities in Andalucía. It is perhaps just by chance of history that the English name ended up with a V rather than a B; Catalan, Italian, and Portuguese all spell it with a V. However, Spanish-speakers don’t make a distinction between Bs and Vs, so I guess the matter is moot.

La Coruña/A Coruña >> Corunna
This city is a provincial capital in the autonomous community of Galicia. Wikipedia says that it was also known as “The Groyne” in English (from the French, “La Corogne”). Thankfully, that name has fallen out of use.

Duero >> Douro
This river begins in northern Spain and empties into the Atlantic Ocean in Portugal. “Douro” is the Portuguese name.

España >> Spain
The country itself. The name is, again, due to French (actually Anglo-Norman) influence, “Espaigne.”

Ibiza/Eivissa >> Iviza
One of the southern Balearic Islands. “Iviza,” a rare form of the name, is probably influenced by the Catalan, “Eivissa.”

Islas Baleares/Illes Balears >> Balearic Islands
These Mediterranean islands are to the east of Spain. “Balearic” comes from the Latin “Balearis.”

Islas Canarias >> Canary Islands
These African islands are to the southwest of Spain. “Canary” comes from the Latin “Canaria” via the French “Canarie.”

Mallorca >> Majorca
One of the central Balearic Islands. “Majorca” comes from the Latin, “Maiorica.”

Menorca >> Minorca
One of the northern Balearic Islands. “Minorca” comes from the Latin, “Minorica.”

Navarra/Navarroa >> Navarre
This autonomous community is found in the northeast of the country. “Navarre” is the French name.

Sevilla >> Seville
This is the capital of Andalucía. “Seville” comes from the French, “Séville.”

Tajo >> Tagus
This river begins in central Spain and empties into the Atlantic Ocean in Portugal. “Tagus” is the Latin name.

Vizkaya/Bizkaia >> Biscay
This is one of the three provinces of the Basque Country. “Biscay” comes from the French, “Biscaye.”

Zaragoza >> Saragossa
This is the capital of Aragón. The name “Saragossa” is due to French influence, “Saragosse.”

Now, wasn’t that fun?
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