Place names carry all kinds of information. The Netherlands has a number of city names ending with -dam: Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Vollendam, Zaandam, Veendam, and so on. This name ending reflects the damming of water from such rivers as the Amstel and the Rotte and tells us about the local geography. In the Netherlands, and also in Germany, many place names end with -ingen: Groningen, Vlaardingen, Vlissingen, Wageningen. Originally, -ingen referred to residents of a place. Place names also may relate to local products, as with the Dutch cheese towns of Gouda, Edam, and Maasdam. The former maritime reach of the Netherlands has left place names far from the windmills and dikes. In what was Nieuw-Amsterdam, now New York, you can find Harlem (Haarlem), the Bronx (after Dutch settler Jonas Bronck), Coney Island (Konijneneiland ‘rabbit island’), Wall Street (Walstraat) and Staten Island (Staaten Eylandt ‘state’s land’).
An explanation for this week’s word? I’m writing from the university city of Groningen.