Adam at hmmlorientalia reminds me that I’ve always loved the exotic-sounding Manzikert, now more usually known as Malazgirt (though Adam uses the Armenian form Manazkert), famous for the Battle of Manzikert of 1071, which while not directly responsible for the destruction of Byzantine authority in Anatolia and the subsequent Turkification certainly opened the door for it. Wikipedia says:

The suffix –girt, found in many toponyms in Eastern Anatolia, comes from the Armenian –kert which means, “built by”. A popular Armenian folk tradition, tied to the writings of Armenia’s early medieval historian Movses Khorenatsi, holds that Manzikert was founded by Manaz, one of the sons of Hayk, the legendary and eponymous patriarch and progenitor of the Armenians. The name of the town was originally Manavazkert (Armenian: Մանավազկերտ) but over time its name was shortened to simply Manzikert.

You can see various forms of the name here.


  1. and thus “Stepanakert”, nice.

  2. Trond Engen says

    What’s the etymology of the suffix? Is it (technically) a suffix?

  3. Yeah, Trond. I have the same question.

  4. Good question. I don’t have time to look into it now, but here‘s Hübschmann’s “Iranisch-armenische Namen auf karta, kert, gird” (1876) if anyone wants to start investigating.

  5. Heinrich Hübschmann (1897). Armenische Grammatik. 1. Theil: Armenische Etymologie. Leipzig: Breitkopf & Härtel, p. 168 [I. Theil, Die persischen Lehnwörter im Armenischen, 2. Abschnitt: Persische Wörter]

    314. կերտ kert als 2. Glied von Comp. bedeutet ursprünglich ‘gemacht’ = np. -gird, phl. kert, ap. krta-, zd. kərəta-, skr. krta- ‘gemacht’, […]

  6. A compound-forming element borrowed from Iranian: X-(a-)kert ‘made, built [out of X or by X]’ ← Iranian *kr̥ta- (cf. Old Persian karta-, etc.); etymologically a verbal adjective (*kʷr̥-tó-) derived from PIE *kʷer- ‘cut, form’ (> Indo-Iranian ‘do, make, perform, construct’). It is not restricted to place-names in Armenian, cf. astuacakert ‘made by God’, kawakert ‘made of clay’, etc.

  7. Beautiful! Thanks to you both.

  8. David Marjanović says

    Tigranocerta (Greek: Τιγρανόκερτα Tigranόkerta); Tigranakert (Armenian: Տիգրանակերտ) was the capital of the Armenian Kingdom. It bore the name of Tigranes the Great, who founded the city in the first century BC. The name of the city means “made by Tigran”, and was possibly located near […]”

  9. There’s a nice Encyclopaedia Iranica article about Iranian influences in Armenian (-kert is also discussed there):

    When I first realised where -(a)kert came from, I was quite surprised. When you see a pattern like this, the first guess that forms in the mind is that the compound must be endocentric and the second member means something like ‘city’. Inevitably, you think of Germanic -gard and the related IE forms, and/or Aramaic qarta and its Semitic relatives… Well, it just goes to show how easy it is to be led astray by tantalising similarity.

  10. To return to Malazgirt/Manzikert/Manavaz(a)kert — its non-legendary founder was Monobazus, the ruler of Adiabene, a client kingdom of the Parthian empire. In Old Iranian terms, his name was presumably something like *Manu(š)-vazdah.

  11. Armenian and Persian share a language family, that’s why they often share similarities. I disagree with the notion that all these similarities are simply borrowings from Persian which is too often repeated. All the examples of place names ending with -kert or Romanaized -kerta are Armenian names. I have yet to see the usage of -kert suffix in Persian. In Armenian there are words such as “kert’el” meaning to scratch to cut and kertevadz meaning something is scratchend or cut. It seen to me more probable that the Persian-Armenian similarities are a product of comon origin rather than borrowing. Of course the encyclopedia Iranica will not tell us that.

    As for Manavaz mentioned by Khorenatsi it is most probably a reference to the Urartian era king Menua(s). Khorenatsi knew of Urartian Kings from Armenian folk tales long before that kingdom was rediscovered by modern academia. He mentions Arame as the first king, Menua, Rusa and many others.

  12. Armenian and Persian share a language family, that’s why they often share similarities. I disagree with the notion that all these similarities are simply borrowings from Persian which is too often repeated.

    Of course it’s true that Armenian and Persian are both Indo-European languages, and this explains some apparent similarities, but not very many because they have both changed so much (e.g. Arm. erku = Pers. do ‘two’). It is actually more likely that apparent similarities are borrowings, since they will have changed less. In this case, if Piotr Gąsiorowski, a historical linguist specializing in Indo-European, says it’s a borrowing, I believe him.

  13. Old Persian karta = modern Swedish göra?

  14. No, göra is from Proto-Germanic *garwijaną ‘to prepare’ from *garwaz ‘ready, prepared,’ “Probably from *ga– +‎ *arwaz (‘ready, fast’).”

  15. “Piotr said it, we believe it, that settles it!”

  16. David Marjanović says

    That’s quite unfair. The discovery that Armenian is not an Iranian language, but a separate branch of Indo-European with several thick layers of Iranian loanwords that accumulated over the millennia, dates to 1874 and has only been corroborated since then.

    The closest relative of Iranian isn’t Armenian either, because Nuristani and Indic already occupy that position. There is evidence that Armenian is closest to Phrygian and Greek, though that requires further research (and here, too, the similarities to Greek that are obvious today are mostly Greek loanwords that entered Armenian together with, in this case, Christianity).

  17. That’s quite unfair.

    What is?

  18. David Marjanović says

    The implication that we believe it just because our favorite authority said it.

  19. I didn’t say “just”, and deliberately so. I was not satirising the appeal to authority, but in this case supporting it. Nothing wrong with appealing to authorities who are actually authoritative.

  20. John Woldemar Cowan says

    I suppose I should explain that I was, in fact, parodying the fundamentalist slogan “God said it, we believe it, that settles it!”, referring to the Bible, and typically to the King James Version, though the slogan is not confined to KJV-Onlyists. Of course, Piotr is not actually God, though the inference is there….

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