Place-Name Etymology in Western Hemisphere

Place-Name Etymology by Bill Rankin, 2003

Place-Name Etymology by Bill Rankin

Two kinds of colonial naming: erasure and appropriation. But when it’s always the colonists doing the naming, is one really preferable to the other? The recently created Nunavut (Inuktitut for “our land”) is perhaps the only exception in the hemisphere.

Colored regions show names from the same language family (as categorized by the Ethnologue), and seem to indicate the rough extent of various tribes. But places like “Mississippi” (Algonquian for “large river”) and “Wyoming” (Lenape for a grassy area) were moved thousands of miles by European settlers. Compare this map to Wikipedia’s reconstruction of pre-colonial language distribution: “Nebraska” erases the memory of its Caddoan speakers, and the use of the Iroquoian “Ontario” throughout that (very large) province does not acknowledge the traditional lands of the Ojibwe nations north of Lake Huron.

Even a pejorative can become a proper name: “Huron” derives from a French slur for the hairy natives (it shares a root with “hirsute”).

This is version 2.1, with a bipolar azimuthal equal-area projection.

– Bill Rankin, 2003


Quechua Country

Quechua Country in Runa Simi (Quechua), by Jordan Engel

Quechua Country in Runa Simi (Quechua), with English title, by Jordan Engel

Qhichwa Allpa (Quechua Country) in Runa Simi (Quechua), by Jordan Engel

Qhichwa Allpa (Quechua Country) in Runa Simi (Quechua), by Jordan Engel

These are the Runa Simi names for major cities, mountains, rivers, and lakes in western South America:

Amarumayu – The Amazon River
Amarumayu sach’a-sach’a suyu – The Amazon Rainforest
Antikuna – The Andes
Ariquipa – Arequipa, Peru
Atakama – The Atacama Desert
Awriq mayu – The Marañón River
Chiklayu – Chiclayo, Peru
Chimpurasu – Chimborazo volcano, Ecuador
Chimputi – Chimbote, Peru
Chuquichaka – Sucre, Boliva
Chuqiyapu – La Paz, Bolivia
Hatun Sach’amayu  – The Madeira River
Ika – Ica, Peru
Ikitus – Iquitos, Peru
Jujuy – San Salvador de Jujuy, Argentina
Kitu – Quito, Ecuador
Limaq – Lima, Peru
Napu mayu – The Napo River
Pasto – Pasto, Colombia
Pillanwasi – Monte Pissis, Argentina
Piwra – Piura, Peru
Pukallpa – Pucallpa, Peru
Purus mayu – The Purus River
Putumayu – The Putumayo River
Putusi – Potosi, Bolivia
Puwpu qucha – Poopó Lake, Bolivia
Quchapampa – Cochabamba, Bolivia
Qusqu – Cusco, Peru
Salta – Salta, Argentina
Sanp’a mama qucha – The Pacific Ocean
Santa Krus – Santa Cruz, Bolivia
Santiago del Estero – Santiago del Estero, Argentina
Taqna – Tacna, Peru
Tarija – Tarija, Bolivia
Titiqaqa qucha – Lake Titicaca, Peru and Bolivia
Truhillu – Trujillo, Peru
Tucuman – San Miguel de Tucumán, Argentina
Tumipampa – Cuenca, Ecuador
Ukayali – The Ucayali River
Uru Uru – Oruro, Bolivia
Wankayo – Huancayo, Peru
Waskaran – Huascarán mountain, Peru
Wayakil – Guayaquil, Ecuador
Yanamayu – Río Negro
Yuruá mayu – The Juruá River
Yuyayyaku – Llullaillaco volcano, Argentina and Chile

Because the majority of Quechua speakers live south of the chawpipacha (equator), this map is oriented south-up. The cardinal directions in Runa Simi are:
Uralan – South
Kunti – West
Chincha – North
Anti – East

South America in Guarani

Ñembyamérika (South America) in Avañe'ẽ (Guarani) by Jordan Engel

Ñembyamérika (South America) in Avañe’ẽ (Guarani) by Jordan Engel

Avañe’ẽ – known in English as the Guarani Language – is an indigenous language spoken by more than four million people throughout so-called Paraguay, Brazil, Argentina, and Bolivia. The nation-states depicted in this map were drawn up around the Guarani people by colonial European powers. The colonists spoke (and speak) Español, Português, Nederlands, English, or Français, and put names on the land in those many languages. While it’s somewhat of a contradiction to make a map of colonial states in an indigenous language, it’s also necessary, because it indicates that Avañe’ẽ voices are as important as the European ones.

Avañe’ẽ – conocido en Inglés como Lengua Guarani – es una lengua indígena hablada por más de cuatro millones de personas a lo largo de la llamada Paraguay, Brasil, Argentina y Bolivia. Los Estados-nación representados en este mapa se elaboraron en torno a los guaraníes por las potencias coloniales Europeas. Los colonos hablaban (y hablan) Español, Português, Nederlands, Inglés o Francés, y pusieron nombres en la tierra en aquellos muchos idiomas. Si bien es algo de una contradicción para hacer un mapa de los Estados coloniales en una lengua indígena, también es necesario, ya que indica que las voces Avañe’ẽ son tan importantes como las Europeas.