Etymology of Cyprus

Discussion in 'Etymology, History of languages, and Linguistics (EHL)' started by shannenms, Dec 19, 2007.

  1. shannenms

    shannenms Senior Member

    I have long been wondering if Cyprus comes from copper (for which this island had benn famous in the past) or copper has taken its name from it.
    Also, I read somewhere Cyprus was called Katim ( or something alike I can't transliterate it in Latin script) many years ago.

  2. Qcumber Senior Member

    UK English
    In Arabic, Cyprus is called jaziira(t) qubrus
    جزيرة قبرس [/rlf]
    , but I remember a Palestinian calling it "Kitim".

    Arabic qubrus means "copper"; it is close enough to Latin (aes) cyprium
    In the name of the island, qubrus is Greek Kúprios
    The Greek term for "copper" is chalchós
  3. shannenms

    shannenms Senior Member

    I think you are wrong about Greek Cyprus, it is Kúpros not Kúprios, which is adjective.
  4. robbie_SWE

    robbie_SWE Senior Member

    Trilingual: Swedish, Romanian & English
    I always thought that it bare this name because of the cypress tree :D. It would explain its Romanian name; Cipru. The English Wikipedia article also suggests a "botanical" etymology; from the Greek κυπάρισσος (kypárissos).

    :) robbie
  5. Qcumber Senior Member

    UK English
    You are right, kúprios "of Cyprus" is the adjective, Kúpros "Cyprus" the name of the island. Sorry.

    The noun kúpros means "cyprus / henna", a plant from which a colouring paste for hair and skin is made .

    PS 1. My dictionary says that its Turkish name is Kibris.
    PS 2. How is Kitim written in Arabic?
  6. shannenms

    shannenms Senior Member

    It is perhaps derived from cyrus tree which grows abundantly there, as Arabs and Persians call it Kafoor, which is mentioned in the Bible.
    In Arabic and Persian it is called qebres قبرس
    Katim: کتیم .
  7. Qcumber Senior Member

    UK English
    Thanks for the Arabic.
    Kafoor (kaafuur) is the camphor laurel. Yes, naming a place after a plant is not uncommon.

    So this island has at least five names:
    1) Kúpros, the Greek name
    2) qubrus, the Arabic name derived from the Greek name
    3) katiim, the Arabic name independent from the Greek name
    4) qibris > kibris, the Arabo-Turkish name independent from the Greek name
    5) Cyprus, the latinized Greek name, and all the others connected to it in Western languages (French Chypre, Spanish Chipre, etc.)
  8. shannenms

    shannenms Senior Member

    It is not independent from Greek:
    It is customary in Arabic to change Greek K to Q,
  9. cherine

    cherine Moderator

    Alexandria, Egypt
    Arabic (Egypt).
    Interesting! I always read -and wrote- Cyprus, in Arabic, with a Saad, not a siin: قبرص

    But I thought I'd check in one of the famous old geography books: معجم البلدان (roughly: dictionary of places) by Yaqut al-Hamawi ياقوت الحموي and I found this:

    قبرُسُ: بضم أوله وسكون ثانيه ثم ضم الراءِ وسين مهملة كلمة رومية، وافقت من العربية القُبرس النحاس الجيد عن أبي منصور وهي: جزيرة في بحر الروم،

    So, he says that it's a Greek word, and in Arabic it means the good copper. Also a new information for me.

    I just want to note that the common word for copper is النحاس an-nuHaas.

    I thought I'd check other references. So, here's what al-Idrisi الإدريسي says about Cyprus in his book نزهة المشتاق في اختراق الآفاق (another very famous Arabic book) :

    إن جزيرة قبرس جزيرة كبيرة القطر مقدارها ستة عشر يوماً وبها قرى ومزارع وجبال وأشجار وزروع ومواش وبها معادن الزاج المنسوب إليها ومنها يتجهز به إلى سائر الأقطار المتنائية والمتقاربة

    To sum it up: The islan of Cyprus is a big one ... and has villages, farms, mountains, tress, crops and catle, and has the metal "az-zaj" (copper) attributed to her, and from her (Cyprus) it's prepared and sold/exported to the different countries far and near.

    So we have, till now, three words for copper:
    I can't find a direct connection between any of the Arabic words and Cyprus, but maybe the Greek origin gives better explanation.
  10. Qcumber Senior Member

    UK English
    All these new pieces of information are extremely useful, Cherine. Apparently the island had a Greek name, but was given different nicknames by traders.
    That several terms should refer to copper is not surprising. Arabic generally have plenty of synonyms for a single thing.
  11. Qcumber Senior Member

    UK English
    Indeed. This term is also borrowed from an Indo-European language.
  12. shannenms

    shannenms Senior Member

    I wonder why you didn't mention Kafoor کافور ?

    You mean that Cyprus is from an Indo-European root?
  13. Qcumber Senior Member

    UK English
    I meant qibris > kibris is obviously the doublet of qubros (only the vocalic melody has changed), and qubros is apparently the Greek name Kúpros.

    On the other hand, there is no proof that Kúbros is Indo-European.
    Merriam Webster's gives the following etymology for copper:
    Cyprus (anciently renowned for its copper mines) > Latin cuprum > Old-English caper / copor > English copper.

    So the big question is: what does the Greek place name Kúpros mean, and is it of IE origin?
  14. cherine

    cherine Moderator

    Alexandria, Egypt
    Arabic (Egypt).
    Because كافور is not copper, nor even a metal, it's a plant.
  15. shannenms

    shannenms Senior Member

    Yes I know that, I just suggest it as a possible etymology of Cyprus.
  16. peri+kleos Member

    Cyprus/Greece, Greek

    It is possible that this name is originated from the Phoenician city of Kition or Citium (modern day Larnaka).
    Obviously copper comes from Cyprus because in ancient times copper was principally mined in Cyprus. In Roman times copper was called "Aes Cyprium" which loosely translates to metal of Cyprus.
    In Greek, Cyprus is Κύπρος/ΚΥΠΡΟΣ (Κipros) and there are many speculations about the origin of the name.
    An interesting information is that in Bronze Age was known also as Alasia or Alashiya. That name appeared in a corespondence between the Pharaoh of Egypt and the King of Alasia( Arcaeologists still argue if the name Alasia refers to the city of Engomi in eastern Cyprus or the whole island).
  17. Qcumber Senior Member

    UK English
    Κύπρος/ΚΥΠΡΟΣ (Κipros)
    I suppose you supply the modern pronunciation.
    Do you know how it was pronounced in the Antiquity?
  18. peri+kleos Member

    Cyprus/Greece, Greek
    You are right. That is the modern Greek pronunciation. As for the Ancient one ,as you may know Greeks and Greek Cypriots learn and study Ancient Greek by using the modern pronunciation so I am not an expert on the Ancient Greek pronunciation. And I think your question hasn't got any specific answer. Antiquity is a period that contains Attic Greek, Classical Greek, Koine Greek and many other dialects or forms of Greek.
  19. Qcumber Senior Member

    UK English

    :) I asked this question because the letter ύ -forget the accent - in Κύπρος "Cyprus" was reflected as /u/ in Arabic during one period - hence Arab. qubrus - then /i/ during another, hence Arab. qibris > Turk. kibris.
  20. Spectre scolaire Senior Member

    Moving around, p.t. Turkey
    Maltese and Russian
    There is no /i/ in Turk. Kıbrıs, the [i] - sic IPA! - being a consequence of the Arabic realization with ق.

    Classical Greek Κύπρος (same as Modern Greek), but the quality of the vowel υ was more like an [ü], if not, at an early stage, . Indeed, the [k] may have been written with the obsolete Greek letter κόππα (qoppa) at some point in antiquity. Anyway, in Cyprus they had an earlier Cypriot syllabary (see Wikipedia) - probably, though, when the island was called something else.
    :) :)
  21. cherine

    cherine Moderator

    Alexandria, Egypt
    Arabic (Egypt).
    So, it's copper that was nammes after Kypros, and not the other way round. That's an interesting information. Thanks! :)
    In Arabic, it's qubrus, not qibris.

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