Exonym and endonym
An exonym or xenonym is an external name for a geographical place, group of people, or language/dialect: a common name used only outside the place, group or linguistic community in question, usually for historical reasons. Conversely, an endonym or autonym – from the Greek root words ἔνδον, éndon, "within" or αὐτο-, auto-, "self" and ὄνομα, ónoma, "name" – is given by members of a particular ethnolinguistic group to the group itself, its language or dialect, and/or its homeland or a specific place within it.
As pertains to geographical features, the United Nations Group of Experts on Geographical Names defines:
- Endonym: Name of a geographical feature in an official or well-established language occurring in that area where the feature is located.
- Exonym: Name used in a specific language for a geographical feature situated outside the area where that language is spoken, and differing in its form from the name used in an official or well-established language of that area where the geographical feature is located.
For example, China, Egypt, and Germany are the English exonyms corresponding to the endonyms Zhongguo, Masr, and Deutschland, respectively; and Persian, German and Arabic are exonyms corresponding to the endonyms "farsi", "deutsch" and "al-arabiyah", respectively.
Exonyms may derive from different roots (as in the case of Germany for Deutschland), they may be cognate words which have diverged in pronunciation or orthography, or they may be fully or partially translated from the native language. For example, London is known by the cognate eponymous Londres in Catalan, Filipino, French, Galician, Portuguese, and Spanish; Londino (Λονδίνο) in Greek; Londen in Dutch; Londra in Italian, Maltese, Romanian and Turkish; Londër in Albanian; Londýn in Czech and Slovak; Londyn in Polish; Lundúnir in Icelandic; Lontoo in Finnish; Lún dūn in Mandarin; Lenden in Kurdish; and Luân Đôn in Vietnamese. An example of a translated exonym is the name Soviet Union.
Exonyms can also be divided into native and borrowed (i.e. from a third language). For example, Slovene uses the native exonyms Dunaj (Vienna) and Benetke (Venice), and the borrowed exonyms Kijev (Kiev) and Vilna (Vilnius), from Russian and Polish, respectively. A substantial proportion of English exonyms for places in continental Europe are borrowed (or adapted) from French; for example: Navarre (Navarra/Nafarroa), Belgrade (Beograd), Cologne (Köln), Munich (München), Prague (Praha), Rome (Roma), Naples (Napoli), Florence (Firenze), Copenhagen (København), etc.
Tendencies in the development of exonyms
According to James A. Matisoff, who introduced the term "autonym" into linguistics, "Human nature being what it is, exonyms are liable to be pejorative rather than complimentary, especially where there is a real or fancied difference in cultural level between the ingroup and the outgroup." For examples, Matisoff notes Khang "an opprobrious term indicating mixed race or parentage" is the Palaung name for Jingpo people and the Jingpo name for Chin people; both the Jingpo and Burmese use the Chinese word yeren 野人 (lit. "wild men") "savage; rustic people" as the name for Lisu people.
Exonyms develop for places of significance for speakers of the language of the exonym. Consequently, most European capitals have English exonyms, e.g. Athens (Αθήνα/Athína), Belgrade (Београд/Beograd), Bucharest (Bucureşti), Brussels (Bruxelles, Brussel), Copenhagen (København), Lisbon (Lisboa), Moscow (Москва/Moskva), Nicosia (Λευκωσία/Lefkosía, Lefkoşa), Paris (French: [paʁi]), Prague (Praha), Pristina (Prishtina) Rome (Roma), Vienna (Wien) and Warsaw (Warszawa), while for instance historically less prominent capitals Ljubljana and Zagreb do not (but do have exonyms in languages spoken nearby e.g. German: Laibach and Agram). Madrid, Berlin, Stockholm and Amsterdam, with identical names in most major European languages, are exceptions. For places considered to be of lesser significance, attempts to reproduce local names have been made in English since the time of the Crusades. Livorno, to take an instance, was Leghorn because it was an Italian port essential to English merchants and, by the 18th century, to the British Navy; not far away, Rapallo, a minor port on the same sea, never received an exonym.
In earlier times, the name of the first tribe or village encountered became the exonym for the whole people beyond. Thus the Romans used the tribal names Graecus (Greek) and Germanus, the Russians used the village name of Chechen, medieval Europeans took the tribal name Tatar as emblematic for the whole Mongolic confederation (and then confused it with Tartarus, a word for Hell, to produce Tartar), and the Magyar invaders were equated with the 500-years-earlier Hunnish invaders in the same territory, and were called Hungarians.
The Germanic invaders of the Roman Empire applied the word "Walha" to foreigners they encountered and this evolved in West Germanic languages as a generic name for all non-Germanic speakers; thence, the names Wallachia, Vlachs, Wallonia, Walloons, Cornwall, Wales, Wallasey, Welche in Alsace, and even the Polish name for Italy, Włochy.
During the late 20th century the use of exonyms often became controversial. Groups often prefer that outsiders avoid exonyms where they have come to be used in a pejorative way: for example, Romani people often prefer that term to exonyms such as Gypsy (from Egypt), and the French term bohémien, bohème (from Bohemia). People may also avoid exonyms for reasons of historical sensitivity, as in the case of German names for Polish and Czech places which used to be ethnically or politically German (e.g. Danzig/Gdańsk and Karlsbad/Karlovy Vary), and Russian names for locations once under Russian control (e.g. Kiev/Kyiv).
In recent years, geographers have sought to reduce the use of exonyms to avoid this kind of problem. For example, it is now common for Spanish speakers to refer to the Turkish capital as Ankara rather than use the Spanish exonym Angora. According to the United Nations Statistics Division, "Time has, however, shown that initial ambitious attempts to rapidly decrease the number of exonyms were over-optimistic and not possible to realise in the intended way. The reason would appear to be that many exonyms have become common words in a language and can be seen as part of the language’s cultural heritage."
In some situations the use of exonyms can be preferred. For instance, for multilingual cities such as Brussels, which is known for its linguistic tensions between Dutch- and French-speakers, a neutral name may be preferred so as to not offend anyone. Thus an exonym such as Brussels in English could be used instead of favoring either one of the local names (Brussel in Dutch/Flemish and Bruxelles in French).
Other difficulties with endonyms have to do with pronunciation, spelling and word category. The endonym may include sounds and spellings which are highly unfamiliar to speakers of other languages, making appropriate usage difficult if not impossible for an outsider. Over the years, the endonym may have undergone phonetic changes, either in the original language or the borrowing language, thus changing an endonym into an exonym, as in the case of Paris, where the s was formerly pronounced in French. Another example is the endonym for the German city of Cologne, where the Latin original of Colonia has evolved into Köln in German, while the Italian and Spanish exonym Colonia closely reflects the Latin original. In some cases no standardized spelling is available either because the language itself is unwritten (even unanalyzed) or because there are competing non-standard spellings. Use of a misspelled endonym is perhaps more problematic than the respectful use of an existing exonym. Finally, an endonym may be a plural noun and may not naturally extend itself to adjectival usage in another language, like English, which has a propensity to use the adjectives for describing culture and language. The attempt to use the endonym thus has a bizarre-sounding result.
The name for a language and a people are often different terms, of course, which is a complication for an outsider.
As modern technology removes many of the barriers between peoples, it is increasingly becoming the case that younger people may be more familiar with an endonym than with its official exonym. For example, many Italian cities are now more famous for their football teams and Torino and Napoli are becoming more common than Turin and Naples.
Sometimes the government of a country tries to endorse the use of an endonym instead of traditional exonyms outside the country:
- In 1935 Reza Shah requested that foreign nations use the name Iran rather than Persia in official correspondence. The name of the country had internally been Iran since the time of the Sassanid Empire (224–651), whereas the name Persia is descended from Greek Persis (Περσίς), referring to a single province.
- In 1949 the government of Siam changed the name to Thailand, although the former name's adjective in English (Siamese) was retained as the name for the fish, cat and twins.
- In 1972 the government of Ceylon (the word is the anglicized form of Portuguese Ceilão) changed the name to Sri Lanka, although the name Ceylon was retained as the brand name for tea.
- In 1985 the government of Côte d'Ivoire requested that the country's French name be used in all languages instead of exonyms such as Ivory Coast, so that Côte d'Ivoire is now the official English name of that country in the United Nations and the International Olympic Committee (see Name of Côte d'Ivoire). In most non-Francophone countries, however, the French version has not entered common parlance.
- In 1989 the government of Burma requested that the English name of the country be Myanmar, with Myanma as the adjective of the country and Bamar as the name of the inhabitants (see Names of Burma).
- The Ukrainian government maintains that the capital of Ukraine should be spelled Kyiv in English because the traditional English exonym Kiev was derived from the Russian name Kiyev (Киев) (see Name of "Kiev").
- The Belarusian government argues that the endonym Belarus should be used in all languages and has been rather successful in English, where the former exonym Byelorussia, still used with reference to the Soviet Republic, has virtually died out, whereas in other languages exonyms like Danish Hviderusland, Dutch Wit-Rusland, Estonian Valgevene, Faroese Hvítarussland, Finnish Valko-Venäjä, German Weißrussland, Greek Lefkorosía (Λευκορωσία), Hungarian Fehéroroszország, Icelandic Hvíta-Rússland, Swedish Vitryssland, Turkish Beyaz Rusya, Chinese 白俄罗斯 (all literally 'White Russia'), or French Biélorussie, Italian Bielorussia, and Spanish Bielorrusia are still much more common than Belarus.
- In 2006 the South Korean national government officially changed the Chinese name of its capital, Seoul, from the exonym Hancheng (漢城/汉城) to Shou'er (首爾/首尔). This use has now been made official within the People's Republic of China.
Following the declaration in 1979 of Hanyu Pinyin spelling as the standard romanisation of Chinese, many Chinese endonyms have successfully replaced English exonyms, especially city and most province names in mainland China, e.g. Beijing (北京 Běijīng), Guangdong (广东 Guǎngdōng) (province), Qingdao (青岛 Qīngdǎo), although older English exonyms are sometimes used in certain contexts – e.g. Peking (duck, opera, etc.), Canton, etc. The official romanized name of New Taipei (新北 Xīnběi), which is the largest city of the Republic of China, includes a totally English word New added to Taipei, when the city was promoted from former Taipei County in 2010.
Exonyms as pejoratives
Matisoff wrote, "A group's autonym is often egocentric, equating the name of the people with 'mankind in general,' or the name of the language with 'human speech'." For example, various Native American autonyms are sometimes explained to English readers as having literal translations of "original people" or "normal people", with implicit contrast to other first nations as not original or not normal. Exonyms often describe others as "foreign-speaking", "non-speaking" or "nonsense-speaking". The classic example is the Slavic term for the Germans, Nemtsi, possibly deriving from a plural of nemy ("mute"): standard etymology has it that the Slavic peoples referred to their Germanic neighbors as "mutes" because their language was unintelligible. The term survives to this day in the Russian nemtsy (немцы), Bulgarian nemtsi (немци), Ukrainian nimtsi (німці), Polish Niemcy, Czech Němci, Slovak, Slovenian and Serbo-Croatian Nijemci/Nemci (Нијемци/Немци), Montenegrin Njemci (Њемци), as well as in the Hungarian Német and Romanian Nemţi (both adopted from the Slavic), and even in the Turkish Nemçe and Arabic al-Nimsa (النمسا). (The Turkish was adapted from the Slavic, and the Arabic from the Turkish, the words in both cases referring specifically to Austria).
One of the more prominent theories regarding the origin of the term "Slav" suggests that it comes from the Slavic root slovo (hence "Slovenia," "Slovakia"), meaning "word" or "speech." In this context, the Slavs are describing Germanic people as "mutes"—in contrast to themselves, "the speaking ones".
Another example of such development is the exonym "Sioux," an abbreviated form of Nadouessioux, derived most likely from a Proto-Algonquian term, *-a·towe·, "foreign-speaking."
While the Irish words for England and its people are Sasana and Sasanach ("Saxons"), the word for the English language is Béarla, which derives ultimately from a word meaning "lips". In Old Irish, this word was applied to any foreign language, but by the medieval period it had come to be used exclusively for the English language.
Confusion with renaming
Exonyms and endonyms must not be confused with the results of geographical renaming as in the case of Saint Petersburg, which became Petrograd (Петроград) in 1914, Leningrad (Ленинград) in 1924, and Saint Petersburg (Санкт-Петербург Sankt-Peterbúrg) again in 1991. In this case, although St Petersburg has a German etymology, it was never a German exonym for the city between 1914 and 1991, just as Nieuw Amsterdam, the Dutch name of New York City until 1664, is not its Dutch exonym.
Old place names that have become outdated after renaming may afterwards still be used as historicisms. For example, even today one would talk about the Siege of Leningrad, not the Siege of St. Petersburg, because at that time (1941–1944) the city was called Leningrad. Likewise, one would say that Immanuel Kant was born in Königsberg in 1724, not in Kaliningrad (Калининград), as it has been called since 1946.
Sometimes, however, historical names are deliberately not used because of nationalist tendencies to linguistically lay claim to a city's past. As a case in point, the Slovak Wikipedia article on the 1805 Peace of Pressburg does not use either of the city's names then in use (the Hungarian Pozsony, the Slovak Prešporok or the German Pressburg), but today's name Bratislava, which became the city's name only in 1919.
The name Madras, now Chennai, may be a special case. When the city was first settled by Englishmen, in the early 17th century, both names were in use. Possibly they referred to different villages which were fused into the new settlement. In any case, Madras became the exonym, while more recently, Chennai became the endonym.
Likewise, Istanbul (İstanbul in Turkish) is still called Constantinople (Κωνσταντινούπολη) in Greek, despite the name having been changed in Turkish (and other languages) between 1923 and 1930 (the name Istanbul itself derives from a Medieval Greek phrase.) Even Constantinople was not its original name, as it had been the Greek city of Byzantion (Greek: Βυζάντιον, Latin: BYZANTIVM), named after its mythical founder, Byzas. In the Ottoman Empire, another name for Istanbul was "Asitane" which in Turkic means capital city. Today, the capital city of Kazakhstan is Astana.
Lists of exonyms
- List of English exonyms
- List of French exonyms
- List of German exonyms
- List of German exonyms for places in Belgium
- List of German exonyms for places in Croatia
- List of German exonyms for places in Denmark
- List of German exonyms for places in Estonia
- List of German exonyms for places in Hungary
- List of German exonyms for places in Italy
- List of German exonyms for places in Latvia
- List of German exonyms for places in Poland
- List of German exonyms for places in Slovakia
- List of German exonyms for places in Switzerland
- List of European exonyms
- Arabic exonyms
- List of Armenian exonyms
- Chinese exonyms
- French exonyms
- German exonyms
- German names for Central European towns
- Icelandic exonyms
- Latin exonyms
- Romanian exonyms
- Russian exonyms
- Slavic toponyms for Greek places
- Vietnamese exonyms
- Welsh names for other places in Britain and Ireland
- List of adjectival forms of place names
- List of indigenous language names
- List of countries and capitals in native languages
- List of alternative country names
- List of country names in various languages
- List of Latin place names in Europe
- List of European regions with alternative names
- List of European rivers with alternative names
- List of traditional Greek place names
- Place names in Irish
- Names of places in Finland in Finnish and in Swedish
- Jordan, Peter / Bergmann, Hubert / Burgess, Caroline / Cheetham, Catherine (eds.): Trends in Exonym Use. Proceedings of the 10th UNGEGN Working Group on Exonyms Meeting, Tainach, 28–30 April 2010. Hamburg 2011 (= Name & Place 1).
- Jordan, Peter / Orožen Adamič, Milan / Woodman, Paul (eds.): Exonyms and the International Standardisation of Geographical Names. Approaches towards the Resolution of an Apparent Contradiction. Wien, Berlin 2007 ( = Wiener Osteuropastudien 24).
- Marcel Aurousseau, 1957, The Rendering of Geographical Names, London, Hutchinson, pp. 2–3, and; Kelsey B. Harder, 1996, "The term", in: Ernst Eichler & Walter de Gruyter (eds), Namenforschung/Name Studies/Les noms propres. 2. Halbband+Registerband, Berlin, Walter de Gruyter, p. 1012.
- "The names of monarchs, popes, and non-contemporary authors as well as place-names are commonly translated. Foreign names for geographic proper names are called exonyms. Fourment-Berni Canani (1994) discusses the (im)possibility of translating proper names. He gives the examples of the place-names Venice and London. The Italian city Venezia has been renamed Venice in English and Venise in French. A city in the American state California is also called Venice, but this name is not changed into Venezia in Italian and Venise in French. Similarly, the English city London has been renamed Londres in French and Londra in Italian. However, the Canadian city called London is not translated into French and Italian in this way. Thus, as Fourment-Berni Canani concludes, a place-name can be translated if the place, as a unique referent, has already been renamed in the target language." Loulou Edelman (2009). What's in a name? Classification of proper names by language. In E. Shohamy & D. Gorter (Eds.), Linguistic landscape: expanding the scenery (pp. 141–153). London: Routledge. Goh, CL (2009).
- Working group on Exonyms, United Nations Group of Experts on Geographical Names (UNGEGN).
- UN document discussing exonyms (PDF)
- Matisoff, James A. (1986). "The languages and dialects of Tibeto-Burman: an alphabetic/genetic listing, with some prefatory remarks on ethnonymic and glossonymic complications." In John McCoy and Timothy Light, eds., Contributions to Sino-Tibetan Studies, presented to Nicholas C. Bodman, p 6. E.J. Brill.
- Matisoff (1986), p. 5.
- "The Names of Istanbul". Dünden bugüne İstanbul ansiklopedisi. 5. Ciltli. 1994.
|Look up exonym or endonym in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.|
- 2006 UN document discussing exonyms (PDF)
- Jacek Wesołowski's Place Names in Europe, featuring endonyms and exonyms for many cities
- "Does Juliet's Rose, by Any Other Name, Smell as Sweet?" by Verónica Albin.
- Looking up in exonym database
- European geographical names infrastructure and services (EuroGeoNames)
- UN document describing EuroGeoNames (PDF)
- World map of country endonyms