My neighbor didn’t receive the nickname hashoura (“nosy person”) for nothing. When she first met my not-so-Lebanese boyfriend, she asked for his full name. Now, I know you’re going to say I’m being a little sensitive, but when the ḥashoura asks for his name, you best run for the hills.

Just as your name may convey important information about your identity here in Lebanon, so too do the names of villages all around this country, as Elie Wardini found in his book, “Lebanese Place-names: Mount Lebanon and North Lebanon.”

What's in a name? Here's the real meaning behind ten Lebanese locations:

1. El Mashnqa, Canaanite for ‘(place of the) nurse, she who breast feeds’


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Located in Jbayl, el Mashnqa contains a Roman temple and ancient tombs with reliefs, one of which depicts a woman breastfeeding.

Note: Mashnqa comes from Canaanite’s ynq ‘to suck’. We see a pattern shift due to the reinterpretation to accommodate Lebanese Arabic mashnqa ‘gallows.’

2. Maameltein, Arabic for ‘(the bridge of) the two administrative districts’

If you are not present during my struggle don't expect to be present during my success.....

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Maameltein – the place where an older gentleman, during one god-awfully lonely night, rolled down the windows from his SUV and asked do you want to hop in? Yes, the night I was mistaken for a gal that wanted some cash for sex. We all know Maameltein as the capital of super night clubs and sexy prostitutes.

But once upon a time, it actually contained some history. The name actually refers to the bridge that connected the northern and southern administrative districts of Mount Lebanon under Ottoman rule.

Note: This the Arabic dual form of standard Arabic muʿāmala ‘province, district.’

3. Bikfaya, Aramaic for ‘the place of the rocks’

In this town of Bikfaya, situated in the Metn region, there is a cliff that passes through most of the village, today over-shadowed by high buildings; the most dense and oldest parts of the village lie right below the cliff.

Note: Bə is Aramaic’s short form bət ‘house, temple, family, place.’ Kfayya is the plural of Aramaic’s kēp̄ or kēp̄ā ‘rock, stone.’

4. Bsharre, Aramaic for ‘the place by the valley’

This village is situated on a ledge above Qadisha valley; hence, the meaning of its name: the place by the valley. It is Gibran Khalil Gibran’s residence, also known as that place where I was trusting (or crazy) enough to follow the Aussie—in his own words—on a few “madcap adventures…ending up shivering in deserted snowfields and getting lost clambering over mountainsides in the dark”!

Note: The b comes from Aramaic’s short form bət ‘house, temple, family, place’ and sharra, an Aramaic word for ‘valley.’

5. Bourj Hammoud, Arabic for ‘the tower, turret of Hammoud’

This area is named after one of the many towers on the coast used in ancient times as part of a communication system.

Note: This comes from standard Arabic: bourj ‘tower’ and Hammoud is a personal name.

6. Zgharta, Aramaic for ‘the little (place)’

Local tradition says that the ruler of Ehden offered the ancestors of those who settled in this locality a lot of land to keep their sheep and cattle. When they chose a small parcel of land between two rivers (Nahr Qadisha and Nahr Rashain), he said to their leader zeġġarta ‘you chose a small one [lit.: you made it small].’

Note: This form, which is similar to Lebanese zġīr, ṣghīr, is a hybrid of Aramaic zʿr and standard Arabic ṣġr, both meaning ‘small’ or ‘young.’

7. Jeita, Canaanite for ‘(the place of) roaring’

#grotto #Jeita #grottojeita

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Located in Keserwan, the river Nahr el Kalb is nearby and the inhabitants at times hear its ‘roar;’ the village was much closer to the river, but with time moved to the top of the hill.

Note: Aramaic’s gəʿī, gəʿā, Hebrew’s gāʿā, and Syriac’s gəʿo all mean ‘to roar, to low.’ Canaanite’s gʿ means ‘lowing, roaring.’

8. Beirut, Canaanite for ‘(the place of the) wells’

If you’ve lived in Beirut long enough, you’ve been favored to experience the city’s (and country’s!) infamous water issues. So ironic that a city that is named after its underground water reserves contains such major water supply cuts.

Note: Beirut comes from the plural of Canaanite’s b2r ‘well.’

9. Balamand, French for ‘beautiful hill’

The Crusaders, who also coined the place-name, founded a Cistercian abbey here in the Koura district. It is now an Orthodox monastery where Balamand University was established.

Note: Bala comes from French’s bel ‘handsome, beautiful’ and mand from French’s mont ‘mountain, hill.’

10. Laqlouk, Lebanese Arabic for ‘the glittering (place)’

#laqlouq #lebanon #dawn #sunrise 💜

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Wardini was told that the name was given to this region, situated at an altitude of 1850 meters in Jbayl, because of its fine and pure weather, with seldom any fog; they say that the weather biylaqləq ‘glitters.’ Tula Khandjian told the author that in her interviews a lady asked: see the hills [that surround the region,] are they straight? The answer then is: la’ luq ‘no they are crooked.’

Note: The name comes from Lebanese Arabic laqlaq ‘to glitter, to shine.’

*All explanations of each place or town come directly from “Lebanese Place-names: Mount Lebanon and North Lebanon,” by Elie Wardini.

[Images via here, here and here.]

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