Prague - Etymology and Other Names

Etymology and Other Names

See also: Names in different languages

The name Prague is derived from an old Slavic root, praga, which means "ford", referring to the city's origin at a crossing point of the Vltava river.

The native name of the city, Praha, however, is also related to the modern Czech word práh (threshold) and a legendary etymology connects the name of the city with princess Libuše, prophetess and a wife of mythical founder of the Přemyslid dynasty. She is said to have ordered the city "to be built where a man hews a threshold of his house". The Czech práh might thus be understood to refer to rapids or a cataract in the river, the edge of which could have acted as a means of fording the river – thus providing a "threshold" to the castle. However, no geological ridge in the river has ever been located directly beneath the castle. The same etymology is associated with the Praga district of Warsaw.

Another derivation of the name Praha is suggested from na prazě, the original term for the shale hillside rock upon which the original castle was built. At that time, the castle was surrounded by forests, covering the nine hills of the future city – the Old Town on the opposite side of the river, as well as the Lesser Town beneath the existing castle, appeared only later.

Nicknames for Prague have included: Praga mater urbium/Praha matka měst ("Prague – Mother of Cities") in Latin/Czech, Stověžatá Praha ("City of a Hundred Spires") based on count by 19 century mathematician Bernard Bolzano. Today's count is estimated at 500.

Other nicknames: Zlaté město/Goldene Stadt ("Golden City") in Czech/German.

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