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A Toponymist is a Domain Expert who can Analyze a Toponym.



  • (Wikipedia, 2009) ⇒
    • A toponymist is one who studies toponymy. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the word toponymy first appears in English in 1876; since then, toponym has come to replace "place-name" in professional discourse among toponymists. It can be argued that the first toponymists were the storytellers and poets who explained the origin of certain place names in order to elucidate their tales; sometimes place-names served as the basis for the etiological legends themselves. The process of folk etymology usually took over, whereby a false meaning was extracted from a name based on its structure or sounds. Thus, the toponym of Hellespont was explained by Greek poets as being named after Helle, daughter of Athamas, who drowned here as she crossed it with her brother Phrixus on a flying golden ram. The name, however, most likely is derived from an older language, such as Pelasgian, which was unknown to those who explained its origin. George R. Stewart theorized, in his book Names on the Globe, that Hellespont originally meant something like "narrow Pontus" or "entrance to Pontus," "Pontus" being an ancient name for the region around the Black Sea, and by extension, for the sea itself. [1]

      Toponymists attempt to approximate the original meaning of a place-name, their conclusions often competing with popular or spurious etymologies that may sound more poetic or attractive to tourists. Thus, the river-name "Mississippi" is popularly claimed to mean "Father of Waters" (though it may mean simply "Big River"), and the state name "Idaho" was said to mean "Gem of the Mountains" (though it is merely an invented name).