Ever been lost in a strange town and tried to find your way through a maze of meaningless names? Or noticed an odd combination of letters on a sign and wondered what it meant? Or just thought: why on earth did they call it that?
It started with Kopli. Kopli is at the end of tramlines 1 & 2. Not the most exalted of neighborhoods, but that doesn’t matter - the question was: what does it mean? Although a place doesn’t always have a name, a place name always has a meaning, it always says something about its past.
Street names are the skin and bones of towns’ development, they tell of trades and trivia, of indolence and industry. Parts get old, collapse and die, lie forgotten in the mud till someone takes the rubble to start again. How many times has a city seen a bridge or market called New? “Where’s New Street?” you ask. Answer: “It’s in the old town”.
Invaders come. Language changes. City walls climb up and out, proud, self-confident and sure. Till stronger rams hit home. Scribes put names to parchment to allocate taxes or stand as collateral. They spell like pigs but do what they can, writing barely exists. The city goes through its early years in rough and ready fashion. Names are blunt and to the point: bread, gallows, leeches, this or that church, where the cattle are led out to pasture, the iron gate… With understanding of ownership comes proprietary titles, and burgomeisters rule. Until, one day, the town needs a more rational or authoritative way of seeing itself, and street-naming becomes official. Which language? In Tallinn it was Russian and/or German with or without Estonian (all permutations possible), translated, transliterated, transformed, then all torn down in a fit of independence to be crossed out again with pushing and shoving from east and west as Stalin and Hitler stab their vicious knives into the fleshy shield then slam the prison door and vulgar propaganda force-feeds the masses with the new heroes of glorious death. Years of dull grey dismantling of the city’s soul. Plaques cobbled up to honor dubious deeds. Victims of the Soviet lie paid, cheaply, in memoriam. Later, away from the center, in quiet suburbs seeded with new life, old farms plowed under house and garden bring hope and happier names: flowers, trees, fish, birds and butterflies, innocent creatures all. In the late 80s, timidly, Soviet names were discreetly switched for Estonian, culminating in independence, legitimate repossession and names that truly belong to the city.
Estonian is weird. Beautiful, but weird. I once had a friend who lived in Finland for two years without learning the language. “How pathetic” I thought. I lived in Estonia for three years and don’t speak a word, and I’m a professional translator/interpreter… So, what is it about this bizarre boreal babble? To start, everyone here speaks at least one other language. If not two, or more: Russian, German, Finnish, Lithuanian, Latvian, Swedish and, obviously, English. They have to: it’s a small country squidged in between three major cultures: Russia, Finland and the web.
So you go to school, take lessons, learn a few phrases and know how to ask where the post office is. Then you try it out. And no matter what you say, it’s wrong, the ending’s this not that, and the word order is either the other way round or the round the other way... And when they reply, it’s worse. You can’t understand what they’re saying so, after suffering enough humiliation for one day, you give up, and they reply in perfect English.
Estonian is said to be a “transitional form from an agglutinating to an inflected language”, an opinion most of us would find hard to argue with, but not very helpful either. Without going into too much detail and embarrassing myself, what it essentially boils down to is that it piles dozens of different endings onto the root of the word, and, in case that’s too easy, changes the root spelling. In English, for example, a river’s a river. OK, you tack on an “s” if there’s lots of them but that’s about it, although one or two verbs are, admittedly, a bit iffy, with speak, spake, spook and spoken, but Estonian? It’s on viagra… Take a look at this:
|Genitive||jõe||of the/a river|
|Partitive||jõge||e.g. pumping the/a river|
|Illative||jõesse||into the/a river|
|Inessive||jões||in the/a river|
|Elative||jõest||from, out of the/a river|
|Allative||jõele||to the/a river|
|Adessive||jõel||upon, on the/a river|
|Ablative||jõelt||from, off the/a river|
|Translative||jõeks||for, as the/a river|
|Essive||jõena||as the/a river|
|Terminative||jõeni||up to, until the/a river|
|Abessive||jõeta||without the/a river|
|Comitative||jõega||with the/a river|
... which raises various points: this is the singular so multiply by two; no difference between “the” and “a”; adjectives only follow suit until the translative, after which they throw up their hands in despair and go genitive; various forms will get shortened (e.g. illative jõesse to jõkke, a real ink saver that one); the inessive plural probably has two forms and no-one even mentions the instructive; then there’s the exceptions, the conditionals, and the ones that no-one’s quite sure about. Rumor has it that Estonia has a 24/7 helpline for natives suffering from declining skills (English has nut-cases, Estonian has case-nuts). Anyone remember German or Latin with its pathetic little band of conjugations and declensions (der, die, das; amo, amas, amat)? Estonian has 600 of ’em (although modern grammars give some 60 or so, they fail to point out the 30,000 exceptions...), and dialects all over the place, and they still haven’t finalized a standard spelling reform. Do you really want to know 86 ways of writing “aquarium”?
Add to this the fact there’s no recognizable word for “he” or “she”, no distinct future tense, and between 8 and 16 dialects according to definition. Basically, you can spell a word however you like and you won’t get it wrong (unless you’re foreign and no matter how you spell a word you won’t get it right…)
Although it sounds and is complicated, it is so only at the beginning. Afterwards, it gets worse. But it’s the beginning of a language that’s the killer. If you can’t even get off the ground, you ain’t flying nowhere. For a speaker of English (or any Indo-European language), Estonian has no stickies. Remembering the German Milch for milk (piim) or French crème for cream (koor), is easier than Estonian jäätmekäitlus for recycling, admittedly an unfair comparison, but still revealing the strangeness of Estonian words. Even the simple ones are complicated: Ao, Hao, Oa and Joa, for example, because if genitive Ao and Hao come from nominative Agu and Hagu, why does Oa come from Uba and Joa come from Juga?
Another striking feature of Estonian, also reflected in its street names, is its primitive earthiness, its seeming simplicity and huge number of short words signaling language at its very beginnings (like English ox, dog, man, house, farm, pig, water, sky and tree, words embedded deepest in our history). Estonian, shackled to the culture of a servant population for well over five centuries, only developed the refined words of nice society within the past 150 years, and many of its expressions reflect its humble origins.
To be next to someone is kõrval or juures, literally “on the ear” or “in the root” (although its southern neighbor Livonian has it better: rindal, on the breast ;o). When you understand something, you say Käes!, “in the hand!” (but not too far from English “to grasp something” or “got it!” either), if you’re hungry, it’s the rather bald kõht on tühi, or “stomach’s empty”. To tell someone to get lost, you’d say Mine metsa!, “go into the wood!”, unless your bile is really up when you might try Sõida seenele, kahe pere koer!, “Travel to the mushroom, oh dog of two families!”, a very euphemistic way of saying “Go to hell, you hypocrite!” (although this one might be slightly dated...).
Take a look too at the partitive, sitting smugly there in third place. Want a pratfall? Try this: ask “D’ya want fries with that?” In English, we get the basic idea: fries, one faceful. Ask an Estonian and he goes into a spasm of psychic lipidemia. It means all the fries in the universe, now, yesterday and forever. That’s a lot. You must use the partitive, some fries, a few fries, just a tiny soupçon of the cosmic Über-carb. And it’s singular. You want lots of fries? It’s still got to be singular. Like in English. When you say, which I’m sure you do, “How many head of cattle?”, “Head”, singular, is a partitive indicator of number, like “two dozen” (look Mom, no plural!). I hope that’s clear.
Unlike in England, if you’ll excuse the parochialism, where a street is a point-to-point linear affair off which houses may be located, the Estonian concept of street seems based on the holistic principle of a spatial unit of cadastral plots served by a thoroughfare. This could explain why so many roads look like they were designed to punish evil Buddhist postmen: ones ending in three-pronged forks, looking like bent bicycle wheels or some of the trickier Chinese characters, divorced by four lanes of highway, separate but perpendicular to one another, or ones that just stop to let a monstrous building block your passage then carry right on into numbers fringing the absurd. In England, you live in a house/flat abutting onto the street. In Estonia, you live in or on the spatial unit. It is probably why people tend to refer to the name alone, and not mention the type.
A typical street name will be of the “street of X” type, so the name will be in the genitive. Next to this, in brackets, the nominative form is given. Sometimes a genitive will correspond to two or more different words. If the reason for the name is not clear, the other versions are included too. And if the name is already in the nominative, as it is for adjectives or districts, this is indicated by a “0”.
Proper names, with a few exceptions (often as transcribed from earlier times), are listed as Lastname A. B., which seems more logical for alphabetical ordering.
Names that are struck through no longer exist and are listed purely for historical interest. Names followed by an ⇑ symbol in brackets are not streets, but monuments, included for being important Tallinn landmarks. Other illegitimate entries include the odd street outside Tallinn, as well as the occasional park, cemetery or mall. These are usually indicated in the corresponding entry.
Generally, a dash in the name indicates one of the words, usually the preceding one, to be a modifier. In this case, only the final word is declined, and the modifier is explained between square brackets. Likewise, if a street comes in Suur-, Kesk- or Väike- (big, middle, small) flavors, the modifier will not appear unless the street itself is of actual interest.
Since starting the dictionary, Estonia adopted the euro at the rate of €1 = 15.64 EEK/krooni/crowns, so several references to portraits on banknotes are out of date, but remain for reasons of historical interest.
The dictionary is in two parts, a brief list of Street-Name Types (street, road, avenue...) followed by the Street Names on their own, since once you’ve gathered that Kiriku tänav means “church street” it will add little to the depths of your knowledge to discover that Kiriku tee means “church road”.
Unlike German and Spanish, the umlaut (¨) and tilde (˜) symbols are not strictly speaking accents. An accent is added to a letter to indicate variations in pronunciation, and the corresponding letters remain in their “standard” alphabetical order. Northern European languages have decided otherwise. For reasons best left alone, Estonian thought the best place for Z was somewhere before T and, following suit in the perfect blond of Nordic alphabets, flung its irritating oohs and aahs over the shoulder like so many caltrops to inflict maximum damage on infants and cavilers alike. So beware: Õ, Ä, Ö & Ü come at the end, and this takes some getting used to.
The Estonian alphabet offers other surprises too: although N is by far the commonest consonant, occurring at a rate of some 16%, only 3% of words begin with it, while K which seems so prevalent due to its beginning so many words (about 15%), is actually less common at 12%. So now you know. Likewise, E is by far the commonest vowel in English and French, but comes in 3rd place at 19% after I with 23% and A with 29%. Translating George Perec’s La Disparition would be a breeze...
Many of my probably “kling-klang” etymologies may well make serious linguists scream. That’s fine. But please, scream directly into my virtual ear (email@example.com) so I can correct them – thanks! I know could be totally wrong. I could also have asked but, hey, why bother when you can come to wild conclusions all on your own?
Nevertheless, given the immensity of the subject and corresponding lack of expertise, the compiler feels a natural empathy with the unfortunate victim of the following critique in The Monthly Review, Vol XLIII, published in London, 1780:
This book is dedicated to Krista, and our daughters Alexandra and Elizabeth, with thanks for the encouragement, and apologies for the hours stolen from your youth. With all my love.
A huge number of people have generously and/or unwittingly helped on topics or trivia without realizing the importance of their contributions. Thanks to all!
Particular thanks however go to those who went the extra mile to tranquilize a rabid infophile:
Alexandra Kartachova and Yuliya Roussel in Paris for help with Russian,
Andres Valdre for help on the German-occupation period,
Anonymous, the very kind Shoemaker in WW Passaaž, for helping me discover, at last, the name behind the abbreviation,
Ardo-Jako Olev, Vilma Lang and Elle Topaasia, language teachers, for trying to extract at least one vaguely-recognizable Estonian sentence out of me,
Bert van Kalker for discussions of strange street names in Dutch seaports, totally irrelevant to the present, but hey,
Eva Kolli, for her encouragement,
Henn Voolaid (and indirectly Martin Marek Mileiko) for permission to append his article “Could Kalevipoeg Have Been Human?”,
Jüri Estam for his very flattering encouragements,
Kirsti and Aivar Haller for their immense generosity and patience with a blundering foreigner,
Maris and David Schryer for their regularly failing to fall asleep during my onomastic rants,
Marja Kallasmaa for taking the time to answer questions on -vere (see Aedvere),
Meelis Roos, for help on Kirilane,
Raivo Alla, for solving issues related to the Xgis database,
To all at Apollo, Raamatukoi and Rahva Raamat bookshops for finding, reserving and recommending books,
Tõnu Viik, for help in the Patkul question,
Special mention goes to Joachim Raue for getting me off my fundament to actually finish the book. Thanks for your generosity and enthusiasm! And thanks for recommending Tallinn ajaloolistel linnaplaanidel 1634-1989, my main source for historical maps.
Special thanks go to Remo Savisaar for his generous permission to use the photographs illustrating various entries in the online and ebook versions. He is one of the most outstanding wildlife photographers I know. For more information, visit Remo Savisaar’s photoblog. His book, Loodus kutsub (Nature calls, Publ. Varrak. ISBN 978-9985-31-783-9) is available from his website (above) or in any Tallinn bookstore.
My greatest thanks go to Professor Ilmar Anvelt, lecturer in applied written translation at the University of Tartu, for his entire re-reading and correction of the manuscript, saving me face, embarrassment, possible litigation and an enormous amount of time. Ilmar went way beyond the call of duty, humoring my obsessive nit-picking with patience and, I hope, a certain degree of entertainment! Any remaining errors, however, are due to Sargon the Great, who, had he not attacked Uruk, would almost certainly have brought about a world in which this book would never have been written.
Lastly, although I make the odd joke about the Tallinn Street Names Commission (Tallinna Linnavalitsuse nimekomisjon), they have done an excellent job, reconciling the need for clarity, the municipal desire to choose appropriate and/or historical names, and satisfying local interest. Their databases are a model of how the job should be done.
Particular kudos goes to Peeter Päll, remarkable (and very patient) linguist behind the Estonian Language Institute’s Place Names Database (Eesti Keele Instituudi kohanimeandmebaas, KNAB) without whose detailed and precise labors literally nothing I have done would have been possible. Thanks, too, for answering my interminable questions.
And last (definitely this time), but certainly not least, an immense sense of gratitude towards, firstly, Paul Saagpakk for his first-class dictionary. Various native speakers criticize what they feel to be blunders while failing to realize that these were the meanings when or before the dictionary was compiled. That some of them no longer match today’s usage reflects its job of being descriptive, not prescriptive. A paper dictionary is necessarily historical. As a suggestion, I would say, instead of criticizing it, improve it. Hey, it’ll only take a lifetime.
And, secondly, Aleksander Kivi and Rein Zobel, without whose work this period of the history of Tallinn, “remote outpost” of western civilization, would have been greyed under in post-Sovietico neo-apologistic indifference.
May they forgive me.
|Allee||Avenue, alley, parkway, lane, walk, path|
|Jalg||Foot (of hill or mountain)|
|Kael||Passageway (Lit. Neck)|
|Käik||Passage, alley, gang|
|Maantee||Road, highroad, highway|
|Passaaž||Mall, arcade, gallery|
|Puiestik||Grove, park, small wood|
|Põik||Short for põiktänav, minor crossroad|
|Tee||Road, lane, track|
|Trepp||Steps or staircase|
|Street, term originally used for a village lane|
|Cul-de-sac, dead end, blind alley, impasse|
|Väljak||Place, square, also court (tennis), course (golf)|
|With genitives if relevant in brackets|
|Ees-||In front, fore-|
|Suur (suure)||Great, large|
|Väike (väikse, väikese)||Small|
|KNAB:||EKI Place Names Database|
|LCD:||Liber Census Daniae|
|MLG:||Middle Low German|
Click on any headword to return to the alphabetical register.
1. liin (0): 1st line. As a reminder, if the street name is already in the nominative (rare), its usual place in brackets is left as “0”. As another reminder, this time as to the Estonian concept of street, what they call a “street” here is actually two thoroughfares parallel to each other.
1. Tehase (1. Tehas): Tehas is a works or factory, but since all five of them – 1. Tehase … 5. Tehase – were scuppered by the building of Admiraliteedi bassein, Admiralty dock, the word may well imply a laevatehas, or shipyard. The present entry also presages the protean orthography of Tallinn toponymy: whereas the above, 1. liin, must be writ in lower-case, this one was capitalized.
NB: for those who don’t read introductions, forget fast or need constant reminders: headwords of street names no longer in existence, mainly former Soviet namings, are struck through.
21. Juuli (0): One month and five days after the Red Army paid its respects to Estonia on 16th June 1940, the state was offered preferred Soviet neighbor status, and elected, navy-style (lots of rigging), to open shop as the Estonian Soviet Socialist Republic. Name given to Mustakivi from 1980-1989.
3. liin (0): 3rd line. Formerly known as Suur-Laevaehituse, laevaehitus meaning shipbuilding.
4. liin (0): 4th line. Formerly known as Väike-Laevaehituse.
5. liin (0): 5th line.
Aarde (Aare): Treasure.
Aasa (Aas): Meadow.
Aaviku (Aavik): Found on some maps of Tallinn, where it doesn’t exist, but does in nearby Rae. Named after a farm and not, regrettably, after the best known of the Aavik family: Johannes (1880-1973), inventor of numerous language reforms and neologisms (oddly, the ones most people recall, dare we raise the cranial lid on the Estonian subconscious, are relv, weapon, from revolver, and mõrv, murder, from German Mord), as well as translator (although some would say “re-writer”) of Maupassant, Edgar Allen Poe, Turgenev, Mika Waltari, and a dab of Sophocles, Apuleius, etc., An all-round linguist with, in addition to the languages implied above, German, Livonian, Mordvin, Swedish, and varying degrees of familiarity with Arabic, and other Slavic and Fennic languages… Either way, given Estonia’s istory of “H”-denial (see Wiedemann’s orthographically nightmarish dictionary Ehstnisch-deutsches Wörterbuch), the name probably derives from Haavik anyway.
Abaja (Abajas): Cove, creek, inlet, bight, pool or quagmire.
Abara (Abar): Three-part net for catching fish, either the longer version with three funnel-shaped nets preventing return, or the trammel net, consisting of both fine and wide mesh, where the fish pushes the former through the latter, trapping itself in the resulting pouch. At various stages of Tallinn’s past, developing neighborhoods were given names revolving around a common theme. This one was a fishing-related street-name zone on the Kakumäe peninsula, site of former fish processing and refrigeration plants. See also Ahingu.
Adamsoni A. (Amandus Heinrich Adamson, 1855-1929): Sculptor, studied under Carpeaux in Paris (1887-1891), and in Italy, creator of the Russalka monument, using his 17-year-old girlfriend as model. Sculptor of the beautiful Laeva viimne ohe (Ship’s last sigh), and others. Street previously known as Kiriku (Church, 1774), Hospidali (Hospital, 1786), Seegi (Almshouse, 1787-1806), for a while Tiigi (pond), Vaeste (the poor, 1881), then, after local complaints at the shame of the name, switched to Falkspargi tänav (Falk park road, 1882) which is far too long to remember for postcards so on it moved to Pargi tee (Park road, 1950) and, until further notice, Adamsoni from 1959, although what his personal association with the street is remains obscure.
Building in Adamsoni, Tallinn, photo by Simon Hamilton
Aedlinn (0): Garden town, city or suburb.
Aedvere (Aedvere): Aed, as anyone who actually stayed awake during the introduction will remember, means garden (but see Aia below), but the -vere suffix occurring in at some 700 place-names (as well as hidden/embedded in others) deserves an entry of its own (but won’t get it). Estonian linguists have been discussing its meaning for about a hundred years and are still not certain. Various suggestions have been made for its derivation: Gothic: fera and Old High German: fiara (region, area); Finnish: verho (covering), vero (verosta in place of), vuori, vaara (hill); Estonian: vare (ruin), veri (blood), pere (family, household, farm), -kõrve (forest), veer: veere (brink, border, edge, slope), *vēri (deciduous forest; note for non-linguists, the asterisk indicates a hypothetical form), *veere: *veerde (?),*veri: *veren (wood, woody hill). Not easy. An interesting angle comes from the taxation list compiled for Danish King Valdemar II in 1220-1241, Liber Census Daniae (LCD): the settlement name Serueueræ, for example, looks very much like a Latinized name. Given the LCD was written in Latin and “probably based on the notes of Danish priests” (www.estonica.org), we have two weak links (Danish clerks hearing Estonian names and their re-transcription into possibly faulty dog Latin). Perhaps the -ueræ suffix is the result of fortuitous convergence between conceiving a Latin suffix -ver < vergo, -ěre, meaning to be turned towards, to incline or lean, and veere meaning about the same, where the two weak links may have prevented hearing a less obvious “Estonian” genitive. Either way, Estonian linguist Valdek Pall concludes that “the spreading of the -vere-names was connected with slash-and-burn agriculture”, Paul Alvre proposes a relation to vierre (burnt-over clearing for cultivation), and Marja Kallasmaa also puts forward the hypothesis that both veer: veere and *veere: *veerde were slash-and-burn terms. In Saami, similarly, roavvi means a “place in which a forest fire has occurred”. Interestingly, however, in Mordvin place names, N. V. Kazaeva differentiates veŕe (upper) from alo (lower). To conclude, with no certainty, my personal suggestion is that, since swiddeners were unlikely to build homes on top of the swidden, but nearby, -vere may possibly have meant “by or beside a swidden”. Ten years down the road, it will be interesting to see how embarrassingly wrong I may be… Given its belonging to a land-clearing street-name group, see also Alemaa, I suspect they’re trying to give it this more “ancient” meaning*.
* According to Hamilton’s 3rd Law of Odonymy†, the more recent the naming (here 2001), the more “olde worlde” the name.
† An odonym (from Greek ὁδός, road, path, way + ὄνομα, name) is a name given a street. Odonymy is thus a branch of onomastics (the study of names and their origins).
Aedvilja (Aedvili): Fruit and vegetables, after a large market garden nearby in 19th-C or before.
Aegna (Aegna): Island off the coast of Tallinn. Known as Wulf or Wulfö to the Germans, Аэгна or Вульфъ to the Russians transliterating into Aegna or Vulf, and Ulffö (unusual with two f’s) to the Swedes. Known as wolf island as far back as 13th-C: Wolvesöö (1348), Wolffz Öön (1698), Wulli saar (1724), etc., mutating to Eikisari (1683), Äigna (17th-C) Agnasaar (1724) and thence to its present name.
Ahju (Ahi): Stove or oven. For those interested in trivia: one of the two >3-letter street names whose letters are in alphabetical order (see Hiiu). Started life simply enough in German as Töpfergasse (1882), potter’s street, apparently after a local craftsman called Floss, then Estonia stepped in with only four of its six possible spelling permutations – Pottisseppa, Pottiseppa, Pottisepa and Potissepa (all 1885) missing out the not only the most sensible, Potisepa, but also the most accurate, Pottsepa, and why sepp words (smith) do not involve a genitive in the first place I don't know (see Kullassepa, Rätsepa & Sepa) – then the Russians either translating it correctly as Гончарный пер. (1892) or incorrectly as Печная ул., Oven street (1884). Either way, given the humungous alternative of An der alten Wasserleitung (1881), from the water channel prolonging that of Veerenni, a four-letter word was probably in order, and Ahju it became – Yahoo! Or should it, agrammatically, be Jahu?…
Ahtri (Ahter): 1) Stern, poop; 2) By extension (no pun intended): buttocks, (often) ladies’, (usually) generous. Known until 1958 as Simeoni, Siimeoni, Siimoni or Simuna after its Saints Simon and Anna orthodox church (built 1752-1871).
Aia (Aed): Garden, fence, enclosure, run. However, as in English where garden originally meant that which enclosed it, as in, for example, Latin: hortus gardinus, “enclosed garden”, derived from Proto Indo-European (PIE) *gher- “to grasp, to enclose” (cf. Old English geard “enclosure, garden, house”, etc.) ultimately giving rise to Old Church Slavonic gradu, “town, city” and Russian город (gorod), -град (-grad), and related to PIE *gherdh- “staff, pole”. The same seems to apply in Estonian where the aed originally meant an enclosure made of pickets. Renamed (1958-1987) as Ujula during the Soviet Era. Only Tallinn street name a palindrome in the genitive, but not the nominative. First known as Valli or Wallstrasse.
Aiandi (Aiand): Market garden.
Aiatee (Aiatee): Garden path. Sort of: this one used to be Aia tee, garden road/path, but it wasn’t enough, so they added a “street” (Aiatee tänav) to produce “garden road/path street”. One wonders where the future will lead us… Actually, there was already an Aia.
Aida (Ait): Outbuilding, storehouse, granary, after the granaries dating back to the 17th-C at least. Prior to this, called simply põiktänav kloostri müüri ääres (± “side road running along the cloister walls”) and Väike-Kloostri.
Aisa (Ais): Shaft (of draught vehicle), thill. Road now buried beneath a car park servicing the Rocca al Mare ice rink and tennis courts, with a remaining 27 m or so of dirt track facilitating travel to a nearby spruce.
Akadeemia (Akadeemia): Academy.
Alajaama (Alajaam): Electrical substation, named after the nearby Eesti Energia facilities.
A. Le Coq (Albert Le Coq, dates unknown): A. Le Coq Arena or Lilleküla Stadium, named after Estonia’s oldest brewery, today known as A. Le Coq, after a certain Belgian, Albert Le Coq, reputed to have set up shop in London, 1807. Entry given on an “as is” basis, compiler accepts no responsibility for totally misleading information, bunkum or alcoholic dependency.
Alemaa (Alemaa): Ale is one of Estonia’s various terms for slash and burn (in Lääne [Western] dialect they say uht, in Mulgi [Viljandi dialect] saat, and in the Tartu & Võru dialects, sõõrd (but see Sõõru), so this means assart, grubbed land, forest-clearing, swidden. Part of a land-clearing group of streets, see also Põlendiku.
Alevi (Alev): 1) Short for Alevipoeg, Alev’s son. According to Kreutzwald, cousin and fighting companion of the epic hero Kalevipoeg, Kalev’s son, or, possibly, rhyming variant of Kalev’s name. See Kalevipoja. See also Olevi. Another meaning, probably not the one intended is small market-town, “borough”, “second-degree urban settlement”.
Algi (Alk): Auk or Razorbill. Both breed in Estonia: Alk, Razorbill, Alca torda, and Väikealk aka Ürr, Little Auk, Alle alle. One of a bird-name group and, with 48 streets, almost certainly the largest name zone in Tallinn, covering the sub-districts of Lilleküla, Mooni and parts of Tondi. See also Auli.
Alle A. (August Alle, 1890-1952): Son of a stone-mason, studied medicine and law. Poet, columnist and publicist. Editor of the Estonian literary journal Looming (“Creation”) from 1948. Street formerly known as Voolu
Allika (Allikas): Spring, source, fountain, wellspring, fountainhead. After a spring located at the end of the road in the courtyard of Tatari 24, mentioned as early as 14th-C. Two streets claim ancestry from Quellenstrasse, spring street: this one and Lätte.
Alliksoo (Alliksoo): Source of a bog. Street with the following approximate lineage: Luha (?-1922), Soo (1922-1940), Kaisla (1940-1941), Soo (1941-1991), and finally Alliksoo. Relationship not clear: theoretically allikasoo would be “bog of the spring” or the bog resulting from a spring, but alliksoo is the conjunction of two nominatives allik (alternative form of allikas) and soo, hence spring-bog, or source-bog, which could be interpreted as either “bog as source”, “bog of the spring” again or even “bog by the spring”, but should be understood as “bog with (many) springs”. Formerly known as Soo, bog or marsh. Basically: somewhere wet.
All-Linn (0): Down-town. Less perhaps in the cinema, shopping and clubbing sense as the one where poor buggers were stranded outside the fortified upper part of town. The “Downstairs” to the “Upstairs”. Particularly undesirable when the medieval equivalent of stag-weekenders descended upon the place (OK, maybe some clubbing then.)
Amburi (Ambur): Archer, bowman, Sagittarius.
Andrekse (Andres): Name of a farm once located on or near this site. Also an irregular, probably dialectical and/or diminutive/affectionate genitive of the name.
Angerja (Angerjas): Eel, Anguilla anguilla.
Angerpisti (Angerpist): Dropwort, Fern-leaf Dropwort, sometimes known as Queen of the Meadow, Filipendula vulgaris, a herb.
Ankru (Ankur): Anchor.
Anveldi J. (Jaan Anvelt, 1884-1937): Also known as Eessaare Aadu, Jaan Holm, Jaan Hulmu, Kaarel Maatamees, Onkel Kaak and Н. Альтъ. Estonian revolutionary, writer, leader of the Communist Party of Estonia, Premier of Soviet Estonia, died as a result of persuasive cross-examination in 1937 but redeemed as a “good communist” by Krushchev. One of the rare Estonian communists to have a Wikipedia page devoted to him in Tamil, see ஜான் ஆன்வெல்ட். Soviet Era renaming (1957-1991) of Kivisilla and Reimani V..
Ao (Agu): Early dawn, daybreak. Build on land occupied by former copper foundry. Part of the dawn and dusk triad. See also Eha. Not only one of the three shortest street names in Tallinn (although WW doesn’t really count), but the only possible anagram of Oa.
Apteegi (Apteek): Chemist’s, pharmacy, apothecary’s. Named after Tallinn’s oldest apothecary, the nearby Raeapteegi mentioned as far back as 1422. Apteegi as street name was first given in municipal records of 1611 as Apoteker Gasse, with later (1614) marginalia alters die Lütke Schröder Strasse (formerly the Little Tailor’s street). Prior to this (1389), the street was known/described as parva platea sartorum, qua itur de foro ad monachos, little road of the “tailors”, which goes from the market to the monks (i.e. to Vene), and before that (1368) platea monachorum, road of the monks, these being the Dominiiklased or Dominican Friars. Note on tailors… the Latin Sartor indicates someone who repairs, and stitching wounds to Saville Row is as far as barbers to surgeons (cf. the red and white spiraled barber’s pole: red for blood-letting and white for bandages). So the street probably specialized in buttons and bones, leeches and breeches. Makes you glad to live in the 21st-C.
Arbu (Arp): Word with twofold, connected meaning: lot (i.e. something drawn at random) and magic, contrivance. In Saaremaa and probably other areas too, when common land was shared among villagers, the plots were distributed by lots. Arb:arva was the term for the narrow strip used in strip-farming, which, given the chance involved, understandably evolved into into later meaning. A similar relationship exists between English “lot” (chance) and “lot” (of land). Arbujad (sorcerers, soothsayers, shamans) was an influential group of Estonian poets (which tended to be called “Magicians of the Word” in English) created in 1938, whose rather anti-totalitarian attitude did not endear them to the censors. Rebaptized (1979-1995) as Võrgu V. during the Soviet Era. One of a mini-group catering to D&D fans. See Loitsu.
Armatuuri (Armatuur): Fixture, (light-)fitting, framework, mounting accessory/ies. Construction-material street-name group, incidentally close to two of the town’s main building supplies merchants. See also Asfaldi.
Arnika (Arnika): Arnica, Arnica spp. Also one of the alternative names of harilik karutubakas, Mouse-ear Hawkweed, Pilosella officinarum, another yellow-flowered Asteraceae which it may strongly resemble. One of a 2nd flower-name group. Astla.
Artelli (Artell): Artel, workers’ guild, general term for various semi-formal cooperative associations in Russia past and present ranging from fishing to stevedoring to thieving.
Aru (Aru): Dry upland meadow or grassland. Also means reason, mind, intellect, understanding or wits (Ma saan aru means “I understand”, statement often followed by devastating proof that, in fact, they haven’t). Part of a fodder and staples street-name group. See Auna.
Arukaskede (Arukased [pl.]): Silver or Lowland Birches (Sing.: Arukask), Betula pendula, aka Kask, Arukõiv (kõiv is a dialectal, and probably older, name for birch), Õmmik (the beneedled), etc. Aru or arro also means dry land, which may well reflect the tree’s habitat.
Asso õu (⇑): Asso courtyard. Believed to be a typically Estonian name, records give one as town herdsman in the 14-15th-C whose house on the corner of Harju and Müürivahe was close to Assauwe torn, Assauwe being an alternative spelling.
Astangu (Astang): Terrace, cliff, escarpment, bluff.
Astri (Aster): Aster spp., genus of flowering plants in the Asteraceae family. One fascinating piece of trivia about this flower is that the number of petals is a Fibonacci Number, i.e. 0, 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21… (Fn = Fn-1 + Fn-2, where F0 = 0 & F1 = 1), a series rediscovered (apparently known by Indian mathematicians as far back as 200 BCE) by Leonardo of Pisa, aka Fibonacci (= son [filius] of Bonaccio), in his Liber Abaci (1202) to calculate a theoretical growth in rabbit numbers. The book was also one of the prime movers introducing Arabic numerals, and algebra, to Europe. Mathmatophobes, you now have a name to play darts with. See also Kreegi.
Asula (Asula): Dwelling, settlement, urban community, any populated place. And Estonian geopolitical statisticians have the ranking thereof down to a fine art… Below a population density of 20 (in villages) or 2000 (in towns), the asula is designated as kääbus (dwarf or, to use boxing parlance, bantam). They then grow through the following stages – jugu (stunted), taru (hive/buzzing), väike (small), siire (transitional), suur (large), kasa (large-heap), hiid (giant) and rait (colossal [over 5M for towns]) – before becoming mega-cities, a state yet to be reached by certain communities in, for example, Jõgevamaa.
Asunduse (Asundus): Settlement, colony. Built on land furnished by city councilor and arbitrageur named Albert Koba.
Auna (Aun): Shock of sheaves, stack, cock, or stack of peat. Street started life (1932) as Muru, German Rasenstrasse, grass, lawn, turf, and Russian Дерновая ул, turf-covered or turf-edged, so they probably intended to stay closer to the sod than the cock. Switched in 1959 when the new street-name zoning came into being. Part of a fodder and staples street-name group. See Heina.
Auto (Auto): Car, automobile, motorcar. Soviet Era naming (1927-2001) of the now Nugise. Despite being the former-USSR satellite with the highest GDP as well as one of the smartest countries on the planet, put an Estonian in a car and the electro-magnetic radiation short-cuts all and every genetic up-grade since the Neanderthals roamed the earth. Beware.
Bastioni (Bastion): Bastion.
Bornhöhe E. (Eduard Bornhöhe, 1862-1923): Real name Eduard Brunberg, writer of bestselling historical adventure stories and translator of Robinson Crusoe into Estonian. His 1893 novel Vürst Gabriel ehk Pirita kloostri viimsed päevad (Prince Gabriel, or the last days of Pirita Convent) was made into Viimne reliikvia, The Last Relic (1969), today a cult film or bane of Christmas according to viewpoint, while Tasuja (The Avenger), deals with Jüriöö ülestõus, the St. George’s Night Uprising, and features Tambet.
Bremeni torn (⇑): Bremen, former Hanseatic town in Germany. But apparently its original name was Bremer after a local resident. Bremeni torn was a prison in the mid 15th-C, known then as Bremen de vangen torne (Bremen the prison tower), and used thus until the 17th-C. See also Eppingi torn.
Börsi (Börs): Exchange, stock exchange. German Börse (stock exchange or purse), French Bourse and English Purse share the same etymology, from Greek βύρσα, hide, leather, through low Latin Bursa, small bag with drawstrings (hence expression “to purse one’s lips”) in which money was kept, to modern-day purse and stock exchange. The story of a 14th-C Bruges family, van de Borse or Van Der Burse, at whose house local and Venetian merchants used to meet and do business may well be apocryphal or incidental. Popular French etymology has often suggested that the bourse was kept against the groin, a site of great physical sensitivity and awareness and, true to form, one of the earliest uses (1278) of the term bourse (Mod. Fr. les bourses) was scrotum. And where better to keep a bag containing your valuables than next to another bag containing your valuables?
de la Gardie or Delagardie (Pontus de la Gardie, 1520?–1585): Originally Ponce d’Escouperie, left France in 1565, became mercenary for Denmark, captured by Swedes, switched sides, became Pontus de la Gardie, married Sofia Johansdotter, illegitimate daughter of king Johan III of Sweden, became Governor of Swedish Estonia (1574-1575), captured Narva from Russia (1581), re-Governor of Swedish Estonia (1583-1585), drowned in Narva River, buried in Toom-Kirik. (No street named after him, just a shopping center in Viru although there was a redoubt in his name on one of the south-east city walls ca. 1710.)
Dominiiklaste (Dominiiklased [pl.]): Dominican friars (Sing.: Dominiiklane).
Dunkri (Hans Dunker, 16th-C): Although Dunker is an old Germanic name for someone who lived near a swamp, and hence quite appropriate for anyone in Estonia, it seems this one was a 16th-C chef at the town hall, as well as Tafelbruder (see Eppingi torn). Having been the street’s name for the past 400-plus years, it has still been variously misinterpreted as Drunckerstraße, drunkard’s street (1528), Dunkelstraße, dark street (1701, etc.), and Tunkle ulits (1732). Before this it was (lutke) strate achter der munte (1433), (little) street behind the mint, or Sternestrate achter munte (1463), star street behind the mint, and variants. The “star” part coming from the name of the eponymous well in Rataskaevu in which street a mint was also located, some meters further north (1363). Before this yet again, TT states it was known (1378) as platea qua itur ad sanctum Nicolaum in opposito putei, road which goes from the well to Saint Nicolas’, but this doesn’t make sense: even in the 14th-C, sunte Nicolaus kerke was still where it is now: at the end of Rataskaevu, unless the street was once considered to continue southwards from the well, but there seems no evidence for this. Likewise, TT’s assertion that another appellation was klene strate bi den schoboden also/e men geit na dem(e) sternsode (1439), little street by the shoe shops by which you get to the “Sternsode” well, would depend on a) how far into the square the shops (or stalls) in Kinga extended (oddly, where one might expect the name of a “place” to encompass all within its apparent perimeter, as according to the land-registry database [Xgis] it does, with Kinga indeed stopping at its perimeter, a street sign on the west of the square gives Kinga too; this is Kinga No.1, which does begin outside the square and joins up with Voorimehe) and b) which etymology to understand for boden: MLG bōdem meaning bottom, ground (cf. German Fußboden, floor), support, lower surface (as in market stall?), or, more likely, MLG bōde, hut, tent, abode, evolving (16th-C?) into shop, usually with living quarters above. Either way, Voorimehe would have been a closer candidate, but this has its own issues… Renamed during the Soviet Era as Eduard Vilde (1950-1963) then Vana Tooma (1963-1987).
Edela (Edel): South-west, south-western, south-westerly. Estonian is one of those rare languages still with actual names for ordinal, or intercardinal, directions (NE, SE, SW & NW). Also süüdvest among sailors. Street-name which used to be in the docks, now in Kivimäe, and pointing – Tallinn toponymy oblige – south-east… See Vesikaare. See also Loode.
Edu (Edu): Success, progress, advancement. Very odd. Street started life as Puhke, from 1940-1941, during the first Soviet Occupation, it was renamed Karge, crisp or harsh, before reverting to its original name. Named Põua, drought, from 1959-1960, when it acquired its current name. Part of a metaphysical street-name group. See Lootuse.
Eerikneeme (Eerikneem): Eric’s Cape (point, headland, foreland) on Aegna island, site of one of Estonia’s approximately 9 stone labyrinths built by Swedish settlers during the early medieval ages. One of the island’s six roads. See also Kalavälja.
Elektri (Elekter): Electricity. Known briefly, 1959-1960, as Iili, by which they probably mean a blast or gust (of wind) rather than clepsine, an outdated term for the glossiphonid or snail-leech. All the more so since its previous name was Tuule.
Elektroni (Elektron): Electron.
Endla (Endla): Name of a lake, bog, basin, region and nature reserve in central Estonia, home to the white-tailed eagle, golden eagle and osprey. The lake is home also to Juta, the Maid of Järve, a Muse-like fairy capable of evoking the past. Speaking of which, previous name Wittenhofi after former burgomeister.
Enela (Enelas): Spirea, meadowsweet, Spiraea spp., shrub of the rose family.
Energia (Energia): Energy. After another Eesti Energia electricity substation.
Eppingi torn (⇑): Tideman Eppynck, 14th-C, aka Thilmannus/Thidemannus/Tydemann/Thidericus Eppynch/Eppingh/Eppinc/Eppingk, wealthy burgher of Tallinn, in charge of one of the Tallinn towers, although not necessarily this one. Likewise, there may have been two Eppincks, since one is recorded as dying in 1378, and another, a Tafelbruder, member of the Tafelgilde, a lesser guild involved in feeding the poor, in 1383. Then again, given the peak of orthographic erraticism, anything is possible. See also Fulfordi-tagune torn.
Erika (Erika): Eerika in 1920. Woman’s first name but, given its then German designation as Erikastrasse (heather street), perhaps named after the shrub that may well have grown on the Kalamaja marshes reclaimed in 1898. Not impossible: in a 1698 map of “Stadt Räfwal” we read Feuchte und Heidigste Fiehtriften, meaning damp and heathery cattle pasture or commons. Renamed (1953-1990) as Nahhimovi P. during the Soviet Era.
Esku (Esku): After the name of an old farm the street was built on. There also an Esku village in central Estonia, and an Esku chapel in Lahemaa National Park, 70-odd km east of Tallinn.
Estonia (Estonia): Named in 1923 after the Estonia theater and concert hall, built 1911-13. Known previously as Peters-Promenade (Peter’s Promenade), Vene turu promenaad (Russian-Market Promenade), Promenaad (Promenade), Der Ring/Ringstraße (Ring Road, or part of it, along with Mere puiestee and others but don’t ask which), Gogoli puiestee (Gogol Avenue), Karjavärava puiestee (Cattle gate avenue), Vabaduse puiestee (Freedom avenue), Viruvärava puiestee (Viru gate avenue), and perhaps many, many others. No.11 was the Estonian Red Card HQ. After two of them, non-Communist footballers would be sent off to Siberia.
Faehlmanni F.R. (Friedrich Robert Faehlmann, 1798-1850): Founder of the “Learned Estonian Society” and originator of the Kalevipoeg idea, converting a rather malevolent (or “hapless” according to J.R.R. Tolkien) giant of Estonian folklore into a king and national symbol. His 1827 doctoral thesis, Observationes inflammationum occultiorum, or Observations on non-visible inflammations (the squidgy bits), he wrote in Latin. Other papers, such as the page-turning Ueber die Declination der estnischen Nomina (a copy of which was owned by Napoleon’s linguist nephew Louis-Lucien Bonaparte, known for his almost definitive opus on Basque verbs, but I digress), upon the declination of Estonian nouns, a topic causing violent baldness in anyone approaching within three yards of it, he wrote in German and, as penance, became reader in Estonian language at the University of Tartu from 1842–1850.
Falgi (Hans Heinrich Falck, 1791-1874): Cabinet-maker, clavier manufacturer, Toompea craftsman’s guild elder, and Tallinn land-owner. Collectivized (1948-1989) along with Komandandi tee under the name of Nõukogude during the days of wine and roses.
Filmi (Film): Film, cinema, movies. Although, given its oleaginous neighbors (see Nafta), perhaps that nice insulating layer of fossil fuel that ships deposit on the waters to keep the ocean warm? But no, boring, after local film storage warehouse. Previously Jalgpalli (1933) and Palli (1934-1959) after neighboring sportsfield.
Filtri (Filter): Filter. Named after nearby water treatment plant. Given its nearby cemeteries, one wonders where they obtained their activated charcoal… The area immediately west of Filtri tee has long been a favorite burial area, with numerous cemeteries including Siselinna, divided into Aleksander Nevski and Kaarli cemeteries, Kaitseväe (Defence Forces), as well as the former Jewish and Muslim cemeteries, the latter rather ineptly called Mohamed. Kirchhof, or Mahommedan Churchyard.
Forelli (Forell): Trout. Either the Salmonids Meriforell: sea trout, Salmo trutta morpha trutta or Jõeforell: brown trout, Salmo trutta morpha fario (these two are actually the same species, but whereas the former is anadromic, or spends most of its life the sea and returns to the river to spawn, the latter is essentially freshwater); or Vikerforell: rainbow or ocean trout, or steelhead, Oncorhynchus mykiss, renamed from Richardson’s S. gairdneri. For those tempted by logo-erotic nomenclature, the mykiss part of the name bears no relation to ichthyandric osculation, but comes from the fish’s Kamchatkan name “mykizha”, original spelling unsure, my Kamchatkan’s a little rusty. Named after local trout farm.
Fulfordi-tagune torn (⇑): Wulfard Rosendal, ?-ca. 1411. Incorrect name of Wulfordi-tagune torn. Named after Wulfard Rosendal, mayor of Åbo/Turku, Finland, in 1390, and burgher in Tallinn who later retired with his wife to Pirita convent. Money management was not a prime quality in this family: the loans he made from Tallinn council became a local soap, dragging on for years, and in 1430, his son (apparently), another Wulfard Rosendal, accused his brother-in-law, a certain Gerd or Gherhardus van der Beke, one-time Tafelbruder and keeper of the key to Eppingi torn, of stealing his paternal inheritance, rather late on the uptake, or perhaps a third generation of WRs? See also Grusbeke-tagune torn.
Gaasi (Gaas): Gas. The word “gas” is believed to have been created by Dutch scientist Jan Baptist van Helmont (1579-1644) as his mother tongue pronunciation of Latin chaos, thus named, apparently, because he couldn’t believe gas was that disorganized. Anagram of Saagi. Construction-material street-name group. See also Paneeli.
Gagarini J. (Juri Gagarin, 1934-1968): First man in space (12 April 1961). A contributing factor to his cosmonauticality was a spaceship-friendly height of 5 ft 2, or 1.57 meters. Said to have withstood about 8-10 g on re-entry. Soviet Era renaming (1961-1989) of Toompuiestee.
Gerbera (Gerbera): Gerbera, ornamental plants of the sunflower family, fifth cut flower in the world.
Glehni N.v. (Nikolai von Glehn, Count, 1841-1923): Founder of the then town, now Tallinn suburb, of Nõmme. Died in Brazil. One of the last scions of a family descended from the German merchant Heinrich von Glehn arriving in Estonia in the mid 17th-C. Renamed (1960-1989) as Välgu during the Soviet Era.
Gogoli N. (Nikolai Gogol, 1809–1852): One of Russia’s, sorry, the Ukraine’s most brilliant writers. Author of Deal Souls, Diary of a Madman, The Greatcoat, The Nose, The Government Inspector and, most regrettably, Taras Bulba. Soviet Era renaming (1952-1989) of Raua.
Gonsiori (Jakob Johann Gonsior, ?-1866?): Formerly (1920) split into Greater- and Lesser-Gonsiori. 19th-C Tallinn alderman and lawyer, orphanage founder and funder. Renamed (1950-1991) as Lomonossovi M. during the Soviet Era.
Graniidi (Graniit): Granite. After local depot of paving- and other stones imported from Finland.
Grusbeke-tagune torn (⇑): “Tower Behind Grusbeke’s”, Ar[e]nd Grusbeken/Gruzebeke, 15th-C, said to be a wealthy burgher of Tallinn, although that didn’t stop him borrowing 50 marks from Arnd Saffenberch in 1428, using his house near Oleviste as security. See also Hattorpe-tagune torn.
Gümnaasiumi (Gümnaasium): Secondary school, high school.
Haabersti (?): Manor house close to Tallinn center, roughly on the site of the present-day zoo, originally named Habers, or Habris/Habres, reputedly deriving from the German Hafer, oats; street previously written Haawersti (1920), Haberscher Weg and Hawersche Straße.
Haava (Haab): Two species: harilik Haab, Common or Trembling Aspen, Populus tremula – the trembling is due to the flat petioles allowing the slightest breeze to move the leaves and increase exposure to the sun; and Hõbepappel or Hõbehaab, White Poplar, Populus alba. Same muddle in both languages as to name, and both seem accepted, haab or pappel, and poplar or aspen.
Haaviku (Haavik): Aspen grove.
Hagudi (Hagudi [Haggud]): Birthplace of Adam Johann Ritter von (knight of) Krusenstern (1770-1846), Baltic German admiral and explorer leading the first Russian circumnavigation around the globe in 1803-1806. Street previously known as Феллинская ул / Fellin str. / Viljandi due to location close to the old Felliner Hauptbahnhof or Viljandi Pea(vaksal) (Viljandi Main Station), today Tallinn-Väike; “Felliner Bahnhof II” was near Petrooleumi and the line ran (or probably ambled) down Vesivärava.
Haigru (Haigur): Heron or Egret. Five species known to breed in Estonia: Hallhaigur, Grey Heron, Ardea cinerea; Hõbehaigur, Great Egret, Casmerodius albus; Purpurhaigur, Purple Heron, A. purpurea; Siidhaigur, Little Egret, Egretta garzetta and Ööhaigur, Black-crowned Night Heron, Nycticorax nycticorax. One of a bird-name group of streets. See also Hane.
Haljas (Adj.): Green, verdant; shining. Usually referring to nature. Haljasalad, on the other hand, is not lettuce but the green spaces of a town. Interestingly, cutting weapons, such as swords, can also be called haljad relvad, shining weapons, a serendipitous take on pikes into ploughshares, but remembering they can always be turned back again…
Halla (Hall): Hoarfrost. You can’t please everyone all the time, but once you get your creative juices flowing you can find some very uninspiring names. The only one they missed out is purgaa, a bitterly cold wind that brings Siberia up your trouser legs. Part of a bad-weather group. See also Härmatise.
Hallivanamehe (Hallivanamees): Literally “grey old man”. Two possibilities paraphrased from Kivi: 1) There used to be a very sharp curve here resulting in numerous accidents. Given the, ahem, abstemious nature of Estonian drivers, any mishap that occurred had to be due to Ülemiste Vanake suddenly appearing in the middle of the road (then again the old man of Ülemiste was a liquid spirit); 2) The curve, then street, where a grey-bearded old codger used to live until his house was demolished.
Halu (Halg): Piece of firewood, log. The arsonist or insurance-broker street group. Visitors to Tallinn may notice the occasional building gutted, razed and charred. The town has no higher propensity to cameral conflagration than any other metropolis (outside Australia and the south of France), but when there are laws as to the preservation of cultural heritage and minuscule huts occupying prime real estate it may be understandable that owners divert their bile to billet and burn baby burn. Anagram of Luha. See also Hao.
Hane (Hani): Goose (also figurative, simpleton, pigeon), seven avian (and an undisclosed number of hominid) species known to nest or lose their feathers in Estonia: Hallhani aka Roohani, Greylag Goose, Anser anser; Lumehani, Snow Goose, A. caerulescens (although unsure whether this one does breed here); Lühinokk-hani, Pink-footed Goose, A. brachyrhynchus; Rabahani, Taiga Bean Goose, A. fabalis fabalis; Suur-laukhani, Greater White-fronted Goose, A. albifrons; Tundra-rabahani, Tundra Bean Goose, A. f. rossicus and Väike-laukhani, Lesser White-fronted Goose, A. erythropus. One of the two genera found in Estonia (see Lagle). One of a bird-name group of streets. See also Haraka.
Hansu (Hans): Uncertain. Apparently not the name of a former farm. Given Hamilton’s 3rd Law of Odonymy (see Aedvere) and the street’s year of naming (2004), one wonders whether it were named for Käsu Hans (?-1715/1734), one of the earlier poets in the Estonian vernacular, author of the lament Oh! ma waene Tardo liin (Oh Tartu! Poor City of Mine) in 1708, written in the middle (in the temporal rather than spatial sense one hopes) of the Great Northern War.
Hariduse (Haridus): Education, training, schooling. Offices of the Ministry of which (main building in Tartu) are in this street although, with characteristic Estonian flair, the official address is Tõnismägi. Known in the mid-19th-C as Vaestepatuste, poor sinners or hangdogs, or German Armesündergasse, condemned man’s alley, since it was the quickest route from Toompea to Võllamägi, gallows hill. Later, to prevent suspicious characters skulking about, the police asked it to be closed, earning it the name Suletud or Sperrgasse, closed. However, that might have referred only to the section north of present-day Pärnu mnt since the “Pharus-Plan Reval” street map of Tallinn (see Refs) gives it as carrying on south, crossing Ahju as a T-junction and on to Liivalaia.
Harju (0): Of or corresponding to Harjumaa (county, inhabitants…) in northern Estonia. The word sounds like (euphemism for “we don’t really have a clue”) various Finnish, Karelian, Olonets, etc., words for ridge, harja “peak; crest of a mountain”, “top of a hill or crest of a furrow” but, unhelpfully, “sandy bank or shoal” too. Wikipedia and a million copy-and-pastes give “(Latin: Harria) (1200 hides)”, but I find no record of harria anywhere, so perhaps from Latin ārĕa which did evolve into the land measurement “are” (as in “hectare”) or, more likely, a simple retranscription into Latin of an existing name. Other suggestions include the name deriving from the Hirri, a tribe reputed to have occupied (north-central to coastal) parts of Estonia. Street first recorded in 1339 as Platea fabrorum, smith street, continuing the tradition through the 16th-C with kannengeterstrate or tinageterstrate, can or tin founder. The subsequent building of fortifications – bastions, ravelins and counterguards – buried the street for a couple of hundred years until 1767, when cleared and re-opened as Новая ул., New street (see Vabaduse), staying that name till 1918. Harju tänav was the historic street most destroyed during the Soviet bombing of March 9th 1944. Arthur Ransome, author of the “Swallows and Amazons” children’s stories, husband of Евгения Шелепина (Evgenia Shelepina), Leon Trotsky’s one-time personal secretary, and, ironically, buried at St Paul’s Church, Rusland, southern Lake District, stayed at the “Kuld Lõwi” (golden lion) hotel in Harju during his period as British MI6 agent (codename S 76).
Harjumägi (0): Harju hill.
Harjuorg (0): Harju valley.
Harjuvärava (Harjuvärav): Harju gate. During the late 15th and early 16th-C, the gate extended some 60 m from the city wall with gatehouse and portcullis, corridor or neck with machicolations, intermediate flanking towers, second neck, and barbican with drawbridge. Beyond this was another 40 m or so of wooden bridge across a moat. The city has since adopted a more accommodating policy towards visitors.
Harksaba (Harksaba): Kite (bird). Lit. forktail. Two species breeding in Estonia: Must-harksaba, Black Kite, Milvus migrans and Puna-harksaba, Red Kite, M. milvus.
Harku (Harku): Small town SW of Tallinn, and Rural Municipality west of Tallinn in which direction, approximately, the street points.
Harusambla (Harusammal?): Not traced. Given its location in the middle of a field of mosses, clearly assumed to be one of them. But what? Possibly a conflation of the harilik karusammal, Great Goldilocks or Common Hair/Haircap Moss, Polytrichum commune (but Karusambla already used), or an unrecorded name for one of the broom mosses, Dicranum spp., whose stems fork (haru = branch, fork, prong). Possibly a vernacular for any spreading moss (haruma, to branch out). Maybe an accidental rendition of haruhärmik, Green Mountain Fringe-moss, Racomitrium fasciculare (rare in Estonia anyway). Estonia has some 558 varieties of moss. Discounting close relatives of the greater-, lesser-, speckled- sort, there are 186. Of these, 67 – or one third – are called mis-ta-n’d-oligisammal (thingamajig moss). So it’s not as if they didn’t have enough choice. None of them, however, are called harusammal. A decent bottle of wine awaits the person providing the best solution. Answers by email to firstname.lastname@example.org. One of a group of moss-named streets. See Karusambla.
Hattorpe-tagune torn (⇑): “Tower Behind Hattorpe’s”, a Hattorpe (van Hatdorp, fl. late 14th / early 15th-C?) was listed in the 1410-1414 list of Tallinn tower chiefs, i.e. the ones with the keys (de de slotel hebben to den tornen). Das Bruderbuch der Revaler Tafelgilde (1364-1549) mentions a Tones Hatdorp (with standard variants: van Hattorpp, Hattorp Tonnies, Tones, Toniges, Antonies, Anthonius) as a Tableguild brother from 1434, who might have been his son, although it gives him as hailing from Soest (in the Netherlands?), but wealthy Hanseatic traders may well have kept two homes. See also Hellemanni torn.
Havi (Haug): Pike, Northern pike, Esox lucius. The one they managed to let slip through the net here (intentionally, one wonders) is Tuulehaug: the Garpike, Belone belone. Why did they keep it off the streets? Because, as you discover when sitting in a restaurant not far from Chernobyl (well, 1000 km anyway) with more than moderate alarm is that the fish’s bones are green. Part of a fish-name street group. See also Kammelja.
Heinamaa (Heinamaa): Hayfield, grassland, meadow.
Heki (Hekk): 1) Hedge; 2) Fence; 3) Bullfinch or; 4) Stern (of boat). According to TT, street started life as Vaikne (1924), then in 1959, year of municipal inimicality to toponymic topicality, mutated to Sume, hazy, dim, subdued… (for those with dramatic urges, Sume on öö is Tender is the Night), and, one year later, to its present name. Given its neighbor, Salu, probably the hedge.
Helme (Helmes): Bead. As in necklaces and so on. May also have been an alternative for merevaik, amber.
Helmiku (Helmik): Melick, grass of the fescue family.
Hermanni K.A. (Karl August Hermann, 1851-1909): Composer, linguist, author of the first Estonian grammar in Estonian by an Estonian, Eesti keele Grammatik (1884), romantic writer, journalist and important musical character during Estonia’s period of awakening (1850-1918). After studying comparative linguistics at Leipzig went on to learn 16 languages. His research led him to believe that Estonians were descended from ancient Sumerians. His wife is said to have sewn the first Estonian blue, black and white flag.
Hiidtamme (Hiidtamm): Giant oak, and being in the moddle of a large wood this seems likely, but possibly (?) a corruption of hiietamm, sacred oak, Hiie. It is quite likely that becoming large, over human generations, gave it the sacred qualities too. See Tamme. The oldest known oak in Estonia is the Tamme-Lauri oak, in Võrumaa. About 680 years old, with a chest-height circumference of 8.25 m, it decorates the back of the 10-krooni banknote*.
* Since Estonia entered the Eurozone on Jan 1 2011, all references to the kroon are out of date. On the other hand, numismatics and notaphily can still – for the savvy some – be profitable. If the eurozone does implode under a sea of Mediterranean debt, the value of Estonian coins and banknotes will skyrocket, hopefully not à la NASA.
Hiie (Hiis): Grove, sacred grove, sacred spot in general: stone, tree, hill, spring. There seems to be a line going across the country with sacred groves, hiied, being slightly more common in the northern half. Possibly named after a farm about 3 km to the NNE.
Hiiela (Hiiela): Place of the sacred grove. The -la suffix usually indicates a place where actions related to the underlying noun are done (e.g. parkla for car cark), but since grove is already a place, perhaps it acts to emphasize its “ceremonial” status rather than its being sacred in a simply passive way. The suffix could have a variety of origins, often a contraction of entities such as valla (from vald, parish, although this is also translated as kihelkond, a territorial unit where, historically, inhabitants were related/bound to each other through pledges [kihl, pl. kihlad], derived from Old Germanic *gisla giving rise to modern German Geisel, hostage), küla (village), salu (grove…), or even -(t)la < -talu (farm); likewise, the Finnish epic Kalevala is said to derive from “the country of Kaleva”. Another interesting possibility or relation comes from stories preceding the Kalevala where legendary chieftain Kalev had various sons including one named Hiisi. Likewise, hiisi in Finnish means a “pagan place of sacrifice; bad spirit, dreadful giant”. Since the progeny in question (including Kalevipoeg) seemed to be mildly enormous, with miscellaneous sorcerer powers, Hiisi may well represent an Esto-Finnic Titan (other outsize characters include Hiiumaa’s Leiger and his big brother Suur-Tõll on Saaremaa, corroborating the idea that if Saaremaa was the home of Saarepiiga, and if Hiisi was related to Hiiumaa (see Hiiu), then a coalescence of the ur-legend into its current dramatis personae may have occurred some 800-odd years ago (very “odd”, please see big question mark hanging over this) around a then-powerful tribe in the north-eastern land area of modern Estonia, known as Kalevala. Geeks will be pleased to learn that Joomla could also mean “place of drinking”, hence bar.
Hiiu (Hiiu): Of or from Hiiumaa. Its former German name of Dagosche Straße, where Dagö was the Swedish (and German) for Hiiumaa, clarifies a direct reference to the island rather than to the Hiiu district of Nõmme. The district itself seems to have been called Hiiuküla, Hiiumaa village, in the early 20th-C. Being on the outskirts of Tallinn on the road to or from the island, immigrant settlement in the area seems reasonable to assume. Hiiu is also the genitive of hiid, giant, but any references to “Giantland” are due to popular etymology (i.e. completely wrong, but see Hiiela above…); it is more reasonably suggested that the name comes from its sacred groves, see Hiie. On the other hand, Hiiumaa was apparently translated from its old Finnish name Päivänsalo to Swedish Dagö, (both lit. day island), whereas Saaremaa was apparently Estonified from Yösalo to Ösel, or night island (day and night in Estonian are päev and öö). However, the 13th-C Njáls saga gives Saaremaa as Eysýsla, reputed to mean “isle land”, “land” in the sense of a temporal geopolitical unit on an island (although Hiiumaa island’s village of Külaküla küla [lit. village-village village] leads one to suspect these islanders are not above toponymic tautology). Either way, Yösalo and Eysýsla seem close enough to suggest what could be called convergent etymology where acognates merge towards a more popularly satisfying contemporary meaning. And the rest becomes lost in the mists of time.
Hiiu-Suurtüki (Hiiu-Suurtükk): [Hiiu district (of Nõmme)] Cannon. Big gun. Follow me on this one… For years, this street lived as blameless an existence a thoroughfare called Cannon could live. Then came the annus mirabilis of Tallinn toponymy when, one warm 2nd July 1987, a wave of counter-revolution took to the streets and reclaimed its own: in the municipal zeal to delete the memory of communist nasties, the old-town street name Käsperti J. reverted to its original of Suurtüki. But this dominoed to Nõmme where another Suurtüki existed already. To solve matters, this was cropped to Tüki. Now, if Suurtükk is a cannon, maybe Tükk is just a can. Actually, it means “piece”, “bit”, “lump” or “fragment”, and “piece” is also a piece of weaponry (cf. French pièce légère, light gun, pièce de bord, naval gun, etc., etc.), so the words are synonyms (but see also Tuki). Either way, hinting that a respectable street could also mean “lump of mud road” may well have displeased the residents, so on December 4th it switched back to its former name, with the Hiiu- modifier (hargtäiend) appended in front. Quite enough done.
Hinke torn (⇑): Various interpretations all along the same lines: said to be named after a 14th-C municipal servant (linnateener), lackey, footman, valet, etc., and/or tallipoeg, lit. stable-boy (but the poeg probably refers more to subservient status than age) called Hinke or Hindrik who lived near the wall (Hinken hus by der muren). See also Kiek in de Kök.
Hirve (Hirv): Deer, stag, hart. Native to Estonia is the Punahirv, Red deer, Cervus elaphus. Previously (-1925) Tramvai, a nice Anglo-Germanicism for tramway. One of Pääskula’s woodland mammal group. See Ilvese.
Hobujaama (Hobu[se][posti]jaam): Stage, posting-stage. Hmm. Apparently known as Hermapöllsche Gasse or Hermapõllu sometime in the late 16th-C, and later (1885) known as Jaama, station, with two different versions as to origin (both from TT): 1) a certain Heinrich Wagner had his posting stage, hobupostijaam, at No.11 Narva; and 2) towards the Ahtri end of the street, then known as Siimuni, were the Sadamaraudtee (harbor railway) freight yard and offices. TT suggests the first explanation is less likely. In addition, No.11 is on the corner of Jõe, 330 m from Hobujaama (although, interestingly, still a communications hub, with a helipad on the roof of Sampopank, blanked out on Google Earth but visible on the Maaamet website). Later (1907-1958), the street vacillated between Jaama, Stationsgasse/straße, Станціонная ул, all meaning essentially the same thing but tending more towards “railway station” due to proximity to the Felliner Bahnhof II (see Hagudi). The 1958 change to its current name may well reflect a local Arcadian wistfulness during the dull grey but slightly freer years post-Stalin.
Hoburaua (Hobu[se]raud): Horseshoe.
Hobusepea (Hobusepea): Horse’s head. Since one of the street’s 15th-C residents was a horse trader named Hans Hannemann, it became known as Perdekoper (horse-buyer, -trader, cf. Middle Low German köpen, to trade, and Mod. German kaufen, to buy). Needless to say, sometime later the kop part of the word was thought to be the German Kopf, head (earliest record 1873, Pferdekopfstraße, and the rest is history. But not quite, the communists’ desire to eliminate any sign of individual leadership, removed the head and converted a noble steed to a nordinary nag: Hobuse (1923-1987). (Actually, the Russians called it Конная (horse) back in 1907.) Also known in medieval times as, among others, klene strate, alse men to den süstern geit / parva, quod itur ad moniales (little street through which you go to get to the “sisters”). Today, you reach Lai, which used to be Nunne.
Hoo (Hoog): Momentum, impetus, swing, bout, attack, seizure, dash, verve… – hiigla hooga, quite an evocative way of saying “impetuously”.
Hooldekodu (Hooldekodu): Nursing-home.
Hospidali (Hospidal): Hospital, infirmary. This sweet little street existed quite happily as it was until, one day, somebody noticed – crashing chords, minor key – orthographically incorrect. The “d” should have been “t” and, mutatis mutando, mutato nomine, it metamorphosed into Hospitali. But they had not taken vox pop into account: the locals trashed it and kept on saying “d”. The Street-name Commission folded.
Hunditubaka (Hunditubakas): Hawkweed, lit. Wolf’s tobacco. Hieracium spp., genus of the Asteraceae family, 2nd largest family of flowers.
Hõbekuuse (Hõbekuusk): Silver spruce. Picea pungens f. argentea, cultivar of the Blue Colorado spruce, Picea pungens f. glauca.
Hõimu (Hõim): Tribe, kith and kin, relative, clan. Estonians cannot effusively be described as the most extrovert or other-person-oriented nation on earth (and how do you tell an Estonian extrovert? It’s the one looking at your shoes). As macadam evidence of this: only three (perhaps four) family type street names in the whole of Tallinn. Along with Sõbra, and Lemmiku, this is the closest they get to relational intimacy and, without any intersection at all, a very rigid ménage à trois (ou quatre) it is too. Being the first country in the world to succeed in avoiding social intercourse during elections by e-voting, one wonders how they reproduce. See Nõo.
Hälli (Häll): Cradle, cot. Two varieties: the standard side-to-side rocker, called the jalashäll (“leg”, or rocking cradle, although the legs were joined by an arc or a bow, see below), and the suspended version, the vibuhäll (“bow” or hanging cradle, the bow in question being the pole it dangled from), either box-like with four wooden sides or with an upper and lower wooden frames supporting a cloth surround which would swing gently if baby kicked around enough. Häll is more a southern Estonian or Livonian word. In northern dialects they say Kätki, cf. Finnish kätkyt.
Härgmäe (Härgmäe): Ergeme (Estonianized into “hill of the ox/bullock/Ursa Major/great bear”, the härg possibly derived from old Danish hær) in northern Latvia, site of a battle where Ivan the Terrible’s army decisively defeated the Livonian Order on 2nd August 1560, leading eventually to its dissolution.
Härjapea (Härjapea): Literally, ox-head. Two main interpretations: 1) after the copious clover covering the land the road was originally built on, both Keskmine ristik, zigzag clover, Trifolium medium and Valge ristik, white clover, T. repens, have the alternative names of härjapea or valge (= white) härjapää. 2) Name of the river that used to flow through Tallinn from Ülemiste Lake, converted into sewage canal in 1937 (see Jõe), itself probably derived from same origin.
Härma M. (Miina Härma [Hermann], 1864-1941): Music teacher, organist, prolific composer (over 200 choral songs, 10 cavatinas, a canto, “Kalev and Linda” and more), choral and orchestral conductor. Received initial musical education from Hermanni K.A. (no relation).
Hüübi (Hüüp): Bittern. At last, we have a generic that’s also a specific: Hüüp is the Great Bittern (not to be confused with Great Britain), Botaurus stellaris and its smaller cousin is the Väikehüüp, Little Bittern (not to be confused with NW France), Ixobrychus minutus. Both breeding in Estonia. One of a bird-name group of streets. See also Kaarna.
Idakaare (Idakaar): East, eastern quarter on the horizon. And while Idakaare tänav, formerly Ida, runs (approx.) WSW-ENE, Idakaare põik, formerly Minnika (1926-1955) after local homeowner Juhan Minnik, runs NNW-SSE. See Läänekaare. If Minnika veski, Minnika mill in Raplamaa, whose name in 1798 was Münik, apparently an Estonianization of German Mühle, mill, is anything to go by, the present gentleman’s name may have a similar ancestry too, revealing if nothing else the difficulties in detecting the foreign origin of certain Estonian words. See also Lääne.
Ilmarise (Ilmarine): Mythological gentleman: god of fire, weather (ilm = weather) and smithing (its multiple meanings also reflect its age, Ilm is a word linguists believe they can track back some 5000-6000 years in Finno-Ugric, and, almost invariably, the further back one goes, the greater the range of meaning). However, this raises an interesting point. The genitive of ilm is ilma and this is associated more with earth, the world (cf. īlma, world, cosmos, air in Livonian): ilmale tooma means to give birth, to bring into the world; ilmaelu means life, existence. Given the importance of the genitive in declining Estonian words, perhaps this tense defined the original word (sticking my neck out under a very sharp axe here, but please note that the present dictionary lays no claims to expertise – be warned). Apart from Tallinn and other conglomerations (Pelgulinn) ending in -linn, all towns in Estonia are named using the genitive, which makes sense. The descriptor is of something, the word is not the object itself. Of incidental interest, Estonian’s once-neighboring Old Novgorod dialect had a nominoaccusative case, in the feminine plural at least. Interestingly, too, a major lake 6 km north of Novgorod is called Ilmen (Rus. Ильмень), mentioned by that name in The Rus’ Primary Chronicle (Laurentian codex), originally written around 1113. Part of a small Estonian mythology street-name group. See Taara.
Ilo (Ilo): 1) Name of literary magazine published in the 1920s; 2) Person’s first name; 3) Alternative spelling of ilu, beauty, although the earlier meaning was joy or merriment.
Imanta (Imanta): Apparently an erroneous transcription of Ymaut (Latvian), or Himmot or Himotu (Livonian), the soldier who killed the newly appointed bishop of Ikšķile (Ükskül meaning “a/one village” [or, possibly, “village No.1”] in Livonian, [cf. German, Üxküll or Uexküll] in present-day Latvia), Cistercian Bishop Berthold of Hanover, on his bolting horse during the Livonian Crusade in 1198. Name of Estonian choral society founded in Riga, 1880.
Invaliidi (Invaliid): Invalid, cripple, disabled serviceman. After the barracks for disabled servicemen, later converted into a dispensary for the prevention of tuberculosis.
Iru (Iru): Inn, hill and probably one-time village on the NE border of Tallinn, or the rocky pillar on Iru Hill itself into which Linda – Kalevipoeg’s mother, having been abducted and possibly raped by a Finnish sorcerer – was turned (a boulder, known variously as the Old Woman of Iru, or Iru’s Stepmother, was broken up and used in building a Russian military airfield during WWI); Also site of a pre-Bronze age (±3000 BP) Corded-ware settlement.
Irusilla (Irusild): Iru bridge.
Islandi (Island): Iceland, known for its various fishy banks. First state to recognize Estonia’s re-establishment as independent, on 22nd August 1991.
Iva (Iva): Grain, corn, morsel – Ma ei ole täna iva hamba alla saanud, one of the multitude of permutations for: I haven’t had a bite to eat all day.
Jaagu (Jaak): James, Jack. One of the most popular names in Estonia from 17th-19th-C, often used in combination: Karjajaak Cow(boy?) Jack; Mustajaak Black Jack, Gypsy Jack; etc. Name of former local farm/farming-family (although the only one of that name recorded is about 20 km due east). Farm group. See also Kotlepi.
Jaama (Jaam): Station, depot, terminus. If a train station is somewhere a train stops, what then is a workstation?
Jaaniku (Jaanik): St. John’s Eve, Midsummer Eve bonfire and festivities (23rd June).
Jaanilille (Jaanilill): Best known as one of the names for Pääsusilm, Bird’s-eye Primrose, but also an alternative name for a number of plants: harilik härghein, known as Natt och Dag in Sweden or Night and Day, Melampyrum nemorosum; Keskmine ristik, Zigzag Clover, Trifolium medium (see Ristiku); Liht-naistepuna, Common St John’s Wort or Tipton’s Weed, Hypericum perforatum (see Naistepuna); Pääsusilm, Äiatar, Field Scabious (but see Tähtpea), Knautia arvensis.
Jahimehe (Jahimees): Hunter, huntsman, gunner. Job-center street-name group. Jaht comes from the MLG jacht, chase or hunt, which was also a short form of jachtschip or fast pirate ship, lit. a ship for chasing, hunting, upon which hangs the cautionary following tale: A father and son were walking along a beach: “Oh look at that beautiful boat”, says sonny Jim. “That’s not a boat”, replies dad, “it’s a yacht”. “Oh, how do you spell that?” Father cleared this throat: “Y, A, erm… Y, er, um… You know, Son, I think you’re right, it is a boat”. See Kalamehe.
Jakobi (Jakob): Aka Jaagupi. Suggested as named (in 1882) after local house-owner/landlord and ex-serviceman Mart Jakob.
Jakobsoni C.R. (Carl Robert Jakobson, 1841-1882): Writer and teacher. One of the important persons in Estonian national awakening and founder of Sakala newspaper. Depicted on the 500-crown banknotes where, interestingly, his beard seems to improve with each printing. Prior to 1923, known as Vladimiri tn in honor of a visit to Tallinn in 1886 paid by Grand Duke Vladimir Alexandrovich of Russia, uncle of Tsar Nicholas II, replacing the previous name of (Uus-)Slobodi (19th-C), derived ultimately from “Russian village”. Be this as it may, the “Pharus-Plan Reval” street map of Tallinn (see Refs) gives Jakobson S[tr]..
Jalaka (Jalakas): Elm. Harilik jalakas, Wych Elm or Scots Elm, Ulmus glabra.
Jalgpalli (Jalgpall): Despite one’s natural repugnance for the game, one must include it: Football. Historically (1958-1992), more of a footpath connecting Mäekalda and Vesivärava and running past the old “Dünamo”, now Kadriorg, stadium. No relation to the one once at Filmi.
Jannseni J.V. (Johann Voldemar Jannsen, 1819–1890): Father of Lydia Koidula, publisher of first Estonian newspaper, Postimees (Postman), conductor and chairman of the Vanemuine male choir, and co-organizer (with Jakobson) of the first Estonian Song Festival in Tartu, June 18-20 1869.
Joa (Juga): Waterfall, cascade. Referring to the 3.8-m high Hundikuristiku cascade in Kadrioru. Interesting anagram, a joa (word possibly related to jõgi, see Jõe) is the sort of thing you might find at either end of an Oja.
Jugapuu (Jugapuu): Common or European Yew, Taxus baccata. The word “yew” comes from a proto-Germanic word Eiwaz or Eihaz, which also gave Anglo-Saxon îw, French if, Welsh ywen, German Eibe, Latvian īve, etc. A literal translation of the Estonian name would be “waterfall tree”, but since it doesn’t seem to need or tend to grow by waterfalls (Joa), the juga may well simply be a loan word. The Latvian connection is interesting: although it’s possible that both Latvian and Estonian may have lifted it from German, Latvian could also have inherited it from a Proto-Indo-European Baltic language (early Lithuanian?), and Estonian acquired it from one or the other as a loan. Being Europe’s longest-living tree, 2000 years or more, and probably due to its extremely poisonous (mainly taxane, now used in chemotherapy) seeds in its “berries” or arils, the yew tree is often associated with dark forces, gothic novels, cemeteries and so on, even Voldemort’s wand is made of yew. Said, too, to be Estonia’s most beautiful tree.
Juhkentali (Juhkental): Corruption of Joachimsthal (Joachim’s valley, Estonian Joaorg), a secondary manor house on the Joala estate. Renamed (1974-1990) as Liivalaia during the Soviet Era. No relation to the Czech Joachimsthal mines whose silver was turned into coins called “Joachimsthaler” or, abbreviated, “Thaler”, later giving us “dollar”, and whose miners developed a deadly disease called “Bergkrankheit” (mountain sickness, known now to be lung cancer), with death rates of up to 80% from 1876 to 1938.
Jumika (Jumikas): Knapweed, Centaurea spp., thistle-like plants in the Asteraceae family. Other names include Starthistles, Centaureas and, for some species, Cornflower. Sometimes used too, “Centaury” would be better reserved for the Centaurium genus (no relation). One of a 2nd flower-name group. Kailu.
Juurdeveo (Juurdevedu): Conveyance, transport, supply. Street leads to the Tallinn-Väike station. Many of Estonia’s domestic railway lines, e.g. Tallinn to Viljandi and Pärnu, etc., used to be narrow-gauge. The idea here was that lines from Tallinn-Väike conveyed passengers or goods to the standard-gauge railway from Tallinn to St. Petersburg.
Jõe (Jõgi): River, the river in question being the Härjapea which went through the standard slippery slope of many an urban river, with names to-ing and fro-ing between river and canal according to mindset of the day: Canalstraße (1881, first record), Härjapea-jõe tn, Alam-Jõe tn (lower river), Bachstraße (stream), Kanalstraße, Канальная ул (canal). In the mid-thirties, mains were laid, the water was diverted, and the bed filled in. The Soviet Era saw a major change, switching (1974-1990), along with Pronksi and Liivalaia (1944-1972), to Kingissepa V.. Present name dates to 1990.
Jõekalda (Jõekallas): Riverbank, riverside.
Jõeküla (Jõeküla): River village, riverside village.
Jõhvika (Jõhvikas): Cranberry, mossberry, probably harilik jõhvikas, Common or Northern Cranberry, Vaccinium oxycoccos or Oxycoccus palustris. Mini group of (probably calcium-rich) berry streets near the Liiva Kalmistu (Liiva cemetery). See also Karusmarja.
Järve (Järve): Lake. Järv may possibly be derived from a Baltic loan-word *jarva (Lithuanian jura, Latvian jūr and Prussian iuriay all meaning sea).
Järvekalda (Järvekallas): Lakeside.
Järveotsa (Järveots): Lake’s end.
Kaali (Kaal[ikas]): Name of a field of ten craters on Saaremaa caused by a meteorite probably around 1690-1510 BCE (as dated by accelerator mass spectrometry). As it slowed down in the atmosphere to an impact speed of some 10-20 km/s, it broke into pieces and the largest, comparable to a small atomic bomb, left a hole 110 m in diameter and 22 m deep. Understandably, even its mythology has its own mythology. In fact, the street is named after the swede, turnip, rape or rutabaga, and shouldn’t be here anyway, belonging to the Laagri (outside Tallinn) fruit an’ veg section along with Tomati, Selleri, et al.. Also of interest is the Saaremaa name of Kaali is derived from the name of the von Gahlen family who owned an estate there from 16th-C to 1729. In southern Estonia, Setumaa in particular, kaal:kaali is a headscarf.
Kaarla (Kaarel): Alternative name for Rabamurakas, Cloudberry or Bakeapple in the US, Knotberry or Knoutberry in the UK, Rubus chamaemorus. Cf. Murakas. Part of a small berry group in the Mähe horticultural zone. See Mustika.
Kaarli (Kaarel): [Name of both church and road] Charles, most likely Swedish king Karl XI who had its wooden ancestor built in 1670. The spot on which it stands is believed to have been a Hiis (see Hiie) since at least the middle ages. Present church consecrated in 1870. Mid-life crisis (1950-1989) as Suvorovi A. during the Soviet Era.
Kaarna (Kaaren): Aka Ronga, the Common raven, Corvus corax. Breeds in Estonia. One of a bird-name group of streets. Kaaren ei noki kaarna silma, lit. a raven doesn’t peck a raven’s eyes, i.e. there’s honor amongst thieves and if anyone could provide me with actual proof of this I’d be pleased to hear it. See also Kajaka.
Kaasani (Kaasan): After Kaasani kirik, Our Lady of Kazan church, reputedly built for the army (completion 1721). Street dismembered and interred beneath Liivalaia. Known as Kleine Sandstraße in 1850, possibly translated into Estonian as Väike-Liiva.
Kaasiku (Kaasik): 1) Birch wood, birch forest, birch grove; 2) Singer of old folk songs at weddings (archaic).
Kadaka (Kadakas): More properly known as harilik kadakas, Common juniper, Juniperus communis. As any gin drinker, Swiss, Dutch (another gin-producing country, hence the drink’s other name of Hollands…) or otherwise, would know, its berries are used for flavoring: Juniper, in French is genièvre, geneva, an old term for gin. From 1940-1941, Kadaka puiestee was also known as Kommunaari puiestee, from either the Paris Communards or, the Noored Kommunaarid review written by Estonian communists in Russia from 1920-1922 or, less likely, the town of Kommunaar near St Petersburg (a “Kommunaar” footwear and leather-goods firm took up the banner from 1944). Kadaka is also a district of Tallinn and a village in Rae, close to Tallinn. Settlements date back to late Bronze Age.
Kadri (Kadri): Street in Kadrioru park. Most likely a diminutive of the honorable Tsarina, or perhaps another Catherine altogether: Kate or “Katie”. Kadriks käima (going “Katieing”) is an old tradition: on Nov. 24th, St Catherine’s day, “kadrisants” (mainly young women, but some reports say men too, although they had their similar day on the feast of St Martin’s) dressed up in masks and light-colored women’s clothing go from door to door asking gifts (of food, wool, etc.) in exchange for songs and good wishes. Cult of St Catherine (martyred on the famous wheel of later fireworks’ fame), supposedly of 4th-C Alexandria (no evidence she even existed), started in the 9th C and was banned by the Holy See in 1969.
Kadrioru (Kadriorg): Catherine’s valley, after the lady who began life as Martha Skavronskaya, 1683/84(?)-1727, daughter of a Lithuanian peasant, adopted by Glück, the Lutheran pastor who translated the Bible into Latvian, was pressed into becoming laundress to the Russian army, became mistress first to Prince Menshikov then to Peter the Great whom she later married, becoming Catherine I, Empress and Autocrat of all the Russias (no relation to Catherine the Great). Interestingly, this is one of the few sub-districts named in the nominative, Kadriorg (although locals cannot resist talking about it in the genitive), perhaps because it actually is a valley, leading from the giddy heights of Mäekalda (ca. 7 meters above sea level) to the depths of Luigetiik (Swan pond) which, having not yet fallen in, I cannot say how deep.
House in Kadriorg, Tallinn, photo by Simon Hamilton
Kaeravälja (Kaeraväli): Oatfield.
Kaevu (Kaev): Well – Vanasse kaevu ei või sülitada enne kui veel uut valmis ei ole: don’t spit in your old well until your new one’s dug.
Kaevuri (Kaevur): Miner, digger. One of a mini trade-name area, see also Sepa. Could be pure coincidence, but this does have a sort of resemblance to “cave” and “excavate”, but clearly more obviously related to Keavu, above, the digging of which may well be coeval with mining.
Kaheküla (Kaheküla): Literally double-village, but name given for being between two former villages.
Kahu (Kahk): Slight rustle, whisper. Runs parallel to the slightly noisier Pikri. For those fascinated with words describing obscure sounds, try this: rahin – sound made by partially-frozen water rubbing against the side of a boat. Renamed (1979-1994], along with Lummu, as Pusta A. during the Soviet Era.
Kahva (Kahv): Landing-net, scoop net, net for catching fish or crayfish (see Vähi) (although some say its handle or haft too, word possibly derived from German Gaff, cf. Eng. gaff). Also means pale or pallid. Part of a fishing-related street-name zone, see also Kaladi.
Kai (Kai): Quay, wharf.
Kaitse (Kaitse): Protection, defense. Kaitse is also the genitive of kaits which is a weir trap for catching fish but since the street was created in 1927 along with Värava the first translation is probably the one it’s referring to.
Kaja (Kaja): Echo.
Kajaka (Kajakas): Tallinn: cold, wet and fishy coastal harbor town… that means seagulls, kittiwakes, gulls and mews. As they say in Pöide: Narri küll meest, ära narri mehe kübärät, Laugh at the man, not at his hat… Breeding in Estonia are Harksaba-kajakas, Sabine’s Gull, Larus sabini; Hõbekajakas, Herring Gull, L. argentatus; Jääkajakas, Glaucous Gull, L. hyperboreus; Kalakajakas, Mew Gull, L. canus; Kaljukajakas, Black-legged Kittiwake, Rissa tridactyla; Karbuskajakas aka Mustpea-kajakas, Mediterranean Gull, L. melanocephalus; Koldjalg-hõbekajakas, Caspian Gull, L. cachinnans; Lõuna-hõbekajakas, Yellow-legged Gull, L. michahellis (not a spelling mistake for michaellis, named after Bavarian zoologist Karl Michahelles [1807–1834]); Merikajakas, Great Black-backed Gull, L. marinus; Naerukajakas, Black-headed Gull, L. ridibundus; Polaarkajakas, Iceland Gull, L. glaucoides; Roosakajakas, Ross’s Gull, Rhodostethia rosea; Tõmmukajakas, Lesser Black-backed Gull, L. fuscus; Vandelkajakas, Ivory Gull, Pagophila eburnea; and Väikekajakas, Little Gull, L. minutus. One of a bird-name group of streets. See also Kauri.
Kakumäe (Kakumäe): Reads like loaf/bannock or owl hill, but probably Estonianization of Kakamaye (whatever that may mean, first mentioned 1467), although other records show Kakomiag. Named after a peninsula (poolsaar), cape (neem), spit (nina), and bar (leetselg, sandbank not bottlebank) in NW Tallinn. Former locality of various fishing villages.
Kalamaja (Kalamaja): Fisherman’s hut, name of a one-time fishing village, along with the three ages of man: Uus-Kalamaja (new, but let’s say “young” for poetic license), Kesk- (middle-aged), and Vana- (Old). Records date back to 1374.
Kalamehe (Kalamees): Fisherman, angler. One of an occupational street-name group. See Meremehe. Kala is derived from the proto Finno-Ugric *kala, fish (see also Karelian, Finnish & Veps kala, Hungarian hal, Sami guöllé, Nenets, халя, etc.) and related to Altaic (Tungusic: kul, salmon; Khalka Mongolian: xalim, whale, presumably of the biblical prophet-swallowing variety, hard to imagine them having a word for it otherwise). Clearly a very old word, although not corroborated by the last example: Christianity was first known in Mongolia in the late 13th/early 14th C. Further away again, we have Proto-Eskimo *iqałud and Sumerian kad, also fish. Stepping into very murky waters, along with other basic words such as Uralic *nime giving Estonian nimi, and related to Sanskrit nā́man-, Latin nomen and English name, or Proto Uralic *päjwä, sun or warmth, giving Estonian päev (day) and päike(ne) (sun), as well as English fire, the presumed proto-Indo-European *kʷalo-, large fish (cf. Latin squalus, dogfish or “large sea fish”, and Old English hwæl, giving present-day whale suggests its origins go back at least 5000 years.
Kalaranna (Kalarand): Fishing-shore. With a fine view of the sea, until they built a prison (no longer used) in front of it.
Kalasadama (Kalasadam): Fish harbor, fish port. Name with longest sequence of monovocalic consonant+vowel pairs.
Kalavälja (Kalaväli): Fishfield anybody?… Former farm name, many -välja endings indicate this. Maybe a place where fish were laid out to dry? Maybe simply the farming-family’s name with the -välja tag tacked on. Road close to the cliffs on Aegna island. See also Karnapi.
Kalda (Kallas): Shore, bank, riverside, etc.
Kalevala (Kalevala): Finnish creation myth cum ancestor epic poem compiled by Elias Lönnrot (1802–1884), physician, botanist and linguist who, as an intrepid collector of folklore seemed almost as interested in reciting poems he’d memorized as listening to those of his ministering minstrels. The epic is a mixed bag of approximately-connected stories sharing several features with, and lending to the superficial structure of, Estonia’s Kalevipoeg, and ending with an interesting form of virgin birth where the heroine, plain old (or rather young) shepherd-girl Marjatta (named Neitsy Maaria, or Virgin Mary, by one of Lönnrot’s sources, the Karelian folk singer Arhippa Perttunen [1769-1841(?)]), becomes pregnant by swallowing a berry, and a berry in Finnish (and Estonian genitive) is Marja. This closing canto hints at Lönnrot’s irritation at Christian elements interfering in tales he preferred to imagine pagan, and very old, as indeed the source material may well be: one point of evidence raised is the lack of mention of obvious neighbors such as Russians, Germans or Swedes. Stories predating Lönnrot’s poem, collected by himself or other folklorists such as Kristfrid (Cristfried?) Ganander (1741–1790), include 12 sons of Kaleva, of whom Väinämöinen, Ilmarinen and Hiisi. Another son is suggested by Kullervo, sometimes known as Kalevanpoika, tragic hero of the book’s second half.
Kalevi (Kalev): Estonia’s epic hero of uncertain identity, the same name sometimes used to describe the man and his son. Kalev stories are thought to pre-date the separation of Finns and Estonians. Possibly also related to an early name for Tallinn, which the Eastern Slavs knew as Kolyvan, and Abu Abd Allah Muhammad al-Idrisi al-Qurtubi al-Hasani al-Sabti, aka Al Idrisi (أبو عبد الله محمد الإدريسي), Arab cartographer*, apparently included a town called Qlwny (قلوري or قلوني or قلون?… original untraced) – which, adding the absent vowels, does resemble Kolyvan – in the geography he completed for Roger II of Sicily in 1154, Nuzhat al-muštāq fī iḫtirāq al-āfāq, better known as Tabula Rogeriana or, simpler still, Roger’s Book. Questions obviously arise as to the accuracy of the name with transliterations hopping from Qlwr to Qlwry and Qlwn to Qalaven, along with suggestions that the initial Q should be a T and could be read as Arabic thalž (ثلج), meaning ice. (The entire question needs to be analyzed by a specialist in medieval Arabic script.) See Kalevipoja below.
* His determination of the source of the Nile eliminated the current theory that it was on a hill on the moon.
Kalevipoja (Kalevipoeg): Official version: Title and giant eponymous hero of Kreutzwald’s epic poem, said by many to trigger the sense of (Romantic) nationalism in Estonia, by others vice versa. To avoid rehashing a tale a million times retold, we look at the story from another angle. Other entries (Hiiela, Kalevala, Saarepiiga…) suggest that the Kalevipoeg story dates back a very long time. Felix Oinas (1911-2004), a specialist in Estonian folklore, discusses various Kalevipoeg stories bearing striking resemblances to those about Tsar Dukljan or Dukljanin (better known as Diocletian) in Serbian mythology (see refs). Castrén (1813-1853), first translator of the Kalevala (V.1, 1835) believed that the enmity between the Southerners and Northerners was sung long before the Finns had left their Asiatic birth-place. Thomas Sefton puts forward some interesting arguments that the Kalev stories may have shared a common parent with the Oedipus, Beowulf and Sigurð legends (see refs), the foundations dating back some 4-5000 years, remembering that we have only a tiny filtrate of primitive tales to work from. Firstly, although Kalev is sometimes confused with Kalevipoeg; Kalevala’s Kullervo is also known as Kalevanpoika and seems to have been the son (or grandson?) of Kalervo, so the two generations issue is probably correct. The Kullervo cycle of the Kalevala is probably of old Estonian origin. Further south we have Oedipus, generally assumed to be named for his swollen feet due to their being fettered before his exposure on a hill to die. Thanks to various shepherds, stock characters in the saved infant of future glory legends (see also JC), not only does he survive but is also adopted by a king. Given the Ancient Greek repugnance for ugliness or deformity – cause enough in itself for infanticide – it is highly unlikely that a deformed baby would end up adopted in the first place, let alone by a king. Further, his fettering is perhaps the only occurrence of it ever happening, and the entire foot issue seems to be a Chinese whisper of another foot/leg-related issue. Another interpretation of his name is more in line with the history of infanticide, i.e. throwing into rivers or the sea, with or without the possible guilt-relieving vessel (not the first example in antiquity: Darius, Moses, Perseus, Semiramis, etc. (or later: Väinämöinen), their survival often a litmus test for being “destined for greatness”), resulting in his name being originally Oedipais (swollen, i.e. agitated sea). And three-month-old Kullervo is also thrown into the water in a barrel and survives. This, at least, gives us our first tenuous links between Oedipus, Kalevipoeg and Kullervo/Kalevanpoika. The second is the mother/incest motif: where Oedipus marries his mother, Kalevipoeg/Kullervo seduce their sister, and both mother and sister commit suicide. Whether this reflects different attitudes to incest – stricter in the harsher-to-live-in north? – is another kettle of fish. Third: destruction of the land: all three, in different ways, wreak havoc. For Kalevipoeg, this would be outside Kreutzworld, where he is occasionally merged with the devil, and his plowing made the land infertile. And fourth: oracles. Oedipus’ is well known: kill Dad, marry Mum. Kalev foretells his yet-to-be-born son’s glory then promptly falls ill and dies, and Kalevipoeg ends up dying due to a double enchantment on his sword: one on Kalevipoeg by its maker, the other he placed himself, but aiming at someone else, cutting off his lower legs (see Chinese whisper above). Kullervo, son of the sole survivor of his uncle’s fratricidal massacre, prophesizes he will kill the man and all his clan (which he does). But, still, nothing absolutely clear-cut, as expected with tales dating that far back. And tell enough stories and you have to find similarities between one or the other. A serious study could well reveal more. Lastly, the name Kullervo is interesting. The possibility of Kalev being related to kala, fish, is not necessarily a red herring: Oinas believed the terms Kalev and Kalevipoeg designated persons of the early Estonian and Karelian nobility, and what better name to give a coastal sea lord/dynasty whose main source of revenue could well be fish? Kalev to Kullervo or Kullervo to Kalev is but one step, and if, as Sefton suggests, Kullervo is a distant cousin of old Germanic characters such as Beowulf and Sigurð, both of whose stories revolve around gold or hoards and/or monsters/dragons, and if his name is causatively related to kulta, Finnish for gold, an early version of the character might have been a person or mythological figure involved in a remarkable find. As you’ve probably noticed, I could go on for hours. But, QED, won’t. Readers curious as to the mechanical issues facing gigantism should read the paper by Henn Voolaid in the appendix.
Sturgeon General’s warning: not all that’s black is caviar. Caveat.
Kalinini M. (Mikhail Ivanovich Kalinin, 1875-1946): Bolshevik revolutionary and head of state of the Soviet Union from 1919 to 1946. Married to Estonian Katarina Loоrberg, later discovered to be a “counterrevolutionary Trotskyite” (“confessed” in 1938, released from camp 1945). The former Kalinin District of Tallinn covered roughly the present-day districts of Põhja-Tallinn and Haabersti. Soviet Era renaming (1950-1990) of Kopli.
Kaljase (Kaljas): Schooner, fore-and-aft schooner.
Kalju (Kalju): Rock, boulder.
Kallaku (Kallak): Incline, slope, rake (of a theatre, i.e. the floor, not the lady-killer). First known as Douglase (Duglase (1920) after the infamous Swedish mercenary Count Gustaf Otto Douglas (1687-1771), Governor of Estonia (1738-1740) and responsible for extensive burning and brutality in Finland during the Great Northern War. Also Soviet Era renaming (1948-1989) of Piiskopi.
Kallaste (Kaldad [pl.]): Shore, coast, bank (Sing.: kallas).
Kalmistu (Kalmistu): Cemetery, graveyard, burial ground, churchyard. Alternative names for cemetery include Surnuaed or garden of death and Luudemägi, mountain of bones… Fun. Known for a very short while (1966) as Liivakalmistu, or “sandy cemetery”. A propos, Liiva Hannus, John o’Sand, Sandy John, is another name for everyone’s best friend (always there at the last): the Grim Reaper.
Kalmuse (Kalmus): Calamus, sweet flag, Acorus calamus, being sterile, it’s probably a human-cultivated plant.
Kaluri (Kalur): Fisherman. Named after nearby fishermen’s kolkhoz.
Kanarbiku (Kanarbik): Common Heather, Heather, Ling, Heath, Brier (decreasing order of correct usage), Calluna vulgaris. The generic name Calluna comes from the Greek, to sweep, since it used to be used in broom-making.
Kandle (Kannel): Estonian zither, with strings of horsehair (usu. 4) or metal (usu. 7). Exquisite to listen to. Given its neighbors – Laulu, Vanemuise, etc. – perhaps attempting to associate the instrument with the mythical birth of Estonia.
Kanepi (Kanep): Hemp. Word derived from 6/7th-C Proto-Latvian. Belonging to Kivi’s group of the tekstiilitoorainetenimeliste tänavad, or streets named after textile raw materials, in Sitsi district, Põhja-Tallinn. See also Lina.
Kangru (Kangur): Weaver, name derived from the nearby Balti Manufaktuur textile plant (awarded the Order of the October Revolution in 1976, now Baltex 2000). Another translation is “heap of granite”. Although the “heap of granite” belies yet another reality. A kangur is also a Bronze age (8th- to 7th-C BCE) burial ground, stone barrow or cairn-grave, where the dead were laid, head facing north, eyes towards the sun. There is a large burial site in Rebala, Jõelähtme, some 20 km east of Tallinn town center. Five villages are also called Kangru in Estonia.
Kannikese (Kannikene): Violet or Pansy, Viola spp.. Kannikene is the diminutive of Kannike (violet, pansy) which is the diminutive of Kann, flower. Estonians like diminutives. One of a group of flower-name streets in, aptly, Lilleküla (flower village) district. See Kibuvitsa.
Kannustiiva (Kannustiib): Two sorts, the jalaka-kannustiib, the white letter hairstreak, Strymonidia w-album; and toominga-kannustiib, the black hairstreak butterfly, S. pruni. Part of a swarm of butterflies in the Lepiku district. Why are their young called caterpillars and not buttermaggots? (Actually, the word comes from Old French: chatepelose, hairy cat, later modified by verb piller, to pillage, plunder, reflected in the Estonian name: röövik, plunderer, robber, etc.). See also Kedriku.
Kantsi (Kants): Citadel, stronghold, bulwark, tower. Named after former military training facilities.
Kanuti (Kanut): Confusion in the Danish House of Knut (Canute). Canute’s Guild, Kanuti Gild, was a Hanseatic merchant guild involving the more complex crafts: mainly goldsmiths, watchmakers, milliners, but also bakers, shoemakers and painters. First recorded 1326, probably founded 13th-C, disbanded 1920. Name comes from Knut Lavard (1090ish-1131), Duke of Schleswig and sovereign over the Western Wends, canonized 1171, feast day January 7, the day on which he was assassinated. Knut Lavard was nephew of Knut IV (1043ish-1086), aka Canute the Saint / the Holy, great-nephew of Knut the Great (985ish-1035). Knut IV’s official Catholic feast-day is January 19, but celebrated on January 13 in Estonia, Sweden and Finland, apparently for his decreeing that Christmas last 20 days. Since both were saints, both were nephews of a King Knud, both had feast days in January, confusion seems inevitable. Some of the more fervent Estonians still celebrate Canute’s day, Nuudipäev, (any date ranging from January 13 to January 7) by drinking.
Kapi A. (Artur Kapp, 1878-1952): Composer and organ virtuoso, born in Suure-Jaani (Big John’s), one-time director of the Astrakhan Music School and leader of the Estonian Academic Society of Music Artists.
Kappeli J. (Johannes Kappel, 1855-1907): Composer, studied at St-Petersburg Conservatory and remained in Russia.
Kari (1] Kari, 2] Karja): 1] Reef, rocky islet, shelf. Also mound, such as that on which a castle is built. 2] Cattle. Given its neighbor of Madala, probably 1]. Renamed (1953-1995), along with Sitsi, as Majakovski V. during the Soviet Era.
Karjamaa (Karjamaa): Pasture, grazing-land.
Karjavärava (Karjavärav): Cattle gate, in the sense of passage into a city, like Bishopsgate, London, not in the former Nordic sense of “way”, “street” (cf. Swedish gata, Danish gade) as in Fisher gate or Carter gate in Nottingham, UK, etc. Gate has an odd, two-path etymology. The first from PIE *ǵʰéd-, to defecate, via Greek, χέζω, ditto, to Proto-Germanic *gatą to Old English ġeat (both meaning hole, opening) and thence to our more modern meanings of passage, and the second, from Proto-Germanic *gatwǭ (which looks clearly related to its cousin above) through Old Norse gata which seems to be a logical offshoot of an earlier stage of the other meaning which almost by definition implies a path of some sort.
Karnapi (?): Meaning unknown. Possible derivative of a (Swedish?) person’s name? Perhaps a modification of kanep:kanepi, hemp, cannabis? Area on the southern rim of Aegna island, bordering Karnepi kõrgendik, or Karnep Heights. See also Kurikneeme.
Karsti (Karst): Karst.
Karu (Karu): Bear. First recorded as Medvedjevi tn after Russian property owner, later translated (or transliterated) to its present name, Bärenstraße, Medwedi tn, etc., and temporarily renamed Kingissepa V. from 1940-1941. The new Jewish synagogue is at no.16. Only (?) street set with two anagrams: Kura and Raku.
Karukella (Karukell): Lit. bear bell. Small pasqueflower, Pulsatilla spp.. Likes limestone which, for a flower in Estonia, is a no-brainer. Also grows in my garden. Not to be confused with Karukeel, lit. bear tongue, Anchusa arvensis, the bugloss, a weed. Also grows in my garden. Bugger.
Karuse (Karune): Hairy, shaggy.
Karuvildiku (Karuvildik): Not quite sure. Lit. “bear’s felt boot”. Given its company, fair to assume it could be (intended as?) the name of a moss, although quite a thorough search found no mention of the name. Closest we get is kännuvildik, Aulacomnium androgynum, the aulacomnium or lover’s moss. See also Käolina.
Kaskede (Kased [pl.]): Birches, birch-trees. (Sing.: Kask).
Kassi (Kass): Cat.
Kassikäpa (Kassikäpp): Catsfoot, Cat’s-ear or, as I’m led to believe, Pussytoes, Antennaria spp.. It’s a herbaceous perennial – gardeners will know what that is, although I’m damned if I do.
Kassisaba (Kassisaba): Lit. cat’s tail. Spiked speedwell, Veronica spicata, beautiful blue flower, one of the Veronicas (see also Mailase). Likes dry, calcareous, mountainous zones so what it’s doing here I don’t know. Slum area in the late-19th-C.
Kastani (Kastan): Chestnut.
Kasteheina (Kastehein): Bent, Agrostis spp., a grass, but not, despite the reiteration of seemingly unseemly language, the criminally-inclined informer…
Kastiku (Kastik): Street named but not yet built (they do these things in Estonia, cold climates call for foresight) so not sure whether a small reed or a vaulting-box.
Katariina (Katariina): Catherine.
Katleri (?): After name of local farm estate, known previously and variously as Karlowa, Carlowa, Карлова and, once, Tondi.
Katoliku (Adj.): Catholic. Actually Katoliku Hoov belonging to Tallinna Dominiiklaste, the Tallinn Dominicans, the tacky insignia of which, a dog, is a rather poor piece of Latin punning: the Dominicans, or Dominicanes as they like to be called, are a Catholic order founded in 1215 by St Dominic. Being defenders of the faith, they call themselves Domini Canes, dogs of the lord. Ho ho. That’s dog-Latin for you…
Katusepapi (Katusepapp): Roofing felt, tar paper. Named after the factory producing same in 19th-C, Tallinna Katusepapivabrik, founded 1898.
Kauba (Kaup): Goods, wares, merchandise. Germanic loanword, German Kauf or Swedish köp. Same root gives Denmark’s København or Copenhagen, trading port dating back to at least 11th-C, earliest recorded name: Køpmannæhafn Traders’/Merchants’ harbor. Previously Frachtstraße, Waarenstraße, Товарная ул, respectively freight, wares, commodities.
Kauge (Kauge): Far, far off, distant, remote.
Kaunis (Kaunis): Beautiful, lovely, pretty.
Kauri (Kaur): Loons. One of the mysteries of modern-day life: I, British-born, never heard any name but “loon”, although it seems to be the American name while Europeans say “diver”… Four species breeding in Estonia: Järvekaur, Black-throated Diver or Arctic Loon, Gavia arctica; Jääkaur, Great Northern Diver or Common Loon, G. immer; Punakurk-kaur, Red-throated Diver (Eur. Name) or Red-throated Loon (US name), G. stellata; and Tundrakaur, White- or Yellow-billed Diver (bill color debated, more likely yellow here), G. adamsii. One of a bird-name group of streets. See also Kiuru.
Kedriku (Kedrik): Moth of the Lasiocampid family, aka eggars or snout moths. Common to Estonia are Lehekedrik, the Lappet, Gastropacha quercifolia; Männikedrik, the Pine-tree Lappet, Dendrolimus pini; Rohukedrik, the Drinker, Euthrix potatoria; and Aia-rõngakedrik, disrespectfully known as The Lackey, Malacosoma neustria, as well as its lowlier cousin Niidu-rõngakedrik, the Ground Lackey, M. castrense, rare in Estonia, other than Saaremaa. Part of a lepidopteran group. See also Kirilase.
Keemia (Keemia): Chemistry.
Keeru (Keerd): Lay, turn, coil. Also used in yarn manufacture for the direction of twist, e.g. s-keerd or z-keerd, S- or Z-twist, usually measured in tpi, or twists per inch. Two-ply yarns will tend to use one of each. Named, apparently, after the shape of the street which, relative to most Tallinn thoroughfares, is straight as a die.
Keldrimäe (Keldrimägi): Cellar hill, named after a large concrete “cellar” (underground storage facility?) in the neighborhood. Known formerly as Israelgasse (1893) plus variants Iisraeli (1921), Израильская ул (1907), but mainly Israeli tn (1885-1954), then Turu (1954-1991) during the Soviet Era. The first Jews to arrive in Estonia are believed to have come with the Teutonic knights. Jewish streets/quarters have been a typical feature of European towns since at least the 10th-C, with names like “Old Jewry”, “rue de la Juiverie” (France). The word ghetto comes from the Venetian dialect, gheta, after the 14th- to 15th-C foundry area where Jews were required to live.
Kelmiküla (Kelmiküla): Rogue’s village, scampstown (a slum in the late 19th-C). Also name of story by Kitzbergi A. about life in Viljandi. Why it got that name is uncertain. It can’t be because it’s on the wrong side of the tracks, because it’s on both…
Kentmanni (Wilhelm Gottfried Kentmann, ca.1800-ca.1874): Pedagogue and headmaster of a school for poor children (Luthers Armenschule, funded by Christian Luther) from 1830-1874 (attended, among others, by Bornhöhe E. and Vilde E.). The street was also known for short periods (1939-1940 & 1941-1944) after Konstantin Päts, 1st President of the Republic of Estonia (died while undergoing a rest at a Soviet psychiatric hospital, 1956), interspersed by Kreuksi J. in the Soviet Era (1940-1941 & 1944-1989), with, seemingly but uncertainly, a brief, few-day interlude in 1942, after Hermann Göring. Street namesake often confused Kentmann senior and junior: Woldemar Friedrich, author of Koolilaste Geograahwia raamat (Geography book for schoolchildren, 1875) and Geograahwia kaardid koolilaste geograahwia-raamatu lisaks (Maps for a geography textbook, 1884).
Kerese P. (Paul Keres, 1916-1975): Estonian Chess-Master, for some, “the Paganini of chess”, for Spassky the “Pope of chess”, for others, a face on a 5-krooni note (see note [foot-, not bank-] under Hiidtamme). Chess in Estonian is male, a word invented by Ado Grenzstein in the late 19th-C.
Kesk (0, attributive): Center, middle.
Kesk-Ameerika (Kesk-Ameerika): [Mid, Betwixt or Between] America. (Geographically: Central America.) Give or take a meter or two, connects Suur-Ameerika and Väike-Ameerika. Renamed (1959-1991), apparently bizarrely (but actually fitting into a “skyscape” group), as Kuu during the Soviet Era.
Keskküla (Keskküla): Mid-village, middle of the village, also name of (now) ruined manor house in Läänemaa county.
Kesklinn (0): Town center (municipal district).
Kesktee (Kesktee): The kuldne kesktee is the golden mean, but this one’s slightly more concrete, so just “middle road” or, at a push, happy medium.
Keskuse (Keskus): Generally: center. But given the naming of Viru Keskus, Kristiine Keskus, Järve Keskus and so on, also “mall”.
Kessi (Kess): Net bag (bag for putting nets in), backpack, pouch, wallet or basket made from birch bark or bast, cf. Hungarian kász-u, “a little container or pot made of bark”; both suggested as possibly related to Etruscan cesu, piece, trunk. Part of a fishing-related street-name zone, see also Käba.
Ketraja (Ketraja): Spinner, as well as the operator, spinster. Here, named after those working at “Balti Manufaktuur”. But also, for those fascinated with the truly trivial or relatively irrelevant, a dialectical name for the European Nightjar, öösorr, Caprimulgus europaeus.
Ketta (Ketas): Disk, discus, puck. Kettamaailm is Discworld, and kõvaketas is hard disk.
Kevade (Kevad): Spring (season). Also title of first volume of classic Estonian film trilogy – Kevade, Suvi & Sügis (buy them, they’ve got English subtitles), based on novels of the same name by Oskar Luts (1887-1953). He also wrote a fourth, Talve, which was not filmed. Note the first title?… It seems to be an alternative nominative found more poetic than its dull everyday form. See also Suve.
Kibuvitsa (Kibuvits): Dog rose, Rosa canina. Its hips contain high levels of vitamin C. English name said to date back to ±18th-C when used to treat bites from rabid dogs. One of a group of flower-name streets. See Kullerkupu.
Kiek in de Kök (⇑): Usually translated as “peep in the kitchen”, although “look”, cf. German gucken or kucken, might be more appropriate. Said to derive from Low Saxon kijk in de keuken. Earliest recorded spelling (1577) was Kyck in de Kaeken. Explanations revolve around its uncommon height of 38 m setting it so far above neighboring houses’ chimneys that the guards could, theoretically, see straight down into the kitchens, or see what the enemy was cooking, since their kitchens would be furthest from the front. My personal suspicion, however, given later (and central to southern) German words such as Guckindiewelt (2nd half 18th-C) and northern German variant Kiekindiewelt, curious child, Topfgucker, Nosy Parker, lit. saucepan peeker and, particularly, Guckfenster, Judas window, spyhole, peephole (recorded 16th-C), of which the tower has many, is that the name means just a small kitchen- or observation-window and the tower was named by metonymy. See also Kuldjalatorn.
Kihnu (Kihnu): Island about 10 km off the coast of Pärnu, western Estonia: pop.: ±560, 16.4 km².
Kiige (Kiik): Swing. Made of wood, the traditional Estonian swing took on as many passengers as a Greek motorcycle and provided a similar degree of adrenalin. Today, higher, more evolved and distinctly more singular, an Estonian sport, kiiking, where the participant must swing 360° over the top bar. Having killed at least 3 children in the past 800 years, Europe has deemed Estonia’s traditional swings unsafe, and therefore illegal. Cars, on the other hand… Street located near site of former kiik.
Kiiking, photo by Ernst Vittoff, 1920
Kiini (Kiin): 1) Gadfly or botfly, divided into three families: nahakiinlased, the “skin bot flies”, Hypodermatinae; maokiinlased, the “stomach bot flies”, Gasterophilinae; and ninakiinlased, the “nose bot flies”, Oestrinae; 2) Billhook or heavy chopping-knife, apparently from the Latvian, šķīnis. Interestingly, kiinijooks is a stampede of reindeer on hearing the buzz of the botfly. The flies eject (dare we say “ping”?) larvae into the host’s nasal cavities where they burrow, develop and grow, then escape to pupate in the soil, causing extreme pain and discomfort both inwards and out. An arms race has evolved with reindeer burying their muzzle in the snow, vegetation or water when they hear the sound, and the fly learning stealth strategies. A similar expression for causing a stampede also exists, kiili jooksma, but seems erroneously due to similar sounding insect names, see Kiili. Kinni jooksma, on the other hand, refers to when your brain goes dead. So much change in such a tiny soundlet.
Kiire (Kiire): Ray, as in sun or light. Street now suffering from severe personality disorder. During the Soviet Era, Väike-Ameerika was renamed Kiire [1950-1991] and the existing Kiire was renamed Väike-Kiire [1950-1996]. Later , the then Kiire tn from the railway to Tulika along with Kiire põik were renamed Kotkapoja, and Kiire tn from Tehnika (next to the railway) to Pärnu switched back to Väike-Ameerika) while Väike-Kiire reverted to its original Kiire.
Kiisa (Kiisk): Eurasian Ruffe, Gymnocephalus cernuus, member of the perch family. Oddly, TT puts this in the raudteejaamade-nimeliste tänavate piirkonnas or, for those who still haven’t learned the language despite the encouragement offered by the present tomelet, railway-station named street district. Perhaps confusing it with Raudkiisk (see Ogaliku), raud meaning “iron” and kiiskama is to glisten or sparkle as all trains should. As usual, however, TT’s right, it’s the name of a station/municipality on the Tallinn-Väike line 20-odd km to the south, so not a fish out of water, and probably named after it anyway.
Kiive (Kiive): One of the numerous alternative or dialectal names for Kiivitaja, the lapwing, plover, or peewit/pewit. Other nicknames include hirmutaja (the “frightener”), kiivits, poola kana (Polish chicken), sookajak (marsh gull), tillvitt, tüvitaja and vaenulind (hostile bird). Nice reputation. Two species breeding in Estonia: Kiivitaja, Northern Lapwing, Vanellus vanellus and Valgesaba-kiivitaja, White-tailed Lapwing, Vanellus leucurus. If, on the other hand, the name also means plover, six nest in Estonia: Liivatüll, Ringed Plover, Charadrius hiaticula; Mustjalg-tüll aka Meritüll, Kentish Plover, C. alexandrinus; Plüü, Grey Plover, Pluvialis squatarola; Rüüt, European Golden Plover, P. apricaria; Tundrarüüt, Pacific Golden Plover, P. fulva and Väiketüll, Little Plover, C. dubius. Named after former city commons where the bird was often seen.
Lapwing, © Remo Savisaar (blog.moment.ee)
(see next photo by Remo Savisaar)
Kilbi (Kilp): Shield, badge. And one for car lovers everywhere: ilukilp, beauty shield, is a hubcap.
Kilde (?): Old farm name (but none listed in KNAB). Etymology most uncertain. Perhaps from Old Norse kelda, spring or source?
Kindral Fedjuninski (Ivan Fedyuninsky, 1900-1977): Much-decorated Hero of the Soviet Union, and General (kindral) of the 2nd Shock Army at the 1944 Battle of Narva. Soviet Era renaming first (1978-1981) as Ivan Fedjuninski then Kindral Fedjuninski (1981-1991) of Paekaare.
Kinga (King): Shoe street. Always has been… Although the names more often suggested the maker (strata calcificum , platea sutorum , schohmekerstrate , Schuhmacherstraße , Schusterstraße  and Башмачная ул ), than the object (schostrate , Schohstrate [?], Schuhstraße , and Schuhgasse ). Clearly, a very pedestrian precinct, presumably well-cobbled.
Kingissepa V. (Viktor Kingissepp, 1888-1922): Sinister-looking leader of the Estonian Communist Party, arrested by the KAPO (Kaitsepolitsei, “Secret” or Security Police) on May 1st and executed for treason three days later. Revenge was got during the 1941 War Tribunal of the NKVD Baltic District Forces with the execution of Aleksander Läve, Paul Malsvel(l), Julius Palm, and Johan Nõmmik-Linkhorst responsible, directly or indirectly, for his arrest. Soviet Era renaming (1974-1990) of Jõe, Liivalaia and Pronksi. The town of Kuressaare on Saaremaa was similarly renamed Kingissepa (1952-1988) while Yamburg (Я́мбург), aka Jama (Я́ма), in Leningrad Oblast was renamed Kingisepp (Ки́нгисепп, or Кингисе́пп) in 1922. The Kingisepp district also has the dubious distinction of being home to the forthcoming extinction of Votic, a language very close to Estonian, with perhaps only twenty or so speakers left alive.
Kiriku (Kirik): Church. All three addresses, Kiriku plats, põik & tänav respectively renamed (1950-1989) as Raamatukogu during the Soviet Era. According to the 2005 Eurostat “Eurobarometer” poll, only 16% of Estonian citizens responded that “they believe there is a God”; 54% that “they believe there is some sort of spirit or life force”; and 26% that “they do not believe there is any sort of spirit, God, or life force”. Likewise, the 2007–2008 Gallup poll found 84% of the population stating a “Lack of Importance of Religion”. In a world where lack of belief in god correlates with advanced civilization, Estonia is at the top of the league.
Kirilase (Kirilane): As McCruiskeen would say: “quite a pancake this one”. After a long process of elimination, given its almost totally lepidopteran neighbors, we can almost certainly exclude the following fancies: a) a “k” omitted from kiriklane, churchman; b) a farm or farmer’s name derived from Russian first name Kiril; c) a neologism or poetic term for a typesetter, writer or font-worker (kiri is a letter, writing or print); and d) despite the tendency to nickname this popular little bug, kirilind is the closest we get to lepatriinu, or ladybird. As to the moths and butterflies, there are piles of them, matching the street to varying degrees. The closest match may be Kiriöölane, with Kanarbiku-kiriöölane, the Beautiful Yellow Underwing moth, Anarta myrtilli, or Sinika-kiriöölane, the Small Dark Yellow Underwing, A. cordigera, both common to Estonia. The next tempting candidate is one of the Festoon butterflies, although both are unlikely. In adjectives, the -lane ending designates appurtenance: an Estonian, for example, is an Eestlane, and in zoology, the -idae ending designating families is rendered -lased in Estonian so, since they’re obviously butterflies, the Kiriliblikas could be called Kirilased (nominative plural), hence kirilase (genitive singular) which would be all very nice and QED, except that Euroopa putukad firmly annotates Lääne-kiriliblikas, the Spanish Festoon, Zerynthia rumina, as Eestis ei ole: in Estonia ain’t none; as to Lõuna-kiriliblikas, the Southern Festoon, Z. polyxena, this is even listed as a wrong answer to the local “Who wants to be a millionaire” question “which of the following is an Estonian butterfly?” and you can’t argue with that. So: streets in Spain, Turkey and certain parts of NE Moldavia would be fine but Tallinn, niet. Having said that, a little voice does nag, “Yes, but there’s no Islandi in Estonia either… It could also be a shortened form of Kasekirilane the Kentish Glory moth, Endromis versicolora which is common in Estonia. Not lastly, but that’s as far as I’m going, there’s a half a page or so of Kirivaksiklased which vaguely fit the bill, but only vaguely. Definition unfinished. Any help on the matter welcomed (reward of €17.50 offered for first realistic answer backed up by credible evidence), any information about affordable rest-homes for the toponymically befuddled, please contact the publisher. Part of a lepidopteran group. See also Kuldtiiva.
Kirsi (Kirss): Cherry. Another mini group of berry streets, this time in the Lilleküla (flower village) district. Name ultimately derives from an ancient Turkish city/peninsula whence the first cherries were exported, known to the Greeks as Cerasus, hence Fr. cerise, G. Kirsche, etc., (the same principle gave us currants from Corinth, etc.). Reputedly brought back to Rome by Lucullus after the Third Mithridatic War. This was the Mithridates (No.IV) who gave his name to “Mithridatism” for plying his body with small doses of poison to protect himself from assassination attempts (obviously a popular chap). The story that when he attempted to use the method to commit suicide, failed, and had to have himself run through by his bodyguard, a double irony to say the least, is almost certainly apocryphal. See also Marja.
Kitseaed (Kitseaed): Goat garden.
Kitsekakra (Kitsekakar): Street no longer exists, but it’s a nice name – Leopard’s Bane, lit. goat’s camomile, Doronicum orientale – so it stays; not to be confused with kitsekakar-ristirohi, Senecio doronicum.
Kitseküla (Kitseküla): Goat’s village, goatsville (slum area in the late 19th-C).
Kitzbergi A. (August Kitzberg, 1855-1927): Author and playwright. Romantic to realist writer of short stories and, by which he’s better known, plays such as Libahunt (Werewolf. Interestingly, in Estonian folklore, werewolves tended to be women, but see Viru (tänav)) and Kauka jumal (God/Lord of the Purse [but see Börsi]). Knowing Kitzberg to be a committed anti-drinker, playwright Oskar Luts (see Kevade) kept a bottle of whisky in a sculpture of his head. In 2005, the post office gave him a sesquicentennial first-day cover. Kitzberg lived at Posti 23, Viljandi, in 1893–1894, so they probably owed him one.
Kiuru (Kiur): The Pipit, dozens of ’em breeding in Estonia: Metskiur, Tree Pipit, Anthus trivialis; Mongoolia kiur, Blyth’s Pipit, A. godlewskii; Mägikiur, Water Pipit, A. spinoletta; Niidukiur aka Stepi-niidukiur, Richard’s Pipit, A. richardi; Nõmmekiur, Tawny Pipit, A. campestris; Randkiur, Rock Pipit, A. petrosus; Sookiur, Meadow Pipit, A. pratensis; Taigakiur, Olive-backed Pipit, A. hodgsoni and Tundrakiur aka Punakurk-kiur, Red-throated Pipit, A. cervinus. One of a bird-name group of streets. See also Koskla.
Kivi (Kivi): Stone, rock, boulder (one of the oldest known words common to Finno-Ugric languages, cf.: kivi (Finnish, Karelian & Veps), кӱ (Mari), кев (Mordvin), kő – more apparent in the accusative case: kővet – (Hungarian), geađgi (Northern Sami), kevi (Hunnic) and, even further back, kuikna (Etruscan: stone projectile) and Sumerian kur, ku-ur or ku. The Etruscan and Sumerian etymologies in the present are from Prof. Dr. Alfréd Tóth’s various mold-breaking dictionaries, the validity of which I am unable to judge. Part of what I call the kivinimeliste tänavate hulk (stone-named street cohort). Tartar, for those who’re interested (or don’t brush regularly), is called hambakivi, toothstone. No relation to Tatari. Anagram of Viki.
Kiviaia (Kiviaed): Stone wall, dry-stone wall.
Kivila (Kivila): Place of stone, stony area. Interestingly, kivila could well be a contraction of kiviküla, stone village (see Hiiela), which used to be a slightly pejorative way of saying “town”. Whether this reflects on the grim, grey gracelessness of the Soviet-built Lasnamäe housing estates is another matter, all the more so since it’s a renaming from the Soviet Era Veimeri A. (1981-1995), a gentleman not without influence in deciding how the other 95% lived. On the other hand, using the same reasoning, it could also come from, e.g., kivivälja or similar, simply designating the place you to go to dig up rock, Lasnamäe is on a limestone plateau, and numerous quarries operated there in the Middle Ages, supplying Tallinn with much if not most of its building material.
Kivimäe (Kivimägi): Stone mountain.
Kiviranna (Kivirand): Stone waterfront.
Kiviriku (Kivirik): Saxifrage, Saxifraga spp.. Estonian name reflects the Latin: saxum, coarse, unworked stone, rock, & frangere, to break: kivi, stone, rock, & -*rik, defect, ruin, decay, both reflecting the plant’s capacity to send its roots into cracks and slowly cause them to split.
Kloostri (Klooster): Abbey, cloister, monastery, convent.
Kloostrimetsa (Kloostrimets): Abbey, cloister, monastery, convent woods.
Kodu (Kodu): Home, hearth, dwelling. Kodu armas kodu is, of course, home sweet home.
Koge (Koge): Cog (or cog-built ship), ship dating back to 10th-C, usually oak, single mast, square sail, common trading vessel in the Baltic. By 12th-C, its capacious, high-sided design with true rudder made it capable of transporting up to 500 persons, and be used as either cargo or fighting ship. Street currently lurking in the primeval ooze awaiting development beside the docks.
Kohila (Kohila): Town and manor house (mõis) in Harjumaa. Latter first mentioned 1438 under the German name of Koil, listed in the 1241 Liber Census Daniae as Koil or Koylae. Street running parallel to the railway track at Tallinn-Väike which leads to it.
Kohtu (Kohus): Law court, tribunal.
Koidiku (Koidik): Sun-up, dawn, daybreak, cockcrow.
Koidula L. (Lydia Koidula, 1843-1886): Lydia of the Dawn, sobriquet of the bushy-browed Lydia Emilie Florentine Jannsen, Estonian kirjaneitsi (maiden of letters), poet and journalist. Mugshot on 100-krooni note (see Hiidtamme). By tradition, every All-Estonian Song Festival since 1869 closes with her Mu Isamaa on Minu Arm (My Fatherland is My Love). Earliest records (19th-C, date unsure) have the street as Catharinenthalscher Weg (see Kadrioru), mutating to Tihvti in 1885, from tihvt, a tack or pin, not impossibly due to its proximity to the “metals” sector (see Hõbeda). In 1907, however, while the German camp translated it as Stiftstr., with the Estonians, oddly, following suit a year later by switching to Stifti, the Russian camp called it Институтская ул., institute. Why, remains a mystery*. This, of course, was not enough: having failed to confuse the greatest possible number with these shenanigans, in 1921, the Estonians named it both Institudi and Instituudi, revealing once again their perennial perplexity as to the consonance of vowel length.
* As a rule, whenever you hear the word “mystery”, understand it as indicating that no-one has bothered or succeeded in finding out the actual reason, in other words, a “mystery” is simply an expression of ignorance.
Kolde (Kolle): Hearth, fireplace, grate. Named after nearby housing scheme kooperatiivehitusühing (cooperative building union), “Oma Kolle”, a sort of “Home Sweet Home” (lit. my (one’s) own home/hearth).
Koldrohu (Koldrohi): Common kidney vetch, lady’s finger, Anthyllis vulneraria.
Kollane (Adj.): Yellow. Named after yellow-painted wooden barracks, demolished 1870. Street names indicated by an adjective (occasionally an adverb or attributive) are in the nominative. See also Punane.
Komeedi (Komeet): Comet. Previously Kuu. This was a type example used by Aavik (see Aaviku) in his Keeleuuendus, or language renovation, for creating new words. To avoid convoluted expressions such as täht, mil saba on (periphrase), star, which has a tail, sabaga täht (syntagm), star with tail, or sabatäht (compound word), tail-star, all of which fail to meet his demand for simplicity, esthetics and efficiency, you pick a new one from selected sources and Bob sinu onu on! It was probably the comet which manifested the adoption of a medieval belief in the money-goblin (perhaps a hand-me-down from old legends of finders of hoards of gold [see Kalevipoja], not forgetting that Estonia has one of the richest collections of hoards in Europe), a helpful little chap that flew about collecting milk, butter, grain, etc., for its master and/or causing discord between the various parties, its names including: tulihänd, fire-tail, and pisuhänd, spark-tail. Celestial street-name group. See also Kuu.
Kompassi (Kompass): Compass. Probably after an inn of that name. Street first recorded in 1830 as sogenannte [so-called] Compass-strasse.
Komsomoli (Komsomol): Youth wing of the Soviet Union Communist Party: the Communist Union of Youth. Well over half of today’s adult Russian population is believed to have once been a member. See also Pioneeride. Soviet Era renaming (1950-1991) of Suur-Ameerika.
Koogu (Kook): Hook, bucket pole (for drawing water from wells).
Koore (Koor): Cream. Listed in TT although not, actually, in Tallinn. Be this as it may, we keep it for the entertainment value of which it has, for those of goldfish intellects, well, not much actually: formerly known as Kirsi. Actually, given its tree-related neighbors, it means bark (other translations include skin or peel). But still not in Tallinn.
Koorti J. (Jaan Koort, 1883-1935): Jugendstil sculptor, painter and ceramicist. Began studies at Stieglitz school of art, St. Petersburg, then Paris École des Beaux-Arts, influenced by Bourdelle. Sculpture of him in Kadriorg, near the palace.
Kopliranna (Koplirand): Kopli beach. Formerly known as Koplirand, which only goes to show what a fresh kerbstone in the right place can do to your genitives.
Korgi (Kork): Cork, plug, stopper.
Kose (Kosk): Waterfall, rapids.
Kose-Kallaste (Kose-Kaldad [pl.]): [Kose district] Shores, banks, riversides, etc.
Kosemetsa (Kosemets): Woods by the (or with) waterfall.
Koskla (Koskel): Sawbill, large ducks with serrated bill for catching fish: Jääkoskel, Common Goosander, Gulaund or Goosander, Mergus merganser; Kübarkoskel, Hooded Merganser, Lophodytes cucullatus; Rohukoskel, Red-breasted Merganser, M. serrator; Väikekoskel aka Pudukoskel, Smew, M. albellus (uses tree holes, old woodpecker nests, etc., for breeding). All breeding in Estonia. One of a bird-name group of streets. See also Kotka.
Kotka (Kotkas): Eagle. Ten species breeding in Estonia: Kaeluskotkas, European Griffon Vulture, Gyps fulvus; Kalakotkas, Osprey, Pandion haliaetus; Kaljukotkas aka Maakotkas, Golden Eagle, Aquila chrysaetos; Madukotkas, Short-toed Eagle, Circaetus gallicus; Merikotkas, White-tailed Eagle, Haliaeetus albicilla; Raipekotkas, Egyptian Vulture, Neophron percnopterus; Raisakotkas, Monk Vulture, Aegypius monachus; Stepikotkas, Steppe Eagle, Aquila nipalensis; Suur-konnakotkas, Greater Spotted Eagle, Aquila clanga and Väike-konnakotkas, Lesser Spotted Eagle, Aquila pomarina. One of a bird-name group of streets. See also Kotkapoja.
Kotzebue (Otto von Kotzebue, 1787-1846): Baltic German born in Tallinn, completed three circumnavigations of the globe in Russian service. The north Alaskan town of Kotzebue (known as Qikiqtagruk, or “place shaped like a long island”, in Inupiaq) was named after him. Soviet Era renaming of this (1960-1990), Hiiu-Suurtüki (1959-1960) and Suurtüki (1960-1990) as Käsperti J..
Kraavi (Kraav): Ditch, trench, fosse.
Kreutzwaldi F.R. (Friedrich Reinhold Kreutzwald, 1803-1882): Original Estonian name, apparently Vindri Roin Ristmets. Later pseudonyms: K. Friedhold, Lauluisa (song father), Viru Laulik (see Lauliku). Shoemaker’s son, doctor (author of the once very important manual Kodutohter [Home Doctor] in 1878) and Estonian national poet, compiler of the Kalevipoeg, Estonia’s epic poem about the Son of Kalev, giant hero of the past, and vehicle for the National Awakening after 600 years of serfdom. Street once known as Romanov Prospect. See Kalevipoja.
Kriidi (Kriit): Chalk, crayon.
Kristiina (Kristiina): Proper name: Christina (but see next entry).
Kristiine (Kristina Augusta, 1626-1689): One time Queen, or “Girl King” of Sweden. Plus an exciting shopping mall.
Kruusa (Kruus): Gravel, shingle, ballast. Named after former gravel-pit.
Kruusaranna (Kruusarand): Shingle beach.
Kuberneri (Kuberner): Governor. But which one?
Kudu (Kudu): Spawn. Konnakudu is frogspawn.
Kuhlbarsi F. (Friedrich Kuhlbars, 1841-1924): Schoolteacher and author of lyrics to Eestimaa, mu isamaa (Estonia, my fatherland), the Estonian Scouts’ anthem. Part responsible for various “mythological” interpretations of Estonia’s past.
Kuiv (Kuiv): Dry – Kuival olema: to be on the rocks.
Kuke (Kukk): Cock, rooster.
Kuklase (Kuklane): Alternative name for Sipelga, ant, of the Formica genus. Also archaic name for ant, like its variant kusikuklane, suggesting the smell of pee that antheaps often have (kusi = urine), ditto in the English name of yore for ant, “pismire”. While I’m waffling, another earlier English name for ant is “emmet” from the Old English æmette, and, along with modern German Ameise, derived from the hypothetical *ai-, off or away, + *mait-, to cut or hew. German etymologists are still arguing whether it means that the ant body is segmented, or that they hew (read “bite”) off pieces of plant. Part of an insect street-name group. See also Parmu.
Kuldjalatorn (⇑): Golden leg/foot tower, originally built ±1311-1320. Previously known as de Guldene Voet. Estonians do not distinguish feet from legs, or hands from arms, rather confusing at times. See Sõnajala. A footnote in Tallinna Keskaegsed Kindlustused quotes Johansen (1959, not listed in appendix) as “d.h. Kuldjalg, warum bleibt unbekannt” (in other words Kuldjalg, but why remains unknown). Sounds a bit like the name of a tavern or cobbler to me. Revamped in the 16/17th-C as food and powder store and still used for the latter until 1725. See also Kuradi torn.
Kuldtiiva (Kuldtiib): Literally a Goldwing, but they’re probably not referring to armchairs on wheels, but butterflies of the Blue or Copper varieties. Valgetäpp-kuldtiib, Small or Common Copper, Lycaena phlaeas, and Leek-kuldtiib, the Scarce Copper (although rumor has it that they’re never around when you need ’em, both species are quite common in Estonia), Heodes virgaureae. Part of a lepidopteran group. See also Leediku.
Kuljuse (Kuljus): Pellet bell, sleigh-bell, bell, or alternative word for brass.
Kullassepa (Kullassepp): Goldsmith. Known earlier as vicus institoris (1327), platea institorum (14th-C) or kremerstrate (1389), translated variously as merchants’, grocers’ or haberdashers’ street. Became Kannengeter Strate in the 16th-C, for the tinsmiths, gradually climbing the social (and financial) ladder to silver for brooches, ouches, and similar embossed work (see Sõle) and thence to Goldschmiedestraße in the 18th-C, although the Russians continued calling it Серебряная ул. (silver street) until at least 1872.
Kullerkupu (Kullerkupp): Trollius or Globeflower, Trollius spp., related to the buttercups, but not to the cresses (with apologies for the extremely feeble pun)… One of a group of flower-name streets. See Lille.
Kullese (Kulles): Tadpole, flagellate (biological not theological) or, believe it or not, bluish grey cow.
Kulli (Kull): Harrier (hawk). Breeding in Estonia: Kanakull, Northern Goshawk, Accipiter gentilis; Raudkull, Eurasian Sparrowhawk, A. nisus; Roo-loorkull, Eurasian Marsh Harrier, Circus aeruginosus; Soo-loorkull, Montagu’s Harrier, C. pygargus; Stepi-loorkull, Pallid Harrier, C. macrourus and Välja-loorkull, Hen Harrier, C. cyaneus. One of a bird-name group of streets. See also Kure.
Kullmani L. (Leen Kullman, 1920-1943?): Real name: Helene Kullman, soviet spy trained at Leningrad spy school, Hero of the Soviet Union, arrested by Germans and died (heroically) under torture. Or, by the time the Soviets had committed themselves to honoring her, they discovered she’d done nothing of the sort – simply switching sides instead and living to die another day under the Nazi informant protection scheme – but couldn’t back down. Soviet Era renaming (1979-1994/5) of Anni.
Kume (Kume): Hollow, dull, cloudy weather, glimmering (in the faint or twilight sense, cf. Tennyson’s use of glimmer-gowk for the owl, probably the barn-own). Part of the sinister-street area, see also Kura.
Kummeli (Kummel): Camomile, Latin name debated. Plant beloved by homeopathists for treating alcohol withdrawal, asthma, bronchitis, colic, cough, diarrhea, dysmenorrhea, ear infection, brain extraction and nuclear winters. Street name with longest (?) anagram: Lemmiku, which might explain its popularity. One of a 2nd flower-name group. Kõdra.
Kunderi J. (Juhan Kunder, 1852-1888): Writer known mainly for fairy tales, e.g. Eesti Muinasjutud (Estonian Fairytales).
Kungla (Kungla): A sort of pseudomythological Estonian Arcady that found its way into 19th-C Estonian writers’ minds and books. The “Estonia” piano works is in this street. The Swedish island of Gotland, Ojamaa in Estonian, is named Kungla on some old maps.
Kupra (Kupar): Boll, capsule (on plant).
Kura (Kura): Uncertain: possibly relating to Kuramaa, Courland, the county, region, former Duchy of Kurzeme in present-day Latvia, or the Irbe or Irben Strait (Estonian: Kura kurk, Latvian: Irbes jūras šaurums), possibly a bay on the Juminda peninsula about 50 km ENE of Tallinn. It is also the name of a lake between Kärdla and the airstrip on the N coast of Hiiumaa; and of the Lithuanian bay known locally as Left. Co-incidentally, along with kuura and kora, it is old dialect in the SW half of Estonia for “left”, too. In other places, for example, Kihnu, a kuralane may also designate a “Courlander” or, more reasonably, an inhabitant of the Kura village in Pärnumaa (it’s only half an hour away by raven), although that doesn’t explain its earlier use in S Hiiumaa and S Saaremaa. There is also a word kurameerima, to court, implying cultural remnants of kura, court, as a loan word. Lastly, of interest only to a very bizarre minority of people who need to get out more often, it’s also a river in Georgia (Mt’k’vari, in Georgian მტკვარი, considered by some as a demarcation between Europe and Asia), whose Turkish name Kura is derived from Kurosh, the Persian pronunciation of Cyrus the Great. To conclude, given its relative frequency in Estonia as farm or locality name (oikonym), its historical use as personal name, e.g. Kurь, from Tohtkiri No.690 (see Tohu), ca. ≤14th-C, in Finland and Karelia, it may simply reflect a common tendency to point out the different, i.e. left-handedness, with a possible derogatory or condescending cousin in the sense of beggar (dialectical Finnish kurri, Estonian kerjus, both probably derived from *kura, left or left-handed (but see also next entry, whether etymologically related or not I do not know). At the end of the day, however, it may simply refer to a farm “on the left” (to somewhere). Or not. There is a farm called Kuura, two “u”s, somewhat further south. Only (?) street set with two anagrams: Karu and Raku. Sinister little street trio, see also Kõnnu. Or again, probably all wrong, and it may be just a serious mispelling of a one-time estate in the area known on maps from 1808 and 1865, etc., as Gut Cournal or Kurnal...
Kuradi torn (⇑): Devil’s Tower. Tower known as Düwelsmoder in 1434 at the latest, formerly used as a munitions and powder depot, and said to be named after local property owner Johannes Düvelsmoder (or Düvel, Grimmedüvel, Grymmedüvel, etc.). The closest candidate seems to be Johannes Grymme, genannt Duvel (known as Devil), curate of the Corpus Christi altar at Oleviste church. Strange nickname… Whatever, düvel(s) and mōder translate from Middle Low German, the dominant language of Hanseatic trade, as Devil’s mother which, imported into Estonian, becomes Kuradiema, reaching its apogee in 1870 as Teufelsthurm oder Teufels Grossmutter [devil’s tower or devil’s grandmother]. Most common, however, was plain old Kuradi from Kurat, devil. Those intrigued by Rohula’s past will be delighted to know a Kuradimuna island (muna means egg, only one, sorry) lurks some 15 k NNE of Tallinn. And for the argotistically inclined, Kurat / Kurrrat / Kurrrrrat is also one of Estonia’s favorite ejaculations, the number of rolled R’s proportional to the degree of emotional intensity. Interestingly, from a phonetic point of view, the so-called alveolar trill, or rolled R, is also one of the rare sounds independent of the vocal apparatus. According to one linguist to whom I expressed my admiration for the way she rolled her Rs, she said it was just the way she walked. See also Landskronetorn.
Kuramaa (Kuramaa): Courland, formerly western part of present-day Latvia, the Curonian Spit. Originally inhabited by the Curonians or Kurs, eventually assimilated by the Latvians and Lithuanians. Raided in the 10th-C by Egil Skallagrimsson, who acquired Naður […] hið besta vopn, Adder, his best weapon (a sword), and other sundry plunder there. Mentioned too by Saxo Grammaticus, with Frotho I (Frode I), legendary king of Denmark fighting various battles and, in his attack of Handwanus, king of the Daugava valley, even cross-dressing for camouflage as a sköldmö or shield-maiden, one of those occasional but real (even the legend of Blenda [±500 CE] from southern Småland may be based on truth) female warriors that fuelled the Valkyrie myth…
Kure (Kurg): Crane and Stork. Four species breeding in Estonia: Must-toonekurg, Black Stork, Ciconia nigra; Neitsikurg, Demoiselle Crane, Grus virgo; Sookurg, Common Crane, G. grus and Valge-toonekurg, White Stork, C. ciconia. The two toonekurgs enjoy special status in Estonian folklore. Where the valge-toonekurg is reputed to protect your house from lightning if it nests there (interestingly, and totally irrelevant but, I trust, expected by now, Ben Franklin was perhaps the first to write on the arrogance of man putting lightning rods [designed after all to prevent “Acts of God”, although surely He could have found slightly more intelligent means of communicating] on churches…), the must-toonekurg was less benign: “Kui toonekurg sinu piiri mööda hulgub, siis tähendab, et mõni sureb” (if the black stork lurks around the borders of your land, somebody he gonna die), reflecting man’s atavistic unease with the “otherworldliness” of migratory birds. True to form, toonekurg derives from tooni, forefather, ancestor, probably from toona, before, long ago, etc., see Toonela. One of a bird-name group of streets. See also Käbliku.
Kurepõllu (Kurepõld): Crane’s field.
Kurereha (Kurereha): Geranium, crane’s bill, Geranium spp.. Names comes from the shape of the spring-action fruit capsule allowing for seed dispersal: Latin: Geranion from Greek: γερανος (geranos): crane. Ditto Estonian: Kure, crane & reha, rake (although why rake I’m not quite sure).
Kuristiku (Kuristik): Gorge, gulch, gully, ravine, precipice. Settlements recorded as far back as the Bronze Age.
Kurni (Kurn): Game involving six wooden pins to be knocked down by a cudgel, more often or accurately the pin itself. Played by Kalevipoeg as a child. Russian game of Gorodki. Part of a mini game-name area. See Mängu
Kuru (Kuru): Pass, gorge, defile, flume, couloir, gulch, etc.
Kuslapuu (Kuslapuu): Honeysuckle, woodbine, Lonicera spp..
Kuuli (Kuul): Bullet, shot, ball or even pill. Named after a turn-of-the-(last)-century military firing range.
Kuunari (Kuunar): Schooner.
Kuuse (Kuusk): harilik kuusk, Norway Spruce, Picea abies. Tree parasitized by Ips typographus, one of the only bark beetles to feature in a blue movie alongside Marlene Dietrich, Der blaue Engel. Shortened to Kuu from 1940-1941.
Kuusenõmme (Kuusenõmme): Spruce marsh or moor.
Kuusiku (Kuusik): Spruce wood, spruce grove.
Kvartsi (Kvarts): Quartz, silex, (or silica as adjective for soil types), after local factory of same name.
Kõivu (Kõiv): Alternative, dialectical and/or Võro* term for Kase (cf. koivu in Finnish, kõuv in Livonian, and koiv in Veps). Variants include Arukõiv (see Arukaskede); Marokõiv (see Kase), and Sookõiv (see Sookaskede).
* Strictly, Võru, but the -o ending is proper to the Võro language/dialect, and was also proposed by Hurt (see Oti) as part of the Estonian language reform (see also Aate) to replace the -u ending, but it didn’t catch on.
Kõla (Kõla): 1) Sound, tone, ring, resonance; 2) Weaving-tablet, flat board with holes in the corner used (usu. more than one) in belt-weaving. Next to Sanatooriumi, so maybe the latter for occupational therapy, but probably the former since named same year as Laulu.
Kõrge (Kõrge): High, tall.
Kõver (Kõver): Curved, bent, warped, devious – Naerust kõveras olema: to double up laughing.
Käbi (Käbi): Cone (e.g. pine- or other). (Also strobila, larval stage of jellyfish or segment of a tapeworm). Käbi ei kuku kännust kaugele, literally, the cone doesn’t fall far from the stump, usually rendered: a chip off the old block, but with, in earlier days perhaps, a slightly negative tone, since Kännu also means old fogey. Note too the abundance of k’s, a letter occupying a special place in Estonian hearts. At least 15% of Estonian words start with K.
Käokannu (Käokannus): Toadflax. Lit. Cuckoo’s spur, Linaria spp..
Käokeele (Käokeel): Platanthera, Butterfly-orchid, Platanthera spp.. Lit. Cuckoo’s tongue. Estonia has two species: Rohekas käokeel, the Greater Butterfly-orchid, P. chlorantha (chlorantha = green-flowered & rohekas = greenish), and Kahelehine käokeel, the Lesser Butterfly-orchid, Platanthera bifolia (bifolia = kahelehine = two-leafed). One of a 2nd flower-name group. Käokäpa.
Käokäpa (Käokäpp): Cowslip. Lit. Cuckoo’s claw. Seems to be one of the dozen or so names for the harilik Nurmenukk, Primula veris. According to Darwin: the “cowslip is habitually visited during the day by the larger humble-bees […] and at night by moths”. I hope the cowslip enjoys it more than I. One of a 2nd flower-name group. See Küüvitsa.
Kärberi K. (Kristjan Kärber, 1908-1977): Builder, author of the illustrated 40-page classic Telliste kiirladumine ehitustel (speedy brick-stacking for the building trade), and worker-hero, nominated Honorary Citizen in 1972 for “recognizing the special merits for Tallinn in the revolutionary movement in the struggle for the Soviet power, for gaining outstanding results in the economical and cultural work” (sic). Odd, though, why they keep it: Eestalgia?…
Kärestiku (Kärestik): Cascade, rapids.
Kärje (Kärg): Honeycomb. Kärgkonn, Pipa pipa, the Suriname toad, owes its name to the pits formed on the female’s back post reproduction, out of which baby frogs emerge.
Kärneri (Kärner): Gardener.
Käru (Käru): Barrow, pushcart.
Käsperti J. (Johannes Käspert, 1886-1937): Asjaajaja [nice word – try saying this late one Friday night: majarajaja asjaajaja ja jalavajaja jama ajavad, meaning, if you’re really desperate to know how contrived these things can be: “the housebuilder’s records clerk and a legless man are bluffing”], or Secretary of the short-lived (about six months) Soviet of the Commune of the Working People of Estonia, presumably executed during Stalin’s Great Purge of 1937-38. Soviet Era renaming (1960-1987/90) of Kotzebue and Suurtüki.
Käänu (Kään): Turn, bend, crook.
Köismäe (Köismägi): Rope hill, named after a former suburb of that name specialized in its manufacture.
Köleri J. (Johann Köler, 1826-1899): Painter, aka Ivan Petrovich Köler-Viliandi, worked mainly in St Petersburg. Noted for his 1879 Tulge minu juurde kõik, kes teie vaevatud ja koormatud olete, mina tahan teile hingamist saata (Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Matthew 11:28), a huge painting in the Tallinn Kaarli Kirik, attached to the wall, they say, by some 5000 nails. Street known as Datschi (datcha) in the 1910-20s (see Õie).
Köömne (Köömen): Caraway, cumin.
Külvi (Külv): Sowing, by extension, a freshly-sown field. One of a minor group of three bucolic by-ways in the burbs See also Lõikuse. Built on former “Tulevik” (future) collective farmland near Laagri station.
Künkamaa (Künkamaa): Hilly country. Hmm, these Estonians and their hills…
Künnapuu (Künnapuu): Called European White or Fluttering Elm by the Brits and Russian Elm by the Americans, Ulmus laevis.
Küüvitsa (Küüvits): Bog-rosemary, Andromeda polifolia, a slightly poisonous plant, may cause breathing problems, vomiting or diarrhea. Named for its visual resemblance to the herb. One of a 2nd flower-name group. Lehiku.
Laagri (Laager): Camp. After the military encampment nearby.
Laane (Laas): Primeval forest.
Laboratooriumi (Laboratoorium): Laboratory, but not the test-tube and fragile glassware type: the artillery development lab behind the city-walls.
Laeva (Laev): Ship, boat, vessel.
Laevastiku (Laevastik): Fleet, shipping, navy.
Lagedi (0): Manor house outside Tallinn first mentioned in 1397, name derived from German Laakt. Belonged in late 16th-C to Hans Wachtmeister, naturalized Swedish soldier, later Field Marshal and acting temporary vice-regent of Estonia, apparently born in Hiiumaa and adopted his name (lit. Watch sergeant) while in the German army before emigrating in 1569. Settlements date back to late Bronze Age.
Lageloo (Lagelood): Lage means open, bare or bleak, and loo is the genitive of three words: lugu, story; loog, swathe (of grass); and lood, a synonym of Alvari. Since its nearest listed neighbor is the Alvari mentioned above, and since it is located atop the mournful marsh named Tondi Raba, it must represent the appealing address of “Bleak limestone region covered with thin topsoil and stunted vegetation” road, and since both this and its benighted other neighbor Rähkloo are not even on the map, we can extend the definition to include “but where roads haven’t been bloody built yet”.
Lagendiku (Lagendik): Glade, due to its then proximity to… a glade. Street no longer exists.
Lagle (Lagle): Another genus of Goose (see Hane). Breeding in Estonia: Kanada lagle, Canada Goose, Branta canadensis; Mustlagle, Brent Goose, B. bernicla; Punakael-lagle, Red-breasted Goose, B. ruficollis and Valgepõsk-lagle, Barnacle Goose, B. leucopsis. One of a bird-name group of streets. See also Leevikese.
Lahe (Laht): Bay, bight, gulf, cove, inlet.
Lai (Lai): Broad, wide. One of the oldest streets in Tallinn, with a long list of names to prove it. Initially identified after its salient residents, the nuns: susterstrate (1361), vicus monialium or platea (longa/sancti) monialium, loosely translated as “(holy) enclosed nuns’ (long) high street” (1364-1380), then platea sororum (1480). By the 1600s it was Süsterstraße or Schwestergasse and, in the 18th-C (1703), the S switched to C, Cisternstraße, (spelling influenced by the Cistercian movement?). At some stage, however, contemporary records of Cistern- sonst genandt breitstrasse suggest locals must have become aware of the human side of their angelic nature and that, if nothing else, nuns were still broads…
Laiaküla (Laiaküla): Lit. “wide village”, perhaps originally a scattered village community, but pointing now towards the tautologically-named Laiaküla küla (see Hiiu) although perhaps better than its pre-morning-after calling of Käära, aka Kärak, Kärakas or Kärakas küla, Boozeburg.
Laikmaa A. (Ants Laikmaa, 1866–1942): Painter (known as Hans Laipman until 1935. Estonians have a history of chronic name-changing). Bringer of impressionism to Estonia, one-time lover and perhaps best-known portraitist of German-educated Marie Under whom he convinced to start translating/writing her poetry into/in Estonian.
Laki (Lakk): Lacquer, varnish. Named after former factory. Also name for broad-brimmed hat.
Landi (Lant): Trolling-spoon (spinning-bait for catching pike, etc.) or lure, older versions usually had fixed hooks, modern ones may have n sets of triple hooks. Anagram of Linda. Part of a fishing-related street-name zone, see also Müta.
Landskronetorn (⇑): Crown of the land/country (mixture of German and Scandinavian). Poss. after Landskrona, port town and anti-Hanseatic citadel in SW Sweden. One of the towers of the Teutonic Orders, built on the Väike Linnus (small fortress, early 14th-C), later to become the Toompea citadel (mid 14th-C). See also Loewenschede torn.
Laose (Laos): Four possibilities (at the very least): 1) Ruin, disintegration, decay; 2) Nursery, seed plot; 3) Laos, the country and/or language; and 4) quite possibly a former farm name, others already exist in Estonia: Saaremaa, Valgamaa…
Lasnamäe (Lasnamägi): One of the greyer neighborhoods of Tallinn, essentially consisting of acres of workers’ accommodation, the essentially post-70s-built neo-“Khruschevkas” – reputedly tatty, cheaply-built, paper-thin-walled, 6m²-per-person apartment blocks, although some people say actually very well built. Region inhabited since ±3000 BCE, site of corded-ware settlement (aka Battle Axe culture or Single Grave culture). Area used for windmills dating back to middle ages (lasn:lasna is a baker’s “peel” or wooden shovel, but this is a red herring). Earliest records give Lakederberge (1370), Lakederberg (1371), or Lakeden berghe (1372), Estonianized into Lageda mägi.
Lastekodu (Lastekodu): Children’s home, orphanage, foundling-hospital, baby farm. Another of the brother Luthers’ works. Known as Lutheri-Vaestekooli, Luther’s orphanage school, until 1923, then shortened to Lutheri or Lutri until 1939. May well be the street with the greatest number of spelling variations. Cheapskate copy-and-paste coming up: Lutheri tn, Lutri tn, Lutheri-Vaestekooli tn, Lutri-Vaestekooli tn, Luteri-Vaestekooli tn, Lutre-Vaestekooli tn, Vaestemaja tn, Lutheri Vaestelaste tn, Maneeži tn, Kinderheimstraße, Lutherstraße, Lutherwaisenhausstraße, Luther Waisenhausstraße, Armenkinderstraße, Manegenstraße, Лютерско-Сиротская ул., Сиротская-Лютерская ул., Сиротско-Лютерская ул., Сиротская ул., Манежная ул..
Laugu (Lauk): Common Coot, Fulica atra. Breeds in Estonia.
Lauka (Laugas): Bog-pool.
Laulu (Laul): Song, singing, ditty, ballad. Believed to be thus named for being squished between Kandle and Ilmarise, but TT states it was originally named, prior to their existence, after Pauline Laulu, local property owner (although she may well have sung from time to time too, gospels perhaps?… ;o). KNAB, on the other hand, gives both Laulu and Kandle as 1927 and Ilmarise 1952, so maybe…
Laulupeo (Laulupidu): Song festival (one of the great events in the Estonian calendar). Try and imagine over 100,000 people all singing the same songs, mostly from memory, for hours on end. In comparison, a recent survey found that the average Brit knew 4.74 words of Auld Lang Syne. Rare in Tallinn, street hasn’t changed its name once since creation in 1921. Singing means something to Estonians…
Tallinn Song Festival (laulupidu.ee), photo by Simon Hamilton
Lauri (?): Named after nearby former farm, and also from Laurits, St Lawrence, 3rd-C martyr, reputed to have been roasted on a griddle, but probably just decapitated with a plain old sword.
Lauristini J. (Johannes Lauristin, 1899-1941): Estonian politician and communist. Serial prisoner, forced labor twice: seven years (1923-1931) then six until the (probably) Konstantin Päts amnesty of 1938. Died either during an evacuation or, some suggest, assassinated by the NKVD. Soviet Era renaming (1944?-1989) of Roosikrantsi.
Lauteri A. (Ants Lauter, 1894-1973): Actor, star of famous Estonian pic: Mehed ei nuta (Men don’t cry). Part translator of Stanislavsky, winner, lucky lad, of Stalin Prize (1952) and Order of Lenin (1956). Lauter also means boat slip or landing stage for fishing boats, and its genitive is lautri, so it seems that the genitive of personal names tend to try to retain as much of the nominative as possible, perhaps to de-signify the root word (see, for example, Süda P.).
Lavamaa (Lavamaa): Tableland, plateau, mesa.
Leediku (Leedik): Pyralid or snout moth. Numerous species, including the ubiquitous iniquitous Kirjuleedik (kirju meaning variegated, mottled, many-colored, etc., see Kirilase), the Meal Moth, Pyralis farinalis. Part of a lepidopteran group. See also Lumiku.
Leedri (Leeder): Aka Punane leeder, kooljapuu (corpse or dead person tree), kihvtimarjapuu (poison berry tree), etc., Red Elderberry, Sambucus racemosa.
Leegi (Leek): Flame, blaze.
Leevikese (Leevike): Bullfinch, aka leevikene. Four species breeding in Estonia: Karmiinleevike, Common Rosefinch, Carpodacus erythrinus; Kõrbeleevike, Trumpeter Finch, Bucanetes githagineus; Leevike, Common Bullfinch, Pyrrhula pyrrhula and Männileevike, Pine Grosbeak, Pinicola enucleator. One of a bird-name group of streets. See also Linnu.
Lehe (Leht): Leaf, sheet (of paper).
Lehiku (Lehik): Uncertain. Possibly another name for the Bastard toadflax (of which there are a number of pretenders), e.g. Thesium humifusum, but I’m not putting any money on it*. One of a 2nd flower-name group. Liilia.
Alright, €10 to the person providing not the most convincing but the correct answer.
Lehise (Lehis): Larch. Two species introduced to Estonia: Euroopa lehis, the European Larch, Larix decidua; and Vene lehis, the Siberian or Russian Larch, Larix sibirica syn. L. russica. Popular source of food for the famous Processionary Caterpillar, Thaumetopoea pityocampa, so lovingly described by Jean-Henri Fabre: since each individual Processionary follows the animal in front, Fabre led a column to the top of a flower pot, and when the circle was complete, removed the extras. The ones in the now circle followed each other round and round for a week. Popular food with humming-birds (larches, not processionaries), though relatively rare in the subarctic distropics of Estonia.
Lehiste (Lehised [pl.]): Larches. Sing.: Lehis (see above).
Lehtmäe (Lehtmägi): Leaf hill.
Lehtpuu (Lehtpuu): Deciduous tree.
Lehtri (Lehter): Funnel, crater, hole. Whereas that’s what’s usually left after an event, this one, decided in 2007, may not even exist yet.
Leigeri (Leiger): Folk hero of Hiiumaa island and brother of Saaremaa’s Suur-Tõll (Big Tõll). Said to have attempted to build a bridge to Saaremaa to allow his brother to come and partake of his famous sauna and cabbages. Idea vetoed by a local golem with an interest in ferries.
Leineri A. (Aleksander Leiner, 1902-1927): Estonian Communist “murdered” – according to Kivi (TT) who may well have been under a certain Damocletian influence to present a particular political correctness of thought – “by the bourgeois Estonian Security Police”. Soviet Era renaming (1940-1991) of Poska J..
Lembitu (Lembit[u]): Lembit of Lehola: Estonian leader in fight against German Brethren of the Sword, died during Battle of St. Matthew’s Day, September, 1217. Poem written by Kreutzwald. The modern man’s name is without the “u” in the nominative
Lemle (Lemmel): Duckweed, gibbous or otherwise, but in Estonia probably Common Duckweed, Lemna minor. Other names include Konnaläätsed (frog lentils), Seauba (pig bean), Päevaseep (day soap), and, curiously, Tiigieile (yesterday or last-night pond), thus named due to it being a “short-day plant” requiring a critical minimum length of night to flower.
Lemmiku (Lemmik): Favorite, darling. Parallel to Sõbra. There is another Lemmiku on Aegna, but this time it’s Lemmiku Nina, lit. Darling nose, or rather point, spit or headland. Street name with longest (?) anagram: Kummeli.
Lenini (Vladimir Ilyich Lenin, 1870–1924): Born Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov, Russian revolutionary, Bolshevik, communist politician, and graphomaniac (55 thick volumes of writings published). Soviet Era renaming of Kaubamaja [?-1991] and Rävala [1950-1991])
Lennujaama (Lennujaam): Airport. Tallinn is one of the world’s rarer capitals where you can actually walk to the airport.
Lennuki (Lennuk): 1) Originally, the name of Kavevipoeg’s ship; 2) Airplane, aircraft. Name also given to one of two Russian destroyers (this one, “Avtroil”, built, ironically, by Tallinn shipbuilders Bocker and Lange with help from France) hijacked by the British and offered to Estonia in 1919, then flogged to Peruvian Navy in 1933, and scrapped in 1954. See Vambola. Also Soviet Era renaming (1936-1991) of Mardi.
Lepa (Lepp): Alder (also, when genitive leppa, fish or seal blood; or, in the Saare (island) dialect, a reddish color. Lepa is thought to be (derived from?) a primitive word designating red (today Punane, cf. punni in Livonian, but verrev in Võro, and vörös in Hungarian, cf. veri, blood in standard Estonian. On the other hand, red in Veps is rus(ked) or čak, indicating a Lappish influence, cf. ruoksat or similar in various Sami dialects), as seen, e.g., in lepatriinu, lepalind, the redstart; and lilacinone is a red pigment extracted from the lepariisikas toadstool, Lactarius lilacinus. Recent research suggests it may also be a very early loan-word from Indo-European meaning “paint” (neighboring Lithuanian is said to be [one of] the most primitive Indo-European languages). Alder bark produces a reddish color dye (Aldine Red), and the name of the tree (cf. Old Norse ölr, German Erle and Lithuanian alksnis) seems to derive from the Proto-Indo-European root el-, meaning “red” or “brown”, and what better combination of colors to describe blood. Two main species in Estonia: Hall lepp aka Valge lepp, Grey or Speckled Alder, Alnus incana and Sanglepa. Native Americans mixed part of the tree (leaves? flowers?) with powdered bumblebees as an aid for difficult labor. Where on earth did they get that one?
Lepatriinu (Lepatriinu): Ladybird (ladybug), see Lepa. These insects are among those with the longest Latin names. Lutsernitriinu, for example, the 24-spot ladybird, reportedly common in Estonia, is Subcoccinella vigintiquatuorpunctata. Just next door to Herilase.
Lepiku (Lepik): Alder grove.
Liblika (Liblikas): Butterfly.
Liimi (Liim): Glue, gum. After the Tallinna Liimitehas, Tallinn Glue Works, at No.4.
Liipri (Liiper): Sleeper, crosstie (railway). Derived from the English “sleeper” which, interestingly, traveled well, becoming chulipa in Brazil (see Vocabulário Popular de Porto Velho by Beto Bertagna & present author). Renaming, along with Ränduri, of former Raudtee.
Liiva (Liiv): Sand, gravel. Probably after a former inn nearby, Liiva Krug, dating back to at least 1798. Tallinn’s early history seems to have had only two locations involving the word sand: mons arenae (sand hill), recorded 1312, present-day Olevimägi, and porta arenae (sand gate), probably same period, present-day Väike Rannavärav. On the other hand, the earliest recorded street-name containing the Estonian word liiv is Väike-Liiva (1850). Judging by F. Eurich's 1879 map of Tallinn (Folio V) there used to be extensive sand flats south of Juhkentali, and various maps of the 1920s show large areas of dunes around the north-western shores of lake Järve. Likewise, the anonymous 1698 map of “Stadt Räfwal” describes what looks like the Kadriorg area as Lauter Sand(t)gruften und Hugel, or nothing but sandpits and mounds. So sand has clearly played an important part in Tallinn or Estonian consciousness. Including the 16 Liiva villages, 24 hills and 76 streets or roads, Estonia has some 300-odd placenames involving sand. They like it. It means something to them. But what it’s gritty importance is remains obscure. It is possible that Harju refers to sand, and the name Livonia “has been said” to originate from liiv, sand, too (cf. Finnish harju ‘sandy bank or shoal...’). Earliest mention of Livonia is recorded as Ливы (Liwa) in the Russian Primary Chronicle (Chronicle of Nestor), dating back to 1113, but whether the term Liv is actually related to sand or simple coincidence is not clear. Again, one of the present-day self-designations of Kurland Livonians is rāndalist, or coast/beach-dwellers, but this may simply reflect the sardonic self-naming of a remaining fringe of a once more widely distributed people.
Liivalaia (Liivalai): Sandy expanse, avenue, channel… Named after local sand flats, see previous entry. Nice muddle this one: Renamed (1944-1990/2?) as Kingissepa V. during the Soviet Era along with, interestingly, two other streets which shared the name but not the longevity (1974-1990): Jõe and Pronksi, with Liivalaia itself replacing (1974-1990) the German-sounding Juhkentali. This is perhaps the street with the most “picturesque” history, with spellings ranging through its current to Liiva laia, Laia-Liiva and Lai-Liiva (1885); names including Kaasani (Große or Breite or Neue Kasansche Straße in the early 19th-C), and a variety of variants around “width” and “sand” in all three standard-for-19th-C languages. At one stage in its evolutionary mutation from Kingissepa V. to Liivalaia and/or back again it apparently become misprinted as V. Liivalaia…
Liivaluite (Liivaluide): Sand dune, sand drift.
Liivametsa (Liivamets): Sandy wood.
Liivamäe (Liivamägi): Sandy hill, mountain.
Liivaoja (Liivaoja): Sandy brook.
Liivaranna (Liivarand): Sandy beach, sandy shore.
Liiviku (Liivik): Sandy region, “the sands”.
Lilleküla (Lilleküla): Flower village, a district inhabited more by bird street names, but some flowers too.
Lillepi (?): Park laid out on former farm of that name, recorded in 1689 as Lylli perre.
Lillevälja (Lilleväli): Field of flowers.
Linda (Linda): Linda, wife of Kalev; hence mother of Kalevipoeg; also daughter of Taara/Uku. Having your country’s symbolic matriarch raped by a foreigner speaks volumes about your self-perception. Sigmund would have had you couch it out long ago. Anagram of Landi. See Kalevipoja.
Lindakivi (Lindakivi): Boulder in Lake Ülemiste. One of the stones Kalevipoeg’s mother was carrying to his grave that fell out of her apron-pocket. She sat on it and wept, creating the lake. For those with an interest in Estonia’s recent past, Carrying Linda’s Stones (see refs) is highly recommended; available from your local bookstore.
Linnamäe (Linnamägi): Hill with a stronghold.
Linnu (Lind): Bird, Fowl, Poultry – linnu viisil elama: to live from hand to mouth; lit. to live in the way of a bird. Joined together, Linnu tee becomes Linnutee, The Milky Way, also sometimes also known as Piimatee, Milk Road, in Vigala county; Linnurada, Bird Path, in Emmaste, S Hiiumaa; as well as Kuretee, Stork Road, Taevapeenar, Heavenly Plant-Bed, etc., elsewhere. One of a bird-name group of streets. See also Luige.
Lodjapuu (Lodjapuu): Aka harilik lodjapuu, Õispuu (blossom tree), Hullukoeramarjapuu (crazy dog berry tree), etc., Guelder Rose, Water Elder, Snowball Tree, European Cranberrybush, Cramp Bark, etc., Viburnum opulus.
Logi (Logi): Ship’s log.
Lohu (Lohk): Cavity, pit, dent, depression…
Loigu (Loik): Puddle.
Loite (Loide): Fire, blaze. A checkered history: Lessingi, Lessingstraße, Лессингская ул., from 1884-1938, then Leegi, also fire, blaze, until 1939, flipping to Flammenstraße in 1942, when perhaps some confusion with a Nõmme street of the same name caused a switch, first to Vine, haze or wisp, which lasted for a year (1959) before settling on its present name in 1960.
Lomonossovi M. (Mikhail Vasilyevich Lomonosov, 1711–1765): Russian polymath, scientist, writer and poet, born in a Pomor village close to Kholmogory, about 60 km S of Archangelsk and its now, sadly, dismantled 13-storey, 44-m high, reputedly world’s tallest, wooden house, the “Sutyagin skyscraper”, built by local racketeer. Soviet Era renaming (1950-1991) of Gonsiori.
Loo (Lood, Loog): Probably rocky islet, alvar (lood), but possibly swathe (loog).
Loode (Loe): North-west, northwesterly (also high tide, neap tide or, plural, looded, tide, ebb and flow). Also noordvest or nordvest among sailors. Word possibly derived from German, perhaps MLG lēden, to lead, and cognate with modern English lode: During the Middle Ages, the “Viking compass” was rotated some 45° to 60° clockwise from the true, geographical compass, with norðr referring to northeast, not north, and northwest thus pointing north to the Lodestar (aka Polaris or North Star), which probably also explains why Estonian has actual, i.e. non-compound, names for the intercardinal directions (NE, SE, etc.) which, for them, were cardinal, see Edela. Formerly (1885-1923) Nürnbergi. See also Vesikaare.
Looklev (Adj.): Winding, serpentine, meandering. Said to be named after its appearance which, bar one kink and one curve, is as straight as a die.
Loometsa (Loomets): Possibly forest swathe, or wood on limestone with stunted trees.
Loomuse (Loomus): Nature, character, being; but in this particular instance, given its proximity to the sea and other fishy streets, a catch, haul or draught of fish, usually taken with a seine net.
Loopealse (Loopealne): “On top of the rocky islet”.
Lootsi (Loots): Pilot, in this case, a ship’s pilot.
Lossihoov (0): Castle courtyard.
Luige (Luik): Swan. Three species breeding in Estonia: Kühmnokk-luik, Mute Swan, Cygnus olor; Laululuik, Whooper Swan, C. cygnus and Väikeluik, Tundra Swan, C. columbianus. One of a bird-name group of streets. See also Lõokese.
Luise (0): After the nearby summer estate called Luisental, from Louise von Steinheil, owner in 1791.
Lumikellukese (Lumikelluke[ne]): Snowdrop (lit. Little snow bell; as in many languages, the diminutive can play itself out to varying degrees), Galanthus spp., one of the first flowers to pop out in spring, certain species flowering even earlier in autumn the year before… One of a 2nd flower-name group. Maikellukese.
Lumiku (Lumik): Admiral butterfly. Two main species in Estonia: Haavalumik, the Poplar Admiral (see Nahhimovi P.), L. populi, and Väikelumik, the White Admiral, Limenitis camilla, whose numbers, oddly, have decreased considerably in France, mainly due to roadkill in forest areas, where in Estonia they have increased over the same period. Since both nations are equally savage in their sense of road proprietorship, it could be explained by higher respective degrees of urban flight and rural exodus. Part of a lepidopteran group. See also Paabusilma.
Lumiste J. (Johannes Lumiste, dates unknown): Gentleman whose claim to fame seems to be his having removed, in 1944, the black swastika on its white background from a Nazi flag and climbing to the top of Pikk Hermann to hoist the resulting red flutter of freedom for all to admire. Soviet Era renaming (1979-1995) of Varraku.
Lõimise (Lõimis): Grading-curve, granulometric composition or grain size (if you really want a really impressive address for parties, this is the one: “Come back to my place, I live at 29c Granulometric Composition Rd…”).
Lõkke (Lõke): Blaze, fire, bonfire, campfire. Previously Bienert-Straße (1879) and Erbestraße (1882) after local land-owners Friedrich Ernst Bienert, apothecary, and Eugen Eduard Erbe, town councilor.
Lõo (Lõo): Short for Lõoke and Lõokene, see next entry.
Lõokese (Lõoke[ne]): Larks of various inclinations breeding in Estonia: Nõmmelõoke, Wood Lark, Lullula arborea; Põldlõoke, Skylark, Alauda arvensis; Sarviklõoke, Horned Lark, Eremophila alpestris; Stepilõoke, Calandra Lark, Melanocorypha calandra; Tuttlõoke, Crested Lark, Galerida cristata and Välja-väikelõoke, Greater Short-toed Lark, Calandrella brachydactyla. To imitate a skylark, the sound you make is Liiri lõõri so the nursery rhyme (Pöide region) goes like this:
Lenda üle meie kesa,
Rääste alla punu pesa. (You translate it.)
One of a bird-name group of streets. See also Meika.
Lõosilma (Lõosilm): Forget-me-not, Myosotis spp.. The origin of the name dates back to about 3980 BCE when Adam and Eve were requested to leave the Botanical Gardens for making fashion statements with plant specimens. At the gate, a little flower is reputed to have cried out “Forget me not”, although why has never been ascertained, but this is a moot point in a work of fiction.
Lõuka (Lõugas): Various meanings revolving around stoves and fireplaces: essentially, the opening and/or part of the hearthstone protruding in front. In Viljandi dialect: the space in front of an oven opening. Its mouth-related cognates – lõug (chin, jaws, “mug”, French gueule) and lõugas (little bay, bight or creek) – strengthen the “opening to an oven” interpretation and, by metonymy, a fireplace, inglenook or stone ledge in front of the oven used as seat. Part of a fire, fire-making and fireplace group, see also Sädeme.
Lõuna (Lõuna): South, southern, southerly (also: lunch, noon, meridian, for the direction of the sun at its highest position, cf. Mittag in medieval German). Also süüd among sailors. Known briefly as Auna from 1940-1941. See also Ida.
Läike (Läige): Shine, gleam, polish.
Lätte (Läte): Source, spring, fountain. Southern Estonian dialect for well. Named, like its parallel peer Allika, after a spring in the courtyard of Tatari 24. Both streets claim its ancestor as Quellenstrasse, spring street, but where the other was thus known from 1890 to 1942, this street was only thus recorded once in 1942: on Ein Führer für deutsche Soldaten durch Reval mit Stadtplan, Strassenverzeichnis, 10 Bildern und kleinem deutsch-estnischen Wörterbuch (A guide through Tallinn for German soldiers with map, street index, 10 photos and short German-Estonian dictionary) by Dr. Friedrich Klau, a book known for its haphazard rendering of local names, which may well have mistaken it for Allika. Renamed (1948?-1991) as Lätte A. during the Soviet Era.
Lätte A. (Aleksander Läte, 1860–1948): Composer and Estonia’s first music critic. Name changed due to fortunate similarity. Either way, back to the fons in 1991. Soviet Era renaming (1948?-1991) of Lätte. Unlike Lauteri A. and Süda P., his genitive retains the root word’s spelling.
Läänemere (Läänemeri): The Baltic Sea. Lit. Western Sea. Interestingly, the Finns call it Itämeri or East Sea, but they based the name on the Östersjön of Swedish (their rulers until 1809) for whom it is the East Sea.
Läänemuul (0): Western mole, jetty. After rebuilding, now, literally, in the old harbor…
Löwenruh’ (0): The sorry equivalent of “Dunroamin’”, roughly translating as Löwen’s (Lion’s) peace or rest. Park named after the summer estate of Baron Friedrich von Löwen (1654–1744), Governor of Tallinn from 1728–1736.
Lühike (Adj.): Short. Two streets: plain old Lühike in Hiiu, and Lühike jalg, one of the older streets of Tallinn: brevis mons (1353), parvus mons (1371), descensus montis ad mare (?) making you wonder what the sea level was at that time, korter berg (1428), lühhike jalg (1732), before settling into its present name in 1908. See Pikk Jalg. Given its two odd “legs”, Tallinn is sometimes jokingly referred to as the “lonkav linn”, totter town or lit. limping town.
Lükati (Lükati): Slide, slide-rule. But actually named after windmill first recorded (1431) as Luckede.
Lüli (Lüli): Link (IT, electrical, etc., but also vertebra, segment, etc.). Anyone crazy enough to still be reading this will be fascinated to know that lülipuidumädanik means druxiness, i.e. decay of the heartwood or, less malevolent, decayed spots concealed by healthy timber. Word not to be confused (despite link with or disconnection of vertebrae) with lüll:lülli, which, in some dialects, means gallows. See Oomi.
Maakri (Carl Ludvig Macker [Mecker]): 18th-C dean of the weavers’ guild. According to TT, the dry-cleaners now at No.23 evolved out of the cleaning and dying company founded by the Macker family in 1820 (Carl Ludvig was first mentioned in 1769), but other sources claim the founders (same year) as Birk, a family having lived in the area since 1625. Street also home to the Jewish Synagogue until the March 9th 1944 bombing, although reputedly barely frequented at that time: according to the Eichmann list presented at the Wannsee Conference, Estonia in 1941 was, Judenfrei, the only “German” country “free” of Jews… A new synagogue was recently completed in Karu
Maarjaheina (Maarjahein): Sweet vernal grass. Anthoxanthum.
Maarjamäe (Maarjamägi): Mary’s mount. Name of summer estate once known as Strietberg or Streitberg (battle of the bulge) after, legend has it, a vigorous disagreement between the Black Heads and Russians. Known also at one time as Suhkrumägi (sugar mountain, like a Pão de Açucar but without the tacky perroquet à claquettes atop?) after the sugar mill built by a certain Johan Gottlieb Clementz in 1811, whether as a result of Andreas Marggraf’s discovery of sugar crystals in beet in 1747, or the world’s first sugar-beet factory built at Cunern, Lower Silesia (aka Kunern, modern-day Konary, Wołów County, Poland) in 1801 or, most likely, the British blockade spurring Napoleon’s promotion of beet sugar in 1811, either way, the plant (the factory, not the root) failed after 26 years, was bought by one of the Christian Rotermanns (see Rotermanni) and converted to a starch and spirits factory, which burnt down in 1869. In 1873, Count Anatoli Orlov-Davidov (1837–1905), Equerry to the Tsar and great-grandson of Vladimir, youngest brother of Grigory Orlov of Orlov Diamond fame, bought the property and baptized it with its present name after his wife, Maria Yegorovna, daughter of one of the copious Count Tolstoys, and/or their daughter, also named Maria, Its Estonian name – Maarjamäe – came into usage in the 1930s.
Madara (Madar): Bedstraw, goosegrass, Galium spp., some 15-odd species in Estonia.
Magdaleena (Magdaleena): Magdalene, after the former Magdalenium, or Magdalenium und Trinkerinnen Asyl, Magdalene and Asylum for Inebriate Women which, of course, were non-existent during Soviet times, so re-labeled (1950-1991) as Lasteaia. The Order of St Mary Magdalene, set up to run homes for reformed prostitutes, may have been founded by Rudolph of Worms in Germany, 1005. Obviously, not all Magdalene churches were associated with fallen women, the 17th-C wood-frame Saint Magdalene church on Kihnu island (pop. 570) being one of the more obvious candidates.
Mahla (Mahl): Juice, sap.
Mahtra (Mahtra): Fight, quarrel, brawl. Word derived from the peasant insurgency on the Mahtra estate, 60 km from Tallinn, in 1858, about which Vilde E. wrote in his 1902 historical novel Mahtra sõda (“The Mahtra war”).
Maikellukese (Maikelluke[ne]): Lily of the Valley (lit. Little May bell), Convallaria majalis, lone species in the Convallaria genus, aka Lambakeel, sheep’s tongue. One of a 2nd flower-name group. Mugula.
Mailase (Mailane): Probably harilik mailane (i.e. common or garden mailane), Heath or Common Speedwell, Common Gypsyweed, Paul’s Betony, Veronica officinalis, aka hundihamba rohi, lit. wolf’s tooth medicine (see also Kassisaba).
Majaka (Majakas): Lighthouse, beacon. After the nearby Tallinna Ülemine Tuletorn, or Tallinn upper lighthouse (N 59°25.674’ E 24°48.337’), sometimes known as Katharinenthal Rear Light, but correctly as Tallinn leading-line rear lighthouse, visible at 12.6 nautical miles. See Valge.
Maleva (Malev): Force, troop, archaic term for army, or military levy (13th C). Military unit of the Kaitseliit, or Estonian Defense League, originally an underground movement created during the German occupation in WWI, and acting as national guard in the War of Independence (1918–1920), replacing the Omakaitse, or Citizens’ Defense Organization set up in 1917 to try and counter the effects of the Russian Revolution.
Malmi (Malm): Cast iron. After local iron foundry. Scrap iron is malmimurd, or “cast iron fracture”. Malm:Malmi is also a sort of loamy earth especially good for brick-making.
Maneeži (Maneež): Manège, riding-ground. Named after the Tallinna Ratsasõidu Maneež (Tallinn indoor riding center) which opened near there in 1879. Ignoring the earlier names of Kleine Narvsche Straße (1877, etc.) and Afonasjew-Straße (19th-C), the “ž” having been the cause of bitter orthographical grief, viz.: Maneesi (1885, etc.), Maneshi (1908), Maneschi (1910)…
Marana (Maran): Cinquefoil, Potentilla, herb of the rose family. Its English Name comes from the French: “five-leaves”, and may also be called “five-fingers”. Another English name refers to the similarly in appearance but not taste of its fruit: “barren strawberry”.
Marati (Jean-Paul Marat, 1743-1793): Swiss-born French revolutionary, possible inventor of a cure for gonorrhea, friend of Angelika Kauffmann, murdered in bathtub by Charlotte Corday. Clothing factory named after him by Sovietized workers.
Mardi (Diedrich Christian Martens, date unknown): Given its history of spelling change – Martena tn (1885), Martensgasse (1893), Martinstraße (1907), Мартенская ул. (1907), Martenstraße (1913) – the rumor it was named after a former landowner who had property on the corner of this street and Liivalaia (they no longer connect) may well be true. Apparently renamed (1936-1991) as Lennuki during the Soviet Era.
Marsi (Marss): 1) Mars (the planet; the god would be Mars in the nominative); 2) March (as in military, the month is märts; 3) Maintop. Next to Sõjakooli, so 2 it is, but obviously related to Mars too as in “martial”.
Marta (Marta): Martha, woman’s name. Given its crossing Magdaleena tänav and one-time name of Magdaleena põik, presumably St Martha, sister of Lazarus and Mary of Bethany, the lady to whom JC is reputed to have said “I am the resurrection and the life” although reliable ear-witnesses are lacking. Patron saint of housewives and lay sisters. One of the few Christianity-based street-names the Soviets didn’t change – they were, after all, the names most particularly vetted: out of a total of 18, 10 were replaced – probably missed it.
Martsa (Martsa): Village in Ida-Virumaa, but candidate unlikely: v. small and quite far away (±150 km). Possibly an old farm name, but none recorded in KNAB.
Masina (Masin): Machine, engine. Street in the heart of a former industrial complex. The B. Drümpelmanni Masinaehitustehas was at No.1.
Matka (Matk): Tour, hike, often specified such as jalgsimatk, (jalgsi = by foot), jalgrattamatk (bicycle tour), etc. Compare Finnish matka (stretch of) road.
Matrossovi A. (Alexander Matveyevich Matrosov, 1924-1943): Young lad, full of zeal, full of bullets. Hero of the Soviet Union, reported to have thrown himself in front of a German machine-gun to allow his comrades to advance, but apparently dragged there (for some arcane reason) by German soldiers. Soviet Era renaming (1950-1990) of Tondi.
Meeliku (?): Possibly an nty-nth variant on the theme of Meleka. Also a village in Võru. More probably a former farm name, i.e. odonym dictionary compiler’s euphemism for “haven’t got a clue”. A street, helpfully, which starts at 21 and ends at 29.
Mehaanika (Mehaanika): Mechanics.
Meistri (Meister): Master, foreman, champion – Iga asja peale meister: Jack-of-all-trades.
Meleka (Melekas): Alternative name for õõnetuvi, stock dove or pigeon, Columba oenas (see Tuvi). Other names include: hall utt, hutt, huut-ütt, hütt, kuugitaja, kuutaja, kähklane, kühklane, küüklane, laanetuvi, lõigas, meelekas, meelikas, mehik(as), mehike, mehka, mehuk(as), mehuke, meigas, melgas, mellekene, meltsas, meokas, meoke, meos, metstui, metstuvi, metsutt, meukas, meuke, miegas, moigas, mõegas, mõigas, mõlsas, mõo, mõukas, mõõgas, mälakas, mältsas, mölsas, möltsas, puuk, põldpüü, põllutuvi, sootaja, tootaja, tuutaja, tütt, udutaja, uhkur, utikana, utt, utu, utukana, utukukk, utulind, utumargus, uudut, uuhütt, uurlup, and perhaps… Meeliku. (But perhaps not.) Birds, like flowers, can have dozens of different names according to region, dialect, etc., sometimes hundreds, which can be quite a bugger. One of a bird-name group of streets. See also Metsise.
Mere (Meri): Sea, ocean. Linguists suggest that mere could be a loan word belonging to speakers of a pre-Finno-Ugric and pre-Indo-European language of the Kunda Culture, hunter-gatherers of the period 8000–5000 BCE.
Merelahe (Merelaht): Bay, gulf, cove…
Meriaia (Meriaed): Nautical garden, seaside gardens…
Merimetsa (Merimets): Woods beside the sea. As indeed they are.
Merinõela (Merinõel): Broad-nosed pipefish, Syngnathus typhle, related to the sea-horse and looks (with a bit of imagination) like one that’s been straightened out, hence its name (literal translation) of “sea needle”. Part of a fish-name street group. See also Nigli.
Merirahu (Merirahu): Peace of the sea. Although word can also mean reef.
Merivälja (Meriväli): Open land by the sea. Probably former farm name.
Mesika (Mesikas): Melilot, Melilotus, also known as Sweet Clover.
Mesila (Mesila): Apiary (lit. place of honey).
Metalli (Metall): Metal.
Metsa (Mets): Wood, forest. Mine metsa!, a common Estonian expression of vigorous valediction: lit. Get thee into the woods. More commonly understood as Go to hell! Get lost! Piss and/or Bugger off!
Metsakooli (Metsakool): Forest or woodland school (i.e. school in one). After former “Kose-Lükati Sanatoorse Metsakool”, a school originally for children with tuberculosis, gradually opening out to respiratory disorders such as asthma, allergies, bronchitis, etc. Name changed to Tallinna Konstantin Pätsi Vabaõhukool in 1994. See Vabaõhukooli.
Metsanurga M. (Mait Metsanurk, 1879-1957): Pseudonym of Eduard Hubel, fairly prolific neo-realist writer with at least 12 novels, plus collections of short stories, histories, and some half a dozen plays. Born in Metsanuka (corner of the woods), Tartumaa. Best known for his historical novel Ümera jõel (On Ümera River, 1934), depicting the battle of 1210, where Estonians fought and defeated the invading Teutonic knights.
Metsaveere (Metsaveere): Edge of the forest. Initially known as Aleksandrovi / Александровская ул. (1915-1925), then Tulika (in German: Hahnenfußstraße, lit. rooster’s foot), unusually, contemporary with the street in Kristiine of the same name from 1931 to 1959. Also Halla from 1940-1941.
Mirta (?): No answer. Mirt is myrtle, but the genitive is Mirdi. Fidel Castro married a Mirta Díaz Balart in 1948… Possibly an old farm name. Named in 2000, so Hamilton’s 3rd Law suggests this is a very archaic term.
Mooni (Moon): Poppy. At least ten genera of plants produce poppies, but the one referred to is probably the good old Opium Poppy, Papaver somniferum, whose seeds are used in many a fine Estonian cake. One of a group of flower-name streets. See Tulbi.
Moora (Moor): Moor, but with reservations: the only references to moora found are in compound words such as Mooramaa, Mooramees or Mooramaalane (Ethiopia, Blackamoor or Negro), so perhaps they were chosen during pre-CPPC (communist party politically correct) days to welcome the African communists invited to study in Soviet universities. Moor:Moori, on the other hand, is a Swedish loan word (from mother, see Vaari meaning old woman or hag). For information, there was also a Felix Moor (1903–1955), Estonia’s legendary first radio broadcaster and radio-drama producer, nicknamed Raadioonu, or Uncle Radio. Also Soviet Era renaming (1958-1994) of Nõva.
Muhu (Muhu): Island between Estonia and Saaremaa. Also muhk:muhu, bump, swelling (chilblains are külmamuhud) and, for those who still remember them (Hi Mom!) bubonic boil, but one hopes the municipal naming authorities did not have quite so much imagination.
Mulla (Muld): Earth, soil.
Muraka (Murakas): Berry of the Rubus genus. Three main varieties in Estonia: Põldmurakas, aka Põldmari, Dewberry, Rubus caesius; Mesimurakas, Arctic Raspberry, R. arcticus; and the one most commonly understood as Murakas: Rabamurakas, the cloudberry or bakeapple, R. chamaemorus. See Kaarla. Another berry street group. See Mureli.
Mustakivi (Mustakivi): Black stone. Named after a farm or hamlet it was built upon. See also Kivi. Renamed (1980-1989) as 21. Juuli during the Soviet Era. Mustakivian Muslims bent on prayer should point themselves approx. 158° SSE to join the dots and face their own black stone, Kaaba.
Mustamäe (Mustamägi): Black hill, black mountain. Although use of the word “mountain” is questionable. Most capital cities have buildings taller than Estonia’s mountains. Right or wrong, the nominative Mustamägi is sometimes heard. Even saying “black” is questionable too. One of the only Estonian words which gives me a touch of urticaria is this one: must. It means black, but also dirty, and for people, a mustlane is a gypsy. Reminds me of scrubland in the Pantanal, Brazil, described by one local as sujo, literally “dirty” but to him meaning untamed, unfarmed, thus representing the dark, perhaps frightening, nature of tropical forest with its wild animals and insects. Simplest translation for both would be, for peoples of very much earlier or less civilized times: “bad”. See Vana-Mustamäe.
Mustjuure (Mustjuur): Black salsify, lit. black root, Scorzonera hispanica, aka Spanish salsify, Viper’s Grass, Serpent Root (Latin name derives from Italian scorzone, snake, itself from Low Latin curtio, viper, due to its (extremely) short, curtus, members), and Black Oyster Plant. Next door to Rõika.
Mustjõe (Mustjõgi): Black river. Known variously as Sarlote, Sarlotte, Scharlottentali, Scharlottentaler, Шарлоттентальская ул until 1939.
Muti (Mutt): Mole (not the facial sort). Also means old crone; type of dragnet; game of cards; and the holes for cord along the edge of a sail. Definitely a street to be divided in two. What may once have been a legitimate A to B is now separated by a mammoth 3-hectare block of buildings through which few cars could negotiate without minimum offence to their no claims bonus.
Muuga (0): Harbor town a few miles east of Tallinn. Earliest recorded name (1314) was Naystenoia (Naisteoja or women’s brook); later (1689) known as Muncka, reminiscent of Münkenhof (monastery, former name of Muuga Mõis in Lääne-Virumaa) due to belonging to the Pirita cloister. The Naystenoia name, however, was 98 years before the Brigittines arrived in Estonia. Muuk:Muuga means tongue-tied, clumsy.
Muuluka (Muulukas): Sometimes known as the Green Pine Strawberry, Fragaria viridis, unusual in that most strawberries are 7-chromosome haploid, while this one is 14-chromosome diploid. Part of a small berry group. See Põldmarja.
Mõigu (Mõik): The word means “utricle” (either the plant, a “small bladder” or chamber of the inner ear…), but named related to nearby manor and former Mõigu kalmistu (Ger. Friedhof / Kirchhof von Moik), the cemetery built for Baltic-Germans in 1774 as a result of Catherine the Great’s 1772 edict (just after the Moscow plague and riot) prohibiting burials in church crypts or within city walls. Razed by the Soviet army in 1950-51 along with the Kopli and Kalamaja cemeteries. Settlements date back to late Bronze Age.
Mõisapõllu (Mõisapõld): Field(s) of a manorial estate.
Mõrra (Mõrd): Weel, fish snare, basket-trap, fish trap. Originally the fish basket made from withies or similar into which fish could swim but rarely escape, it now tends to mean the long tube tensed by rings looking like a single-ended lobster net.
Mõõna (Mõõn): Ebb, low tide, ebb and flow is mõõn ja tõus.
Mäe (Mägi): Mountain, hill, mound, molehill… Since the highest point in Estonia is Suur Munamägi (big egg hill), culminating at the giddy height of 317 m above sea level (318 at low tide), any toponym involving mägi or mäe can, at most, only refer to a hill. Gladly, I am not the only one to suspect an absence of alpine loftiness in Tallinn. Maie Kalda, in her article Estonian Literary Slum, accuses Tallinn of “megalomania” or “heights mania”, and even Kivi (TT) seemed alarmed at finding so many places in Tallinn called “mountain”. So let us, cautiously, suggest that a mägi, inside Estonia, might not, perhaps, after all, be what one would legitimately acknowledge as anything involving towering crags, precipitous slopes or, um, height. Snowy tops, in winter, on cars, yes, height no. However, to avoid prejudice among the men and women of the marshy fens, our abundant generosity will allow the occasional hill, and without wishing to be quoted on this, even less so see it in print, we could also wildly speculate that, once, mäel and peal might have been cognates, one related to the body, the other, influenced by maa, to the land, and simply meaning “on top of”. Let us see, the evidence is based on the flimsiest of data, but ignorance should never stand in the way of a good explanation:
both “m” and “p” are what phoneticians call “labials”, pronounced essentially by the lips;
Liivamäe was known as Auf dem Sande (on the sand) in 1881 and two alternative names for it in 1885 were Liiva peal and Liiva mäel;
in both the Erzya-Mordvin and Moksha-Mordvin languages, “hill” is пандо (pando) or панда (panda), although the language doesn’t seem to show any consonantal shift, or regular switching of one consonant for another, i.e. “m” for “p”, so it may be pure coincidence.
A mountain in Estonia is more psychological than real and, like fish, gets bigger with each recounting. In Lang, referring to the Late Bronze/Early Iron Ages, we read “The owners of […] hilltop settlements had the highest status…” and an old proverb goes Kus mägi, seal mõis, kus küngas, seal kõrts, talud soo ja raba sees, where there’s a mountain, there’s a manor, where a hill, there an inn, the farms are down in the bogs and swamps. Historically, therefore, it seems natural to attribute anything vaguely elevated as incomparably higher, especially if you’ve been a serf for nigh-on 600 years. It sets a sort of insurmountability, hence acceptability, to the perceived barrier. On the other hand, modern-day jocularity at the name may also fail to understand original naming 1500 years ago when, less familiar with Mont Blanc and K2, locals could well have deemed such a hill a mountain. At the beginning of a name, however, it just means “upper”, but see next entry.
Mäekalda (Mäekallas): Upper slope, upper bankside.
Mäekõrtsi (Mäekõrts): Hill tavern.
Mäeküla (Mäeküla): Village (lit. upper village) and lake in Viljandimaa, and village in almost every other county too.
Mähe (0): Both street and district. Apparently derived from the name of a farm belonging to the Estonian equivalent of a yeoman, or small-freeholding farmer of status below that of gentleman, originally recorded (Swedish surveyor Johann Holmberg’s Tallinn map of 1689) as Meheperre, the latter part of the compound an earlier spelling of pere, family, household, farm.
Mähe-Kaasiku (Mähe-Kaasik): [Mähe district] Birch grove.
Mändmetsa J. (Jakob Mändmets, 1871-1930): Writer. Author of village-life short stories. Contributor to the Tartu Postimees and Tallinn’s Uus Aeg. Editor (1906-1910) of Päevaleht. Died on Christmas Day. Not a nice present.
Männi (Mänd): Pine. harilik mänd, Scots Pine, Pinus sylvestris. Commonest tree in Estonia: almost 40% of Estonian trees are pine. First known as Promenaadi until 1922, thence its current name, evolving into Männa (1926-1927) through either switch to “verticil”, for a whorl or circular arrangement of, e.g. petals on a flower or leaves on a stem, Männas:Männa, or glitch to Mänd:Männa (see also Masti). Mistake, or slippery means of changing the name (for use elsewhere) but retaining the root? Either way, the face of this miserable state of affairs was temporarily saved by its laddering-up to Ladva (> Latv), treetop, or… vertex (1940-1941), satisfying all parties, it being common to all trees, pine or otherwise, the matrix of budding verticils and source of new switches…
Männiku (Männik): Pine wood, pine grove.
Männiliiva (Männiliiv): Pine sand. What it is and why would anyone use it to name a street is anyone’s guess.
Männimetsa (Männimets): Pine forest.
Männipark (0): Pine park.
Möldre (?): Uncertain. There are two villages in Estonia – one in Valgamaa and the other in Võrumaa – called Möldre but the link is tenuous to say the least. Perhaps a local farm name, an Estonianization of some Germanic name, or an erroneous genitive of mölder, miller (ought be möldri, and common name in Estonia too with quite a few villages, lakes, rivers, and other geographical thingies all over the place). Möldre is not an uncommon name in Estonia, with six farms and various “celebs” bearing the name, including Hugo-Johannes Möldre, 1896-1983, soldier and politician; Vassili Mölder-Proletaarlane, 1878-1943, poet and revolutionary with 8 years inside for agitprop; and two Mari Möldres, one, an actress (1890-1974), occasionally sequestrated for anti-Soviet humor, and the other a cello-playing nymphette from Urban Symphony, Estonia’s attempt to recapture the Eurovision hearts, ears, and advertising budgets of millions with their proud ditty Rändajad. In 1996, a whole battery of streets suffered a collective baptism like a JPII Vatican Martyr-Fest. Along with the present were Karusambla, Käolina, Laaniku, Palusambla (from which it was renamed, in part, presumably, in 1996), Soovildiku and Turbasambla, each and every one of which a moss. But there ain’t no Möldre nowhere in no list of Sõnajalad nowhere. Suggestions? Yes, former farm name.
Mündi (Peter Friedrich Mundt, ?-1800): Late (very) 18th-C Tallinn businessman and burgomeister. The added umlaut is an example of converting a now-forgotten person’s name into a recognizable object, a coin (münt:mündi, but also means mint of the edible rather than numismatic variety). Formerly known as Korte reghe, MLG for short narrow passageway, (1392) and brevis rega iuxta forum, Latin cum MLG for short narrow passageway off the main square (1368). See Pikk.
Müta (Mütt): Long pole with hoof-shaped end used to scare (presumably equiphobic) fish into a net, or perhaps club for killing fish. Also wooden stirring stick, presumably the domestic forefather to the preceding hi-tech device. Part of a fishing-related street-name zone, see also Nata.
Müürivahe (Müürivahe): Between the (city) walls. Müüri, however, is singular, so maybe “space behind the city wall” (i.e. the arcades) would be a better rendering, although it probably implies between the city wall and the row of houses opposite. Also Soviet Era renaming (1950-1987) of Munga.
Naistepuna (Naistepuna): St. John’s Wort, Hypericum. Plant of medical interest. May cause serious problems in grazing cattle, ranging from debilitating photosensitivity to even abortion. Use with caution.
Narva (Narva): Town on Russian border. Earliest records of present name (as Narvsche Straße, Нарвская ул, etc.) date back to 1872, before which it shuttled back and forth between St. Peterburgsche Straße / Петербургская дорога and Catharinenthalsche Straße (passing, as it did, by present-day Kadrioru). Oldest known names include Wierscher Weg (1743), German for Viru road, leading to the former county of Viru, now dissected into the those of Ida-Viru (Eastern Vironia) and Lääne-Viru (Western Vironia) and Wesenbergsche Straße (1801), leading to Rakvere, historical name of Tarvanpää (pää being the old spelling of pea, “head”, “on” or “on top of”), town in Lääne-Viru, and home, too, of the impressive, 7-meter, 7-ton, 7-leggèd (I jest) “Tarvas” statue of an auroch by Estonian “Leatherman” (my nickname) sculptor Tauno Kangro. Which only goes to show that roads lead to wherever you like. Most recently, however, during the German occupation of 1941-1944, part of it was baptized Adolf Hitleri, a detail which later Soviet censors omitted to recall in their records…
Neeme (Neem): Cape, headland, foreland. Which, with typical Tallinn aplomb, is located precisely between two capes, headlands, forelands… No relation to patriarch of Estonian conductors (music, not buses) Neeme Järvi.
Neitsi torn (⇑): Virgin’s tower, used to incarcerate prostitutes during the Middle Ages. That’s what they say. The name seems most likely to be an Estonian translation of a German corruption of Megede (cf. German Magd (farmgirl); MLG Māget, literally “unfreies Mädchen” or “unfree girl” (interesting spin on “kept” girl/woman), pun intentionally misleading, not in prison but presumably tied to service on a particular farms). Tower first mentioned in 1373 as “Meghede torne”, implying the close proximity of a key-keeper of that name (cf. Fulfordi-tagune torn) or, more likely, a wealthy burger (cf. Ray Kroc) named Hinse Meghe. The more histrionic Estrionicists see a “Mägede torn”, tower of the hills. See also Nunnadetagune torn.
Neiuvaiba (Neiuvaip): Lit. maiden’s covering, carpet or tapestry, Epipactis, Helleborine, Epipactis, terrestrial orchids with a fondness for wet environments. Yo Estonia!
Nekrassovi N. (Nikolay Alexeyevich Nekrasov, 1821–1878): Russian poet, writer and critic. First editor of Dostoievsky. Publisher of literary magazine Sovremennik (The Contemporary, founded by Pushkin) from 1846 until 1866, publishing Turgenev, Tolstoy, and even Flaubert… Soviet Era renaming (1963-1995) of Madala.
Nelgi (Nelk): Pink, dianthus, carnation, Dianthus, from the Greek: God’s flower. Three species indigenous to Estonia: Nurmnelk, Maiden Pink, Dianthus deltoides, with dark red blossoms; Nõmmnelk, Sand Pink, D. arenarius, with white blossoms; Aasnelk, Large Pink, D. superbus, with pink blossoms. The name pink seems originally unrelated to its color (although some people think the flower might have given the color its name), but refers to the fringed, or “pinked” edges. Pinking shears, as every needle-person knows, are scissors designed for cutting fabric and limiting fraying. The carnation is also one of Estonia’s favorite (or perhaps just commonest) gift flowers. See also Sinilille.
Nepi (Nepp): Snipe. (It also means NEP, which, for any pre-geriatric still struggling through, mean New Economic Policy, a Soviet-devised method of self-impoverishment). Two species breeding in Estonia: Mudanepp, Jack Snipe, Lymnocryptes minimus and Rohunepp, Great Snipe, Gallinago media. One of a bird-name group of streets. See also Pardi.
Niguliste (?): Nicolas, presumed dead around 350 CE, relics nicked by Italian merchants in 1087; patron of sailors, children, unwed girls, apothecaries, merchants, pawnbrokers and perfumers, and patron saint of Russia. Saint’s day: Dec. 6, evolution into Santa Claus began during Middle Ages. Also Soviet Era renaming (1948-1987) of Kuninga. Also spelled: Nigolas, Nigulaste, Niggola, Nikkola and Nikolai.
Niidu (Niit): Meadow, hayfield.
Niine (Niin): Bast, bass, phloem, inner bark of lime trees.
Nikolai Triigi (Nikolai Voldemar Triik, 1884-1940): Talented painter and portraitist with an occasionally morbid bent.
Nikonovi J. (Jevgeni Nikonov, 1920-1941): Heroic Russian marine who fought in the defense of Tallinn in 1941, and, according to legend, was burned alive by the Germans. Soviet Era renaming (1951-1991) of Soo.
Nirgi (Nirk): Weasel. As they say: Eagles soar, but weasels don’t get sucked into jet engines.
Nugise (Nugis): Marten. Native to Estonia are the Metsnugis, Pine marten, Martes martes, and Kivinugis, Beech marten, M. foina. Named or renamed as Auto at various stages from 1927 to 2001. One of Pääskula’s woodland mammal group. See Põdra.
Nunne (Nunn): Given, probably due to popular usage, by no less than KNAB (who not only ought to know better, but probably do so let’s assume this reflects a former spelling), Ehitusregister and Regio as Nunne, the correct form is Nunna, from Nunn: Nun, after one of its gates, Porta Monialium and, with 99.9% certainty, a one-time nearby nunnery. Recorded in the Middle Ages as susterstrate (1361) or platea sancti monialium (1364), and later as platea sororum (1480) and Süsterstrasse (1606), the Soviets, perhaps due to its ending up in front of another place of mass congregation, Balti Jaam, christened this and Väike-Kloostri with the slightly more pedestrian denomination of Vaksali (1950-1987).
Nurme (Nurm): Meadow, field, pasture.
(Nurmenukk): Cowslip, Primula veris, full name harilik nurmenukk, literal translation uncertain: Common (yes) meadow (yes) projecting part (sort of, if you look at the flower). Other names, which often sound bizarre but sometimes just reflect a similarity of shape, include kanavarvas (chicken toe), käekaatsad (work trousers made from tow or linen), taevavõti (heavenly key, key to heaven, perhaps reflecting their looking like bloomers and corresponding bliss once opened?), saksapüksid (German, i.e. posh, trousers), kikkapüksi (trousers that stand up on their own?), piimapisarad (drops of milk), pääsulill (escape/salvation flower), and even kanaperse (chicken’s arse). As we see, consensus rules. One of a 2nd flower-name group. Oblika.
(0): Eye of the needle. Passageway at the end of a narrow street significantly enlarged by the March 9th 1944 bombing. Along with Trepi tänav, Nõelasilma värav was re-built and re-opened 20 August 2007.
Nõeliku (Nõelik): Usually a needle case, but here a tool for weaving fishing-nets.
Nõmme (Nõmme): Heath, moor, moorland. Another odd one: the nõminative is actually Nõmm but, as far as streets or districts are concerned, never used. Elsewhere (e.g. Harjuorg, etc.) the occasional district is in the nominative for reasons of geographical descriptiveness, and if the Estonians can gather their wits enough to call a Kesklinn Kesklinn, they should be able to do so here. On the other hand, elsewhere they do the opposite, calling the district Tõnismäe (genitive) and the street Tõnismägi (nominative, with neither tn nor similar appendage). Perhaps we are entering one of those nebulous areas of linguistics where the object’s appellation has a greater or lesser semantic footprint according to what it designates. Whereas a town center or valley has a relatively identifiable quality about it, a heath is woollier, its perimeter, profile and even “heathness” morphs according to weather or season. Does its name refer to the land or the vegetation (compare the English cognates “heath” and “heather” and German Heide (heath [Feldmann et al.’s Baltisches historisches Ortslexikon translates nõmme as either Heide or hügeliger Sandboden, hilly/moundy sandy soil]) and Heidekraut (heather, or heath herb) all ultimately derived from proto-Indo-European *kait, open, unplowed country)? Perhaps its lack of definiteness implies more frequent usage in association with other words, in Estonia, the corollary of which is a necessary genitive. In Finnish, with which it seems to share its commonest ancestor, it’s nummi:nummen, where the nominative ends in a vowel and the accusative vice versa. The (An?) Estonian genitive used to end in -n, but this apparently disappeared sometime between the early 13th-C and the 16th-C, and seems to exist today only in the word Maantee.
Nõo (Nõgu): Concavity, trough, hollow, depression, dip in the ground, socket. Also odd variant for cousin or nephew/niece, with genitive debated: ÕS & Saagpakk decline both nõbu:nõbu or nõo:nõo, TEA prefers nõbu:nõbu, while Wiedemann gives the genitive of both nõbu (cousin) and nõgu (hollow) as nõu. See Vaari.
Näsiniine (Näsiniin): Mezereon, spring-flowering shrub, Daphne mezereum, with poisonous berries. One of its alternative names, Surmalill, death flower, seems to drive the point home quite well.
Oblika (Oblikas): Sorrel, dock, Rumex. Leaves of the broad-leaved dock, Rumex obtusifolius, traditionally used to soothe brushes with stinging-nettles, and recent research has shown them to contain anti-histamines. One of a 2nd flower-name group. Palderjani.
Odra (Oder): Barley. Not in the cereal-names street zone (see Kaera) but close to a former brewery, Rewalia, belonging to the Saku Õlletehas (beer-manufacturing) company, which left Tallinn in 1911 and returned to its home-town of Saku where beer had been brewed (on the Saku estate) since 1820. In 1928, the then standard half-toop bottle was phased out in favor of the 0.5-liter; although what a toop – a shtoff or stoup in English apparently – exactly was is not clear. It seems to have been a metal mug used both for measuring and for drinking, representing one tenth of a pang, another unit of measurement, or bucket (and, declining pang:pange, no relation to Panga), but this would have been the Russian toop (1.23 liters). The Tallinn toop was 1.18. Measurement units in the past were highly variable. Kivi, on the other hand, relates it to proximity to Maneeži, which makes sense too. Known first (1882) in its German form, Gerstenstr., then Russian (1907), Ячменная ул, one year before becoming Estonian.
Ogaliku (Ogalik): Stickleback. Despite the importance of sticklebacks to the development of ethology, the street this name was given to in 1995 was gutted six years later. Then, adding insult to injury, they gave it to another street and, less than 12 weeks later, binned it again! What do they have against sticklebacks? They don’t even have Raudkiisk (cf. Kiisa), the sea stickleback or, is it’s known in Ireland, 15-spined stickleback, only true marine Gasterostid so lovingly linnaeanized as Spinachia spinachia (raud, iron, spinach, Popeye…). All wrong of course: originally called “Spanish vegetable”, spinach contains less available iron than cauliflower. The story has it that, way back in the 1870s, a certain German Dr. E von Wolf published a paper giving spinach’s iron content as 10 times higher than it was due to a misplaced decimal point. Maybe, but the certain German Doktor has proved remarkably elusive and the whole thing may well be an urban legend, perhaps cooked up to exculpate the Sailor Man’s creators for their blathering nonsense. Either way, a tricky piece of greenery. As the decidedly odd US lawyer Clarence Darrow once said: “I don’t like spinach, and I’m glad I don’t, because if I liked it I’d eat it, and I just hate it”. The stickleback is a noble fish, a close relative to the sea-horse and scaleless as a dolphin, it is a nest-builder and tender wetnurse of relatively cuddly sticklebabies cynically abandoned by an uncaring mother. See Maimu.
Ojakääru (Ojakäär[d]): Winding brook.
Ojaveere (Ojaveer): Brookside.
Oki F. (Feodor Okk, 1898–1941): Sometime Secretary of the Communist Party of Estonia Tallinn City Committee. Commissar of a 1941 Soviet Destruction Battalion (See also Pasternaki M.). Name occasionally written as Okki in genitive. For once not a Soviet Era (1979-1994) renaming (of Loitsu), they seem to have built it.
Oksa (Oks): Branch, limb, bough.
Olevi (Olev): In Nõmme, short for Olevipoeg, Olev’s son. According to Kreutzwald, cousin and fighting companion of the epic hero Kalevipoeg, Kalev’s son, or, possibly, rhyming variant of Kalev’s name (but see Oleviste and Olevimägi). Part of a Kalevipoeg street-name group. See also Sulevi.
Olevimägi (Olevimägi): Olev’s mountain or hill. See next entry.
Oleviste (Olevist?): Olev’s, after the church (built by Olev the giant and/or fairytale stranger who built it and promptly died upon completing the spire. Please do not doubt this, although some skeptics insist on claiming it was named for Saint Olaf, 995-1030, previously King Olaf II of Norway) alongside which it runs; church reputed to be the tallest building in the world from 1549 to 1625, at which point (pun intended) the spire burnt down after lightning. Interestingly, Ben Franklin was one of the first to bring to general attention the paradox of affixing lightning-conductors to church steeples. Since lightning was considered an Act of God, who are mortals to try and thwart His meteorological messaging?
Orava (Orav): Squirrel.
Oru (Org): Valley.
Osja (Osi): Equisetum, Horsetail, Equisetum, a remarkable survivor from the past. The only known living genus of its kind, this group of plants began evolving in the Middle Devonian (±400 M years ago), becoming a dominant species of the undergrowth of Carboniferous forests, and involuntary contributor to much coal, and still exists today with an almost worldwide distribution.
Osmussaare (Osmussaar): Island (“malm island”, its Swedish name of Odensholm, or Odin’s grave, is more romantic) 7.5 km off the NW coast of Estonia, 4 km long, uninhabited since the Soviet deportation of 12 farming families, now a nature reserve.
Oti (Ott): Man’s name, and old name for bear, with evidently an alternative genitive in Otepää, town and location of historical hillfort (first mentioned in 1116) in southern Estonia and, hard to believe, not used to name a single Tallinn street. The spelling of pää, incidentally, was recommended by Jakob Hurt, linguist and “father/king of Estonian folklore” (face on 10-krooni note, (see Hiidtamme), in 1871 to replace the northern dialect form pea (likewise hää for hea), but it failed to catch on. Given its location in an essentially fish-named area, perhaps simply an old farm name.
Otsa G. (Georg Ots, 1920-1975): Estonian baritone, beautiful, smooth voice. Born in Petrograd, son of Kaarel Ots, another renowned tenor. Best known for his title role in Rubinstein’s The Demon.
Otsatalu (Otsatalu): End-farm.
Paabusilma (Paabusilm): Lit. peacock’s eye. Probably Päeva-paabusilm, the Peacock butterfly, Inachis io, although it could also be one of the saturnid moths: Kevad-paabusilm, Emperor moth, Saturnia pavonia or Hiid-paabusilm, Great Peacock moth, S. pyri, etc. All of which for nothing: street planned but never built… Part of a lepidopteran group. See also Piksepeni.
Paagi (Paak): 1) Beacon, buoy; 2) Lump; 3) Tank, cistern. Close enough to one of Tallinn’s prime sludge producers on Paljasaare peninsula, could be any one, but probably the last.
Paakspuu (Paakspuu): Aka harilik paakspuu, aka mõruuibu (bitter apple-tree), etc., Alder, Glossy or Breaking Buckthorn, Black Dogwood, Rhamnus frangula or Frangula alnus.
Paasiku (Paasik): Flagstone.
Paavli (Paavel): Paul, perhaps a common or garden first or family name but, given that the horrid agnostics across the border defrocked him (1950-1990) in favor of Popovi A., they too might have guessed the saint (feast day 25th January).
Padriku (Padrik): Thicket, coppice.
Padu (Padu): Low, wet place or waterlogged ground.
Paerohu (Paerohi): Grass (growing) on limestone.
Pagari (Pagar): Baker. Named for fairly obvious reasons. Estonia, incidentally, has perhaps the most delicious bread in the world.
Paide (0): Town in Järvemaa, south-east of Tallinn. Known as Tsemendi / Zementstraße / Цементная ул. from 1913ish to 1939.
Paiste (Paiste): Shine, gleam.
Paisu (Pais): Dam, weir.
Paju (Paju): Willow, withy. The willow has two main common names separating them in Estonian, although they’re both Salix: Paju and Remmelga. Lots of them: Halapaju, Violet Willow, Salix acutifolia; Hanepaju, Creeping Willow, S. repens; Hundipaju, Rosemary-leaved Willow, S. rosmarinifolia; Kahevärviline paju, Tea-leaved Willow, S. phylicifolia; Kõrvpaju, Eared Willow, S. aurita; Lapi paju, Downy Willow, S. lapponum; Mustikpaju, Swamp Willow, S. myrtilloides; Mustjas paju, Dark-leaved Willow, S. myrsinifolia; Punapaju, Purple Willow, S. purpurea; Tuhkur paju, Grey sallow (not a typo, name comes from Latin Salix, see also Fr. Saule), S. cinerea; Vesipaju, Almond Willow, S. triandra; Vitspaju, Common osier, S. viminalis; and a few less known outside Estonia; Härmpaju, S. daphnoides; Pikalehine paju, S. dasyclados and Verkjas paju, S. starkeana.
Pajustiku (Pajustik): Willow plot, osier.
Paks Margareeta (⇑): Fat Margaret. A relatively recent name, dating back to 19th-C, formerly known by the more prosaic runden tornn […] vor den groten Strantporten […], round tower in front of the big beach gate (Suur Rannavärav). See also Pikk Hermann.
Palderjani (Palderjan): Valerian, Garden Valerian, Garden Heliotrope, Valeriana officinalis. Its other name, All-Heal, reflects its use as medicinal plant as mild sedative and anti-insomniac. Smell attracts cats. One of a 2nd flower-name group. See also Pojengi.
Paldiski (0): Town, port, and former Soviet nuclear submarine training center close to Tallinn, once entirely fenced off with barbed wire. Originally a Swedish settlement (many in Estonia at one time) called Rågervik, the Russians adopted it as deep sea port and naval base in the 18th century, renaming it Балтийский Порт (Baltiyskiy, or Baltic, Port) in 1762, which Estonians pronounced as Paldiski, its official name since 1933. The original Swedish name, Estonianized to Rogerwiek, is probably derived from the Suur- and Väike-Pakri islands’ earlier names of Stora Rågö and Lilla Rågö (multiple spellings), possibly meaning (greater or smaller) rye island.
Paljandi (Paljand): Outcrop.
Paljassaare (Paljassaar): Bare, bleak island. Paljassaar is as much peninsula, district, road, harbor, bird reserve, as host to Tallinn’s primary sewage plant with 20 settling tanks and 200,000 m² of sludge-drying beds. Lastly, its fortunate residents may also enjoy its sandy beach. Sun, sea and… steamy.
Palu (Palu): Low meadow or forest.
Panga (Pank): Bank. Both in the sense of steep limestone or rocky coast which is probably what they’re referring to here, and the financial institution. Very uncertain the street has actually been built. Ran out of money? See Rünga.
Papli (Pappel): Poplar. Berliini pappel, a cultivar we can probably call Berlin Poplar, Populus x berolinensis.
Pardi (Part): Duck, Teal, Pintail, etc. Numerous species breeding in Estonia: Ameerika piilpart, Green-winged Teal, Anas carolinensis; Ameerika viupart, American Wigeon, A. americana; Luitsnokk-part, Northern Shoveler, A. clypeata; Piilpart, Eurasian Teal, A. crecca; Ristpart, Common Shelduck, Tadorna tadorna; Rägapart, Garganey, A. querquedula; Rääkspart, Gadwall, A. strepera; Sinikael-part, Mallard, A. platyrhynchos; Sini-rägapart, Blue-winged Teal, A. discors; Soopart aka Pahlsaba-part, Northern Pintail, A. acuta; Tulipart, Ruddy Shelduck, T. ferruginea and Viupart, Eurasian Wigeon, A. penelope. One of a bird-name group of streets. See also Püü.
Pargi (Park): Park.
Parmu (Parm): Horsefly, gadfly, Tabanidae. Largest of the true flies, major pollinators but nasty biters. Estonia is home to 1% of the world’s 3000-odd species. Part of an insect street-name group. See also Sipelga.
Parve (Parv): 1) Flock, school, swarm; 2) Raft.
Pasternaki M. (Mikhail Fadeevich Pasternak, 1908-1941): Captain of the 1941 operational group of the Destruction (or Extermination) Battalions (Russian: Истребительные батальоны, Estonian: Hävituspataljonid) formed from “local” communists to fight Anti-Soviet partisans using, among others, an up-graded version of scorched earth tactics expanded to include not only farms, but also farmers, their wives, laborers and children. For some, a war criminal or perpetrator of crimes against humanity, for others (paraphrasing): “a hero whose name is inscribed in gold letters”. Please choose. No relation to Boris, author of Omar Sharif goes to town. See also Oki F.. Soviet Era renaming (1979-1995) of Pikri.
Patkuli (Dietrich Friedrich Patkul [?-1710]): Aka Dietrich von Friedrich Patkul, Friedrich Diederich Pattküll, etc. Swedish soldier and Vice-governor of Tallinn from 1707-1710. Ostensibly… Although his infamous and ill-fated relative Johann Reinhold von Patkul (1660–1707), born in Stockholm prison and broken on the wheel in Poland for his part in the Great Northern War and desire to wrest Livonia from Swedish hands, may well have made him a more covert candidate.
Pebre (Peber): Broken or crushed hay and seeds at bottom of hayrick. During Soviet times, collecting these perishables was rewarded by special travel permits, allowing many women and children to visit otherwise inaccessible destinations such as the skiing resorts of central Siberia. Formerly Sõnajala (1939-1959) and Olga (1910-1939), quite probably after one of the distaff representatives of the Koba family (Albert’s wife?). Part of a fodder and staples street-name group. See Ristiku.
Pelgulinn (0): Tallinn district: town of asylum, refuge, shelter, hinting at a possible one-time asylum outside Tallinn. A slum in the late-19th-C.
Pesa (Pesa): Nest. Formerly known as Greeni from which the “G” disagreeable to the Estonian palate often disappeared to produce Reeni and transliterated into German and Russian as Greenstraße and Ренская ул (renski) indicating a personal name but whose remains a mystery. Also known as Linnu (1927-1959) with interlude as Kuslapuu (1940-1941). Anagram of Sepa.
Peterburi (Peterburi [+Peterburg & variants]): Saint Petersburg (1703-1914 & 1991-), capital of Russian Empire for over 200 years. Previously known as Leningrad (1924–1991) and Petrograd (1914–1924). Founded a few km upstream of Nyenskans, a Swedish fortress on the Neva captured at the end of the Great Northern War. No prizes for guessing the street was renamed Leningradi from 1948 to 1992.
Petrooleumi (Petrooleum): Petroleum. Street created/named around 1904 after the Nobel Brothers’ petroleum depot. Albert did not make all his money from dynamite and gelignite, far from it: he and his brothers Ludvig and Robert and, later, Ludvig’s son Emanuel were among the world’s leading oil barons, with some 50% of global oil production coming from their company Branobel in Baku, Azerbaijan. Part of an oil street-name group. See Bensiini.
Pihlaka (Pihlakas): Aka harilik pihlakas, Rowan, Common or European Rowan, Mountain Ash, Sorbus aucuparia. Its berries are an important food for many Estonian birds.
Pihlametsa (Pihlamets): Rowan wood, grove.
Piibri (Piiber): Common name for the beaver, aka harilik kobras, European beaver, Castor fiber, native to Estonia.
Piiri (Piir): Border, boundary. Also one-time site of a Soviet short- to medium-range missile base, apparently aiming at Scandinavia.
Pikaliiva (Pikaliiv): Long sand. You tell me. Prob. long and sandy.
Pikk (Adj.): One of the oldest streets in Tallinn, previously known as strantstrate (1362), beach street (since that was the way it led). Followed by lange / longa strate and longa platea, or long main road (all late 14th); stagnalis (of/by the pond, but perhaps also “stagnant”, a euphemism for the waste that presumably collected at its lowest points) (1375), and, very odd, longa rega (1367). What rega means is anyone’s guess, it’s not Latin, but since it also occurs in brevis rega iuxta forum (1368, present-day Mündi), it’s presumably not a typo but a dog-Latin derivative of MLG rēge (cf. mod. German Reihe) for “narrow passageway”, although Pikk today could be described as neither narrow nor a passageway, Pikk Jalg could, especially the part running (or wheezing asthmatically, according to age) up the hill from Nunne. Not sure. For the record, No.20 was a Soviet phone-tapping center, and No.59 a KGB interrogation center. According to an old Estonian joke, this was the tallest building in town: from its cellars you could see Siberia.
Pikk Jalg (0): First recorded as longus mons (1342), this is perhaps the clearest indication of what a jalg is geographically. Since Estonian doesn’t specifically differentiate leg from foot (see, e.g., Sõnajala), what’s referred to here is the “foot” of a mountain, and hence the road that led up to the linnus or citadel at the top of the hill.
Pikri (Pikker): Also spelled Piker. Mythological personification of thunder, aka Pikne, etc., probably related to Perkūnas of the Lithuanians. Runs parallel to the slightly quieter Kahu. Renamed (1979-1995) as Pasternaki M. during the late Soviet Era).
Pikse (Pikne): Once an otherworldly ruler of the weather, also and otherwise known as Äike, Kõu, Paristaja, or Pikker, apparently related to Lithuanian Perkūnas, a Baltic god of thunder associated with the oak (*perkwus is proto-Indo-European for oak [cf. Latin quercus], fir or “wooded mountain”, and also signifying toughness or strength); today, a thunderstorm, more commonly known as äike. Non-existent street next to Välgu, another non-existent street (they’ll clear the forest one day, unless they’re hoping that an appeal to the god of electro-celestial tree-hugging might do it for them). Pikne (Pitkne, old spelling) was also another term for snake.
Piksepeni (Piksepeni): Lit. Thunderstorm dog (peni [or pini] is an alternative or dialect word for dog, more common in the southern half of E, cf. Livonian piņ). Strictly, a woolly bear: caterpillar of the Arctiidae moth family, but also name of the Scarlet Tiger moth itself, Callimorpha dominula and probably used, as in English, for a variety of hairy caterpillars. Part of a lepidopteran group. See also Päevakoera.
Pilliroo (Pilliroog): Reed, bulrush.
Pilstickeri torn (⇑): Arrow-maker, from MLG pīl, arrow (German Pfeil, both derived from Latin pilum, a heavy military javelin) and MLG sticken, to fit with a shaft. However, given the latter’s root *stick- implying a point, there may well have been confusion with arrow-sharpening. See also Plate torn.
Pilviku (Pilvik): Russula, probably the Kollane pilvik, yellow swamp russula or brittlegill, Russula claroflava, an edible mushroom.
Pinna P. (Paul Pinna, 1884–1949): Full name Paul-Otto-Hermann Pinna. Estonian actor and cult figure so famous he even had a brand of cigarettes named after him.
Pinu (Pinu): Pile or stack of (fire-)wood. In a land of abundant forest, as well as abundant rain, fog, mist, drizzle, sleet, snow, plus hail, mush, slush, bogs, swamps and marshes, it’s good to have a store of wood, and a heap of names to describe them. See also Riida.
Pirita (Pirita): After Birgitta Birgersdotter, Saint Bridget of Sweden, 1303-1373. The Brigittine sisters first arrived in Estonia in 1412, five years after its founding (it recently celebrated its 600th anniversary); the convent, host to the annual Birgitta Music Festival, currently (2010) numbers 8 nuns, of Mexican or Indian origin. In the 15th-C the convent was known for its Orgies, with two abbesses enjoying the name: Kunigunde (think Voltaire) Orgies (1458-1462) and Gertrud Orgies (date uncertain). Previously (1920) spelled Piirita. Owes its fame mainly to Bornhöhe’s novel Vürst Gabriel ehk Pirita kloostri viimsed päevad, Prince Gabriel or the Last Days of the Pirita Convent (1893), converted into a historical adventure film, Viimne reliikvia, The Last Relic, by Grigori Kromanov (1969). The Estonian present-day first name Piret derives from Birgitta/Pirita.
Pirni (Pirn): 1) Pear; 2) Lightbulb – Kellelegi pirni panema is to play a practical joke on someone, make someone’s life miserable, take someone for a ride.
Planeedi (Planeet): Planet.
Plangu (Plank): Plank, board, fence, railing, palisade.
Ploomi (Ploom): Plum, prune.
Pohla (Pohl): Aka harilik pohl (harilik = common), other names include paluk (± that which grows in heathy pine woodland), poolamari (Poland berry), kuradimari (devil’s berry), this is the Cowberry, Lingonberry and sometimes aka Red Whortleberry, Vaccinium vitis-idaea, actually a false or epigynous berry, as are the banana, cucumber and melon. Berry street group. See Jõhvika, or, why not, Kirsi.
Poldri (Polder): Polder. Although essentially a Dutch construct, Estonia has four polders: Aardla, Audru, Räpina and Tarvastu. This particular one is a concrete polder, whether nascent or moribund is not quite clear.
Politseiaed (Politseiaed): Police garden. Located, oddly, opposite the fire station.
Poordi (Poord): Board, side of a ship, as in starboard (tüürpoord, steering-, helm or rudder side) and larboard (pakpoord, prob. from German Backbord, quite possibly influenced by packen in the sense of “to stow” (verstauen), as suggested for English with OE bæcbord, lit. “back board” (as sitting facing the steering side, starboard, Steuerbord would leave this to your back) evolving into ladde-borde (“loading side”?) before becoming larboard in the 16th C. Given the confusion, the British Admiralty changed it to “port” in 1844.
Popovi A. (Alexander Stepanovich Popov, 1859-1906): Russian physicist who first demonstrated the practical application of electromagnetic waves (some say inventor of the radio), but failed to apply for a patent. Soviet Era renaming (1950-1990) of Paavli.
Poska J. (Jaan Poska, 1866–1920): Main signatory to the Treaty of Tartu on 2nd February 1920 between Estonia and the Russian SFSR recognizing Estonia de jure, the latter relinquishing (Art.2) ‘for ever all rights of sovereignty formerly held by Russia over the Esthonian people and territory…’ (sic), Mayor of Tallinn 1913-1917. Known as Liiva from some time in the first half of the 19th-C until 1927. Soviet Era renaming (1940-1991]: Leineri A..
Postitalu (Postitalu): Rural sub-post-office.
Preesi (Prees): Brooch, a variant of the Sõlg, but tending to be more open-worked, with serrations, pendants and/or jeweled (often molten glass) incrustations. The two words have a degree of overlap in meaning.
Prii (Prii): Free, gratis and for nothing. Except when it wasn’t, e.g. Rahnu (1940-1941), from rahn, boulder, block or megalith, and Kalju (1929-±-1959). This was in the Nõmme, Rahumäe, district. The other Prii, in Põhja-Tallinn, Kalamaja, seems to have enjoyed a bizarre Estonian stability, its prime pen pals being Freistraße and Свободная.
Priisle (Priisle): Street and sub-district of Lasnamäe, suburb a few km (±5) WSW of Tallinn. Named after earlier farm or hamlet it was built upon. For reasons I confess I am unlikely ever to fathom, the district name changed from Priisli in 1970, which was already a definite improvement on its previous 6. Lasnamäe mikrorajoon, 6th Lasnamäe Microdistrict, and the same name change followed suit for the street in 1989. Settlements recorded as far back as the Bronze Age.
Printsu (Prints): Strictly Printsi, Estonianized name of popular singer P. R. Nelson.
Puhma (Puhm[as]): Clump, tussock
Puju (Puju): Mugwort, Artemisia vulgaris, plant with a long and… legendary past. Alternative names tell interesting stories. English: Sailor’s Tobacco (fairly obvious), Naughty Man (used in the Middle-Ages to flavor beer, and perhaps for its hallucinogenic properties), Old uncle Henry (pass). Estonian: ema-rohi, mother medicine, because reputed to rotate breach fetuses or, perhaps more useful on occasions, abort them; langetõverohi, epilepsy medicine, the plant contains thujone, found in absinthe believed to cause epilepsy; and sala-koi-rohi, mysterymonger drug or secrecy-fogey-drug (hallucinogen again). It also gave its name to the city of Chernobyl (Ukrainian: Чорнобиль = mugwort, literally, чорний, black, билля, grass/stalks). Lastly, modern-day witches use it for astral travel, saving considerable sums of money in airport taxes.
Puki (Pukk): Historically: Buck, he-goat; also, by extension, and perhaps more common today: trestle and/or log-sawing frame. And, rare: potato-fork (of the agricultural rather than culinary species). Even more relevant to today is baaripukk, or bar-stool.
Punane (Adj.): Red. The red in question has nothing to do with blood, communism or other such nasties but the color of the nearby one-time Punane majakas, or red lighthouse (the road used to run further west but this part was renamed Pae in 1949). It was replaced in 1896 by the current black (top 1/3) and white (bottom 2/3) Tallinna Ülemine Tuletorn, or Tallinn upper lighthouse (see Majaka). Street names indicated by an adjective (occasionally an adverb or attributive) are in the nominative. See also Roheline.
Pune (Pune): 1) Oregano; 2) Twist, twisted yarn, strand of string of rope. The genitive of both these acceptions should be puneme.
Punga (Pung): Bud, shoot, burgeon.
Puraviku (Puravik): Edible boletus mushroom.
Purde (Purre): Footbridge, plank or tree-trunk across a stream.
Pusta A. (August Pusta, 1904–1971): Colonel (polkovnik, from polk [Ru. полк], regiment, nothing to do with dancing) of the Soviet Army’s 8th Estonian Rifle Corps. Soviet Era renaming (1979-1994/5) of Kahu and Lummu.
Putke (Putk): Mixed collection of plants including members of the Apiaceae family such as the niitputk, Cachrys sp.; nokkputk, Scandix sp.; or hiid-karuputk, Giant Hogweed, Heracleum mantegazzianum, which can cause severe dermatitis if sap gets on the skin; or the carrot family such as nurm-ogaputk; Field Eryngo, Eryngium campestre; or again nuusk-anniputk, Dorema ammoniacum, from which the resin gum ammoniac (nuusksool is smelling-salts, i.e. ammonium carbonate with lavender) is obtained.
Puuvilja (Puuvili): Fruit.
Põdrakanepi (Põdrakanep): Willowherb (lit. elk’s hemp), Epilobium. Some species, such as the Small-flowered Willowherb, E. parviflorum, is said to improve erectile dysfunction, although the opposite may be more useful.
Põhja (Põhja): North, northern, northerly. Also noord or nord among sailors. See Kirde. Formerly known as Troonipärija (heir apparent, given the corresponding street-naming change around 1906, presumably the hemophiliac Tsarevich Alexei Nikolaevich, born 1904). The “Ilmarine” machine works was at no. 21. See also Põhjakaare.
Põhjakaare (Põhjakaar): North, northern quarter on the horizon. Previously Kepleri until 1922 then Põhja until 1958, with the obligatory 1940-1941 interlude as Korvi (basket, wicker), but where TT also lists Monopoli until 1958, KNAB record it as a separate street. See also Lõuna.
Põhja-Tallinn (0): North-Tallinn.
Põlde (Põld): Odd. Põlde partitive plural of põld, field, arable land, pasture. Equally unlikely is the village in southern Estonia, on the Latvian border. Possibly a former farm name. Close to Rajapere.
Põldma (?): Possible farmname, põldmaa would be arable land and it was not uncommon for the last “a” to be dropped in farm/family names.
Põõsa (Põõsas): Bush, shrub.
Pähkli (Pähkel): Nut, hazelnut.
Päikese (Päike[ne]): Sun. Päikese puiestee was called Prožektori puiestee from 1940 to 1941, a more martial manner of illuminating the sky, and Peetri prospekt / Петровский проспект until 1925. Päikese tn was also an earlier name (1929-1959) of Saturni.
Pärituule (Pärituul): Fair wind, wind due astern, tailwind, lit. a “from” wind.
Pärja (Pärg): Wreath, garland, or chaplet. Two streets same name: one, in Pääsküla, known until 1925 as Шаховская чл, probably after Prince Sergey Vladimirovich Shakhovskoy (1852-1894), governor-general of Estonia from 1885 to 1894, chairman of the committee in charge of building the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral and patron of the Pühtitsa Convent (Kuremäe Jumalaema Uinumise nunnaklooster), 40 km WSW of Narva. Known also, temporarily (1940-1941) as Jänese, hare, but definitively Pärja (or Kranzstraße, German, and Венковая ул., Russian) from 1926; the other, in Pelgulinn, was paved and baptized (with a nice font for the typeface) in 1930 but recognized the folly of its ways and converted to its synonym Vaniku, with a bit of arm-twisting, in 1959. There are Dark Hints suggesting that the former ceded part of its length to Tammepärja in 1989.
Pärnade (Pärnad [pl.]): Aka (Sing.) harilik pärn, Small-leaved Lime, Little-leaf Linden or Greenspire Linden, Tilia cordata. Its fragrant flowers are very popular with bees and makers of herbal tea. The bottom layers of bast used to be used for mats, cord, and viisud, shoes/slippers made from bast (which sometimes only lasted a day or so), hence one of its other names: Niinepuu, lit. bast tree. The oldest lime tree in Tallinn (if its grandson is to be trusted) is believed to be the one near Niguliste, known as Kelchi pärn after the church’s almost pastor Christian Kelch (1657–1710) who reputedly died of the plague and was buried beside selfsame tree shortly before employment but well after completion of Liefländische Historia, oder kurtze Beschreibung der Denkwürdigsten Kriegs- und Friedens-Geschichte Esth- Lief- und Lettlandes …. biss auffs 1690 Jahr (1695), a chronicle which mysteriously sold fewer copies than Barbara Cartland’s rather predictable Revenge of the Heart (1984) and only goes to show there’s no accounting for taste.
Pärna J. (Jakob Pärn, 1843-1916): Popular writer of (moralizing) children’s books. Chapter 1 of his Must Kuub (black coat, i.e., that of the traditional costume), 1913, is said to be the first major depiction of eroticism in Estonian literature. For what reason I cannot imagine, this was the first Estonian story ever translated into Finnish.
Pärnamäe (Pärnamägi): Lime hill.
Pärnaõis (Pärnaõie): Lime blossom, commonly used as herbal infusion, used for bringing the temperature down, among other things.
Pärniku (Pärnik): Lime grove.
Pärnu (Pärnu): Estonia’s Summer Capital, coastal town in the south-west, with beaches, hydrotherapy, mud baths and spas. Known as Pernau during its time as Hanseatic town, providing ice-free access to the then Livonia.
Pärnulõuka (Pärnulõugas): Pärnu Bight, the shoreline has advanced seawards (northwards) since the 19th-C, adding real estate and confusion: why this when it’s facing Paljassaare Laht?
Pääsküla (Pääsküla): Tallinn suburb renowned for its landfill and library. First recorded as Peskulae in the Liber Census Daniae (LCD) and assumed named after a ford over nearby river but etymology unclear (related to Latin pes, foot, the sort of thing you might use if the water’s low?). A later (19th-C, wrong) interpretation suggested that since highways were infested with robbers, reaching Pääsküla (“escape/salvation village”) meant safety. Also one of the thousand-odd hawkweeds, this one known variously as pääsküla karutubakas (bear’s tobacco), or zizi hunditubakas (zizi wolf’s tobacco), Hieracium zizianum, whether the zizi is related to süsi, South Estonian for the North Estonian hunt (borrowed from German for dog) is unsure.
Pääsukese (Pääsuke[ne]): Swallow, Martin. Be that as it may, the name comes from Schwalbegasse after 19th-C property-owner and cabman, Carl Schwalbe. Schwalbe (Ger.) = pääsuke (Est.) = swallow (Eng.). Breeding in Estonia include: Kaldapääsuke, Sand Martin, Riparia riparia; Piirpääsuke aka Piiritaja, Common Swift, Apus apus; Roostepääsuke, Red-rumped Swallow, Hirundo daurica; Räästapääsuke, House Martin, Delichon urbicum and last but certainly not least Suitsupääsuke, Barn Swallow, H. rustica, Estonia’s national bird.
Pöögelmanni H. (Hans Pöögelmann, 1875-1938): Poet, translator and Member of the Soviet of the Commune of the Working People of Estonia. Death in 1938 suggests a less than favorable review of his verse by the NKVD… Soviet Era renaming (1959-1990) of Kaupmehe.
Pühavaimu (Pühavaim): Holy Spirit, after its nearby church. With a long history of name change: retro ecclesiam sancti spiriti e. capellam (1363) or strate achter dem hilghem gheeste (1389) (both meaning behind the Holy Ghost church and chapel) and later variants such as Hiiligöösti ulits (1732), etc. Renamed (1948-1987) as Säde during the Soviet Era.
Püssirohu (Püssirohi): Gunpowder, cordite. Lit. Rifle weed/grass/medicine since it was, ironically, used as a medicine too… After local powder store, demolished in 1917.
Rabaküla (Rabaküla): Boggy or marshy village, or village by the bog or marsh.
Rabaveere (Rabaveer): Edge of the swamp.
Rabtšinski I. (Ivan Vasilyevich Rabchinsky, 1879–1950): One-time Chairman of the Military Revolutionary (Communist) Committee and, later, editor of various Estonian partisan newspapers. Name lives on on Russian cargo ship tramping the seven seas. Soviet Era renaming (1964-1990) of Vabriku.
Raekoja (Raekoda): Two addresses: this one is the Plats. Town hall. Lit. council house, the rae comes from German raten, to advise, as in Rathaus, town- or city-hall. First recorded as forum (1313) then the name oddly disappeared from the records until re-emerging (1732) as suur turro (and variants, Suur turg, etc.: big market) until 1923 when it acquired its present name, with odd interludes as Deutscher Markt (German market) and Schwedischer Markt or Шведскій рынокъ (Swedish market) to differentiate it from Vene turg (Russian market), present-day Viru (väljak), as well as Neuer Markt to differentiate it from Vana Turg. Until 1816, Raekoja was also equipped with miscellaneous devices designed to discourage recalcitrant behavior: pillory, manacles, leg and neck irons. Mass entertainment may seem to have come a long way since then, but probably hasn’t…
Tallinn City Center, scale 1:1
(Raekoda): Second address: the street. Earliest recorded name was budel or bodel strate (1371). Although the obvious origin would seem to be MLG büdel, modern-day Beutel, or little bag or purse, it is more likely to come from the verb büten, meaning to barter, exchange, distribute, but also take away, carry off (cf. English booty), which makes it look like Tallinn’s first market street. By the late 17th-C, the name evolved into Bütteley Strasse with the local clink at No.6 called Bütteley too. Officially, at least… Locals just called it Alevilaut, the village coop (lit. barn, stable, pigsty), to differentiate it from the classier chamber of temporary restraint for wealthier burghers of the junker estate: Junkrukamber. Street also known as Petersilien Gasse for the traders who used its cellars to keep their parsley fresh.
Rahu (1] Rahu; 2] Rahu; 3] Rahu; or 4] Rahk): Tricky: rahu  means reef, a geographical feature found in more littoral areas, and rahu  means quiet, but given its location next to Raudtee, its translation of quiet, tranquility, calm, peace or truce may seem like misleading advertising. On the other hand, Hiiu-Rahu kalmistu (cemetery), a place of quiet, tranquility if ever there was one, is just across the track. Then again, the equally possible translation (from rahk ) of shingle, gravel, rubble or scree seems quite appropriate too. Despite nearby hospitals, we will exclude kidney or gland (from rahu ) as too unappetizing a street name, and, checking Kivi, find it was known as Friedenstrasse in 1922, so quiet it is. Renamed (1987-1991) as Hiiu-Rahu during the Soviet Era.
Rahukohtu (Rahukohus): Court. Lit. court of peace. Renamed Rahvakohtu, people’s court, by the Soviets (1950-1989), the point of which remains a mystery.
Rahumäe (Rahumägi): Quiet hill.
Rahvakooli (Rahvakool): State primary or elementary school.
Rahvamaleva (Rahvamalev): Voluntary People’s Patrol, Soviet militia helpers. Job limited to low-level policing, corralling drunkards and so on, although a number of them worked on a more fundamental approach to policing by protecting citizens from splinters on bar-stools. Soviet Era renaming (1959-1994) of Hiiu-Maleva. With a history of chronic name change: Started as Ohvitseri (officer), split up into Maleva and Tamme (which used to be Walkre after local houseowner Mr Walker) in 1922 with an interlude as Ava (opening, orifice), and brief flirtations with Taru (see Asula) (1940) and Käolina (1959).
Raie (Raie): Cutting, hewing, chopping trees, lumbering. Temporarily Ristnoka, crossbill (1959-1960). Previously Kuldnoka (1925-1959). Fleetingly Meika (1940). Flappingly Starenstraße, starlings (1926). Anciently (-1925) Ivanovi / Ивановская ул.
Raja (Raja): 1) Boundary, border; 2) Path, walk.
Rajametsa (Rajamets): Border forest, forest boundary
Rajapere (?): Probably name of former family, household, farm.
Randvere (Randvere): Road leading to village of same name, first recorded (1397) as Randyver, and inhabited by Swedish immigrants from 13th-C on. Rand, we know, comes from Swedish for ‘shore’ or ‘beach’ (see Ranna) and the -vere part may well be more etymologically Estonian (see Aedvere), but another possibility is a cognate relation with Old Norse yfir (and modern English over and German Ufer, bank, shore, although better reflected in the origin of Hamburg from (am) hohen Ufer, on the upper bank) in the ‘safe’ sense of ‘above’, ‘beyond’ or ‘upon’. So the name may well have meant ‘above the beach’ with what I’d call ‘lexical sprawl’ and linguists, probably, phono-semantic matching accounting for its shift to the more Estonian-sounding -vere. In the 600-odd years since its existence, its name has routinely mutated from Randyfer through Randele, Raudever, Randever, Randeuere, Randaver, Randeuer, Randyuer, Randel, Randeuver, Randekull, Ranneuer, Ranneuerkull, Ranneuer, Ranneferde, Rannefer, Randafer, Randfer, Randwer, Randwerre, Rangdfer to Randvere, and the -vere ending may well have been influenced by the curved shape of the beach in question, with Wiedemann recording wēre as Neigung (slope), Wendung (turn) and Beugung (bend), all of which would apply. Interestingly, close to the crossing with the serendipitously named Keeru was once a farm called Kroodi, presumably after the nearby Kroodi gulch, a site inhabited as early as 5000 BCE, so now you know where the Croods come from ;o)nd
Rangu (?): Reportedly a name related to haymaking, but nothing traced, despite its being named in 2000*. There is a spring and a village in Marjamaa, but this is unlikely an origin. It is also the genitive of a Muhu island word for fly, which we can probably disregard without great prejudice. Unresolved.
* A possible example of Hamilton’s 4th Law, where very recent naming may appropriate terms that may perhaps have existed prior to written record if not utilization ;o)
Ranna (Rand): Beach, strand. Of Germanic origin: strant, MLG; strand, Swedish, etc., cf. the Strand in London, former “beach” running alongside the Thames.
Rannamäe (Rannamägi): Slope to the beach, beach hill.
Rannaniidu (Rannaniit): Meadow near the sea.
Ranniku (Rannik): Coast, seashore.
Rapla (Rapla): County town of Raplamaa, 48 km south of Tallinn.
Rataskaevu (Rataskaev): Wheel well, well with windlass for winding up water. A development of the older true windlass well, võllkaev, which saw various additions over time from the wheel to facilitate rotation to realizing the windlass was not actually needed. This well was originally named Sternsot, apparently derived from MLG for hard (as in water) well. In the twenties, along with standard hotel names such as Kuld Lõwi (golden lion), Commerz, Tsentral, etc., Tallinn was also seemingly Francophile (this was before the EU of course), hosting hostelries such as Franzia, Belgia, and, in this street, to the delight of B&W film buffs, a Hôtel du Nord. Also Soviet Era renaming (1950-1987) of Rüütli. The street was first recorded as platea dicta dumestrate (1328), or “street known as dumestrate”, and sub monte penes machina (1381), “below the hill with the machine/apparatus”, and sternestrate (1489-1521). Kivi gives dume (Zobel spells it dumme) as meaning hooba, a word related to levering or prying rock, suggested by the banks of limestone that may well have been used in local construction, which seems eminently sensible since this activity would likely have continued for centuries. But perhaps there is another interpretation to consider, also involving the removal of rocks… Firstly, a well in a city blessed with water does not seem a noteworthy landmark in itself, although on a hill it may admittedly be useful, but in a city as certifiably soggy as Tallinn I doubt it. Secondly, medieval street names often reflected their main activity or occupants – Kinga, Kullassepa, Munga, etc. In some countries, street names where prostitutes plied their trade were often crude and clear, such as Paris’s Rue Brise-Miche (Arse-buster Road) or Rue du Poil-au-con (Hair-on-the-Cunt or Twat-Thatch Road, now Rue du Pélican). England had its Gropecunt Lanes and Lift-the-Skirt Alleys. When they disappeared, bowdlerized to Grope to Grape, for example, it was along with the Protestant reformation or the spread of syphilis (about which Catholics were unsure which was worse) which, in Tallinn 1586, caused prostitution to be banned and the lõbunaised, pleasure-women, driven out of town. Prior to this, they seem to have been tolerated, to the extent of being allowed to pay taxes. Thirdly… gets a bit complicated here: dume may well mean what Kivi suggests but, as they say in French un train peut en cacher un autre, there may be more to this than meets the eye. In MLG, dume, duum, or duym meant “thumb” (Etymologisches Wörterbuch des Deutschen tracing its etymology back to “der Geschwollene, Dicke, Starke”, that which is swollen, thick and strong, cf. PIE *tum- “swell”) and the thumb has long been a symbol for the penis: the “phallic hand”, for example, a gesture dating at least back to Roman times, aka “fig gesture” or “mano fica” in modern Italian: a clenched hand with the thumb protruding between the fingers symbolizing the coupling of male and female organs, where fica is slang for the vulva, not “fig” which is fico. In astrology, too, the thumb is correlated to Venus (the Mount of Venus on the palm covering the thenar muscles), although how long this whimsy has been around I don’t know. Next, again Kivi may well be right in his interpreting of sub monte penes machina but, a) if penes is taken to mean “under one’s government”, “at one’s disposal”, or, very loosely, “with”, since it governs the accusative, it should be followed by machinam not machina; b) penes is also the Latin plural of “penis” (derived from “tail”) and, c) although machina was an device or a crane, etc., it was also the place above a stage where the gods appeared and spoke (whence the expression deus ex machina) or a platform for displaying slaves for sale, and the Latin prostituere, prior to its current and more immediate meaning of to actually prostitute, meant “to expose publicly for prostitution”. Grammatically, it might not match (although Latin had been going downhill for at least 1100 years by this time), but a pun or euphemism may well have been intended: in medieval English and French, a brothel could be known as a convent and a madam an abbess. Further, prostitutes in medieval Europe often congregated around wells, which opens up yet another bag of snakes: modern-day French pute or Italian puttana, whore, seem likely to come from Latin putidus stinking, which also reflects man’s love-loathing relationship with sex (one 16th-C English slang term for prostitute was fling-stink), puter/putris means corrupt, wanton, lascivious (the expression in Venerem putris means giving oneself up to the deliquescent pleasures of Venus…), and a well is puteus (a hole available to all, and what better metaphor for a prostitute), all of which are close enough for confusion and conflation to occur. Lastly, the well is very roughly equidistant (±250 m) between Neitsi torn and the historic bath-houses (with which prostitutes have been associated since Roman times) either side of present-day Nunne. As to whether the latter sisters actually rented rooms to them I shall not even discuss. So, putatively, and without wishing to sound like an attempt to fit a square peg into a round hole if you’ll pardon the expression, we conclude that Rataskaevu may have been one of Tallinn’s medieval red-light districts.
Note: the above is an example of Sunday etymology. The compiler has “discovered” a hidden truth and intends, by hook or by crook, to confirm it. He therefore selects the information that corroborates his find, studiously avoiding anything which goes against his heaven-sent intuition. He presents choice extracts of arcane isolates backing his theory, ignoring the mass of non-information that suggests serendipity. Basically – despite the fact everyone does it (although that’s no excuse) – this is not the way to do science, even if it is only playing with words.
Raua K. (Kristjan Raud, 1865-1943): Painter and illustrator of folklore characters and bizarre mystical phenomena such as flying lakes (but given the country’s average rainfall, perhaps not that mythological at all). Best known for his depictions of the Kalevipoeg. The 1935 edition being (then) an almost must-have in every Estonian home. His cheery face adorns the 1-crown note.
Raudalu (Raudalu): This street should have been zapped from the list a long time ago, but it’s interesting so it stays. In the early 19th-C, it was called, indiscriminately, Raudalsche Straße, Raudarrosche Straße and Rappelsche Straße. While you can discern the original destination in the last German name, in Estonian it stands out loud and clear: Rapla maantee. The contemporary Estonian counterparts Raudalu and Raudaru were after a local inn called Raudaru Kõrts. Confusion was a no-brainer. Name changed in 1949 to Viljandi to which it also leads if you have the time.
Ravi (Ravi): Cure, treatment, therapy. The Ida-Tallinna Keskhaigla (East Tallinn Central Hospital) is at No.18, and the Kesklinna Lastepolikliinik (Children’s General Clinic) at No.27.
Note: all author proceeds from this book go to Tallinna Lastehaigla Toetusfond (Tallinn Children’s Hospital Foundation, set up to aid purchase medical equipment):
Tel: +372 697 7131
Email: email@example.com. Donations can also be made through the following:
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Rebase (Rebane): Fox. Native to Estonia is the Punarebane, Red fox, Vulpes vulpes. One of Pääskula’s woodland mammal group. See Hirve.
Fox, © Remo Savisaar (blog.moment.ee)
(see next photo by Remo Savisaar)
Regati (Regatt): Regatta. Home of the Olümpiapurjespordikeskus, Olympic (or Pirita) yachting center (see Jahimehe), aka TOP: Tallinna OlümpiaPurjespordikeskus, built for the 1980 Summer Olympics. See also Rummu.
Rehe (Rehi): Drying barn or large room in old farmhouse where grain is kiln-dried and threshed. The ambient damp and methods used to keep it dry is said to have given Hansa-period Estonian bread its distinctive and much-appreciated flavor. Modern-day Estonian bread tastes better than any I’ve ever tried.
Reimani V. (Villem Reiman, 1861-1917): Sometimes spelled Reimanni. Clergyman, poet and co-founder of Tartu-based newspaper Postimees. Soviet Era renaming (1957-1991) along with Kivisilla as Anveldi J..
Reindorffi G. (Günther-Friedrich Reindorff, 1889–1974): Estonian typographer and graphic designer. In 2008, the Estonian State bank issued a 10-krooni collector banknote (i.e. was desperate for cash) featuring an identical copy of the front of its pre-war granddaddy designed by Reindorff. Street seems to have existed from 1982-1989.
Reinvaldi A. (Ado Reinvald, 1847-1922): Described by one theatre critic (Luule Epner) as “an uneducated peasant and a God-gifted poet”. Given his schooling was a mere five months while aged 14, we can assume at least part of this is true. Hailed from Viljandi.
Reisijate (Reisija): travelers, passengers. Street ambling vaguely alongside Balti Jaam railway lines.
Reketi (Reket): Racquet, racket. Awaiting the municipal ink to convert rubble into road. As to the name, not a tennis court in sight, perhaps the racket refers to the nearby railway line…
Remmelga (Remmelgas): Willow. A seemingly less common name for Paju, used for these four species: Hõberemmelgas, White Willow, Salix alba; Raagremmelgas, Goat Willow, S. caprea; Rabe remmelgas, Crack Willow, S. fragilis; and Raudremmelgas, Bay Willow, S. pentandra.
Reseeda (Reseeda): Mignonette, reseda, Reseda spp., formerly used as a yellow dye. Interesting street: exists since 13/06/1958, but on paper only, just in case…
Retke (Retk): Excursion, outing, expedition.
Riisika (Riisikas): Milk or milk-cap mushroom, Lactarius spp..
Risti (Rist): 1) Cross; 2) Clubs (card suit). Named after Risti kõrts, local source of spiritual succor: the Cross Inn, presumably on the other side of the road. Renamed (1950-1990) as Silikaadi during the Soviet Era.
Ristiku (Ristik): 1) Clover, trefoil (lit. three-leaf), although the etymology from rist, cross, suggests the supposedly luckier four-leafed variety; 2) Perpendicular; 3) Grating; 4) very archaic: name for a cow born on Ascension Day (Ristipäev, lit. “cross day”). Once (1910-1939 [1942?]) named Oskari after local alderman Oskar Gregory, not impossibly a credit note for future back-scratching by Albert Koba (see Roo). Part of a fodder and staples street-name group. See Rohu.
Rocca al Mare (Rocca al Mare): Name of summer estate of the Girard de Soucanton family of Kunda (originally French Provençal), apparently named after the erratic boulder in the sea nearby, and possibly alluding to the Venetian fort named Rocca al Mare, fortress on the sea, (known in Turkish as Koules) built around 1540 in Heraklion (Ηρακλειον, city of Hercules) on the Greek island of Crete. It is also said to relate to a poem written by Adelbert von Chamisso (Louis Charles Adelaide de Chamisso, although it has not been ascertained whether the name is male, female or Australian), 1781-1838, German poet and botanist of French aristocratic extraction, in his collection Salas y Gomez (title said to be painted on the side of the boulder) named after Sala y Gómez, a tiny (770 m wide) volcanic island 360 km ENE of Easter Island visited on Otto von Kotzebue’s 1815-1818 voyage to the South Sea and Bering’s Straits aboard the Russian ship Rurik. Its shape too, with a little imagination, could also resemble the square Venetian fortress. What more can you say?
Roheline (Adj.): Green. Comes in three species: tänav (street) in Nõmme, aas (meadow) in Kadriorg, and Turg (market) in the old town. Street names indicated by an adjective (occasionally an adverb or attributive) are in the nominative. See also Valge.
Street sign in Roheline Aas, Tallinn, photo by Simon Hamilton
Rohula (Rohula): Lit. Place of grass, place where grass is. Russified as Рохульская (Rohulska). Known as Aia (Садовая in Russian, sadly, the street has no No.302А…) until 1925 and, at some unspecified but probably not too distant moment, Rohuaia (grass garden).
Rohumaa (Rohumaa): Grassland.
Roo (Roog): Given the street-zone, reed, cane, or suchlike material used for thatching. Also designates the rasping final note of a cockcrow (that’s Doo to you.) and (nominative Rood) fishbone or bony framework of the nose (yes, they have a word for that). Part of a fodder and staples street-name group. See Söödi. Formerly Alberti 1910-1939, presumably after Albert Koba (see Timuti).
Roolahe (Roolaht): Reedy cove.
Roopa (Roobas): Rut.
Roosi (Roos): Rose, the flower, but also common name for erysipelas, or St Antony’s fire which Estonian folklore says could be got by being frightened by or angry with someone.
Roosikrantsi (Roosikrants): Rosary, but name too of a Danish dynasty of Hanseatic merchants. Renamed (1944?-1989) as Lauristini J. during the Soviet Era. Various interpretations have been put forward: there used to be a place of execution called Rosenkranz nearby; criminals used to tell their rosaries on the way to becoming debeaded; a Michel Rosenkrans bought some land nearby in 1643. Similarly, being close to a St-Barbara cemetery resulted in its being named Barbarastraße for a few hundred years (1575±25-1800±25), and another name was Kummerstraße, street of sorrow (1813). The result of all this is the perfect haze for popular etymology and wishful thinking. Research needed. There were actually two Roosikrantsi streets, a greater and a lesser. Enlarged, the latter later resulted in part of today’s Pärnu.
Roostiku (Roostik): Thicket of reeds, reed bed.
Roseni (0): Probably after the Swedish von Rosen family, of whom Axel von Rosen (1624-1675/80), builder of the Von Rosen palace, now the Swedish Embassy, was later governor of Estonia.
Rotermanni (Christian X Rotermann): Four-generation dynasty of industrialists, Christian (insert second name here) Rotermann, running businesses as diverse as building materials, department store, factories for iron- and woodworking, raw flax and starch processing, distilling, flour-milling and baking, macaroni, as well as trading grain, buying from as far away as Western Siberia, and the salt stored in the present-day architectural museum. Various scenes from Tarkovsky’s film Stalker were shot in present-day Rotermann Kvartal, and there are rumors of a future Stalkeri street. Tallinn already has a new Solaris shopping mall…
Rukkilille (Rukkilill): Cornflower (lit. rye flower), Bachelor’s button, Bluebottle… Centaurea cyanus, Estonia’s national flower. Once considered a weed in cornfields, the latter once a generic term for any field containing corn, rye, wheat, etc.
Rumbi (Rumb): Rhumb, loxodromic curve, any of the compass’s 36 points.
Rummu (Rumm): 1) Hub, wheel-hub, center; 2) Nave. Named after nearby Rummu Restaurant, destroyed during the war.
Rutu (Rutt): Haste, hurry. Street in between Nevski Cathedral and Toom-Kirik, thus-named after the couriers or runners who used there to abide (but not for long, one hopes) in the Middle Ages. Anagram of Turu.
Rõugu (Rõuk): 1) One of the vertical stakes in the back of a farm cart holding the sides in place; 2) Hay or corn stacked on a triangular or A-shaped rack, the rack itself. Given its immediate neighbors, Kubu, Vihu, etc., probably the latter, but it is not without the realms of possibility that during the muddy 1840s the same wood may, although not simultaneously, have served for both, such as a present-day USB key can be adroitly used to keep a window ajar.
Räga (Räga): Brush heap, tangle caused by fallen trees in a forest.
Rähni (Rähn): Woodpecker. Breeding in Estonia: Hallpea-rähn aka Hallrähn, Grey-headed Woodpecker, Picus canus; Laanerähn aka Kolmvarvas-rähn, Three-toed Woodpecker, Picoides tridactylus; Musträhn, Black Woodpecker, Dryocopus martius; Suur-kirjurähn, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Dendrocopos major; Tamme-kirjurähn, Middle Spotted Woodpecker, Den. medius; Valgeselg-kirjurähn, White-backed Woodpecker, Den. leucotos and Väike-kirjurähn, Lesser Spotted Woodpecker, Den. minor. One of a bird-name group of streets. See also Rästa.
Räime (Räim): Baltic herring, Clupea harengus membras. Along with Jõeoti, street renaming a section of Tiskre in 1995. Part of a fish-name street group. See also Ründi.
Baltic herring, Estonia’s national fish
Ränduri (Rändur): Given its position alongside the railway: traveler or wayfarer, but perhaps vagabond or vagrant if they don’t buy tickets. Pilgrims would just use the track as route indicator… Renaming, along with Liikuri, of former Raudtee. The original choice was Relsi, from Relss, a colloquial term for rail, rejected by rancorous railway riparians.
Räni (Räni): Silicon. Street hovering between existence and virtuality in town-planners’ minds and builders’ pockets.
Rännaku (Rännak): Wandering, excursion, trip.
Rästa (Rästas): Thrush. Breeding in Estonia: Hallrästas aka Paskrästas, Fieldfare, Turdus pilaris; Hoburästas, Mistle Thrush, T. viscivorus; Kaelusrästas, Ring Ouzel, T. torquatus; Kivirästas, Rufous-tailed Rock Thrush, Monticola saxatilis; Laulurästas, Song Thrush, T. philomelos; Mustpugu-rästas, Dark-throated Thrush, T. ruficollis; Musträstas, Common Blackbird, T. merula and Vainurästas, Redwing, T. iliacus. One of a bird-name group of streets. See also Räägu.
Rätsepa (Rätsep): Tailor, from rätt (and Sepa), today used more in the sense of kerchief (cloth being riie (giving riided, clothes) lapp (used more in cleaning contexts), or kangas (fabrics, material)), but might have had a broader meaning in the past. Earliest records give Johann Retsepp (1725). One of an occupational street-name group. See Jahimehe.
Räägu (Rääk): Aka Rukkirääk, Corn Crake or Corncrake, Crex crex. Breeds in Estonia. Where Roman or English corncrakes go crex crex, Estonian ones präägutavad. One of a bird-name group of streets. See also Siidisaba.
Rünga (Rünk): 1) Block, crag; 2) Bank of clouds. Personally, I’d bank on the clouds: looks like one of those street names decided (1993) years before the concrete hit the road… All the more so since its virtual neighbor is Panga.
Saadu (1] Saadu; 2] Saad; 3] Saat): 1] Acquisition, something got – kuidas saadud, nõnda läinud: easy come, easy go; 2] Cock, haycock, stack, rick; 3] Suite, entourage; or 4] All totally irrelevant since the street is now buried beneath a housing development, kuidas saadud, nõnda läinud…
Saali A. (Andres Saal, 1861-1931): Estonian writer of patriotic (lived and died in San Francisco…) historical fiction, street existed until late 1950s. But where?…
Saani (Saan): Sleigh, sledge, a variety of which was the kosesaan, or bark sleigh, with bark-made surrounds protecting against the wind. Began life as Казарменная ул. and/or Kasernen Weg, barracks, (-1870), then switched to Schlittengasse, sledge alley (odd – next to Suve), in the 1880s, Saani in Estonian and Санная in Russian. Although a couple of postal addresses still seem to exist today, the street doesn’t (well, sort of).
Saaremaa (Saaremaa): Island off the west coast of Estonia (Lit. island land – isle land – island). Whereas Estonian is the only language in the world to have the “õ” sound, a half-closed, non-rounded, central or posterior vowel as I’m sure you’d guessed, Saaremaa is the only part of Estonia which doesn’t. For those interested, Wiedemann’s dictionary uses six types of “O”: o, ō, ö, ȫ, õ and ȭ, which modern Estonian has narrowed down to o, õ, and ö. Another nicety in which Estonian prides itself is vowel length, claiming seven different durations: undershort, full-short, half-long, underlong, full-long, overlong and extra long, a wider range than you’d find in most gentleman’s outfitters.
Saarepiiga (Saarepiiga): In common parlance Saaremaa or island girl: piga is a dated term for girl, maid in Swedish, although this one was probably the Isle Maiden that Kalevipoeg, ever the gentleman, frightened into drowning herself in Canto IV. Their relationship is very far from clear: did he “seduce” her, or was she ashamed for, ahem, coveting his (?) “shining silver spear”? was she his sister or his aunt? did he fall asleep and snore too soon? Renamed (1979-1995) as Kangelaste during the Soviet Era.
Saarepuu (Saarepuu): Alternative name for harilik saar, Ash, European or Common Ash, Fraxinus excelsior.
Saariku (Saarik): Here, ash grove, but also means small island.
Saarma (Saarmas): Otter. Native to Estonia is the harilik saarmas, European otter, Lutra lutra.
Saarvahtra (Saarvaher): This is a N American tree, Acer negundo, commonly known as Box Elder, Ash-leaved Maple, Maple Ash and variants such as Black Ash, Cutleaf Maple, Red River Maple, Stinking Ash, Manitoba Maple in Canada and, in Russia, American Maple.
Sadama (Sadam): Harbor, port, haven.
Saeveski (Saeveski): Sawmill.
Sagari (?): Suggested as a haymaking term, and perhaps related to or an alternative spelling of sakard:sakardi, the extracted stump and roots of a tree, which could either be tailored to make a rake or fork or, depending on size, could also be hewn to form the upright and crossbeam of a door, or the first row of its corresponding wall: sagar:sagara is a wooden door hinge or the male part thereof. Given its immediate neighbors, Kubu, Rõugu, Vihu, etc., all referring to harvests, it seems likely to be the name of a wooden implement. No trace of a genitive sagari found anywhere.
Saha-Loo (Saha-Loo): [Saha district] Rocky islet, alvar. Peat bog and site of fossil fields dating back to mid Bronze Age (14th-11th-C BCE).
Saiakang (0): White bread passage (or vaulted archway). Temporarily divested of its Germanic consonance and renamed Saia käik from 1950-1987. First known by the rather imprecise iuxta forum, next to the square (1370).
Sakala (Sakala): Former province in southern Estonia, dating back to 12th century. Title of Estonian language newspaper daily first published in Viljandi in 1878 by Carl Robert Jakobson. Street name replaced present-day Pärnu (formerly Väike-Pärnu maantee [1908-1936], and Veike-Pärnu uulits ) in 1936, and flirted (1959-1960) with Ugandi, the name, oddly, never used before or since, of a one-time independent country in the region of present-day SE Estonia with the eminently unpronounceable MLG designation of Uggn. But then again its synonym Ugala was used elsewhere instead.
Saku (Sakk): 1) Tree stump; 2) Wisp of straw; 3) More realistically: town close to Tallinn, its brewery and beer.
Salme (Salm): Seemingly derived from a maritime term for a deep, narrow strait or sound between two islands (see also Väina). There is a Suur salm (great strait) in greater Tallinn between the islands of Aegna and Kräsuli (from Swedish Gräsö, grass island). And in Saaremaa, where Silm tends to occur more frequently than Salm, there is a Vahase silm, aka Vahase salm, aka Vahasuu (Vaha = mouth, suue:suudme = estuary, embouchure, muzzle of a gun, etc.) between Abruka and Vahase islands south of Kuuressaare. Street formerly known as Militärstraße (1913) or Военная ул. (1907), both meaning military, then Sõja, war, till 1951. But also parallel to Linda and hence another Kalevipoeg character. Salme was a hen who incubated the grouse’s egg from which her “sister” Linda hatched, then married the Youth of the Stars and disappeared from the story (related to Latvian goddess Saule, the sun?). However, hundreds of other Salme stories existed pre Kreutzwald.
Salu (Salu): Grove, coppice, wood; or, unlikely, from salg, denial. “Disavowal Street” anybody?
Salve (Salv): Bin, hopper. Street named after a one-time nearby silo.
Sambliku (Samblik): Lichen, or mossy place. As this street area clearly is. Mossy and woolly, since the moss street-name groups extend over two municipalities, Tallinn and Laagri, and includes two non-existent varieties: Harusambla and Karuvildiku. See also Soosambla.
Sanatooriumi (Sanatoorium): Sanatorium.
Sanglepa (Sanglepp): Aka Must lepp or Mustlepp (black alder), emalepp (mother alder), seatamm (pig oak), Black, European or Common Alder, Alnus glutinosa. 3% of Estonian stands consist of this. Used for furniture and curing fish and meat.
Sarapiku (Sarapik): Hazel wood or coppice.
Sarapuu (Sarapuu): harilik sarapuu, Common Hazel, Corylus avellana. Turkey is the world’s No.1 country for hazelnuts: some 650,000 tonnes per year, roughly 75% of world production, and about 10% of all this goes into Nutella.
Sarra (Sard): Drying hurdle, field trestle or scaffold for drying flaxseed or hay. Also skeleton.
Sarruse (Sarrus): Reinforcement, as in sarrusega klaas, armored glass, (lit. glass with reinforcement) or sarruseta betoon, plain concrete (lit. concrete without reinforcement). Street created in 2007, and theoretically disproving Hamilton’s 3rd Law of Odonymy (see Aedvere), except that it was required to match its neighbor Betooni.
Sarve (Sarv): Horn, antler. A rhinoceros is ninasarvik, i.e. a “nose-behorned”, and to sow your wild oats is oma sarvi maha jooksma, lit. (more or less) to plow with your own horn. Also French or English horn but being next to Hirve and Põdra implies the more obvious reference to these. Anagram of Serva.
Sauna (Saun): Bath-house, sauna. Street thus-named since the 15th-C at least: bastouenstrate (1419) and (the slightly less Scandinavian- and more MLG-sounding) stovenstrate (1420). Word also means small farm or cottage, but this was long before the shift towards steamier haunts.
Saviliiva (Saviliiv): Loam, mild clay, sandy loam.
Seebi (Seep): Soap. After local soap operation founded 1881.
Seedri (Seeder): Cedar, Cedrus spp., any in Estonia are introduced.
Seegihoov (0): Almshouse / Poorhouse courtyard. Nothing to do with Jaani Seek, the St-John’s Almshouse (and later leprosarium) on the corner of Tornimäe and Rävala first mentioned (1237) by Wilhelm/William of Sabina (and Modena), papal legate to popes Honorius III and Gregory IX, who tried to ensure Estonia belonged to Rome. Located opposite Katoliku, to which it may, or may not (how about that for a non-commitment clause) belong.
Seemne (Seeme): Seed, also semen, sperm, but that would be a slippery path for any street-name commission to take.
Seene (Seen): Mushroom. Known until 1922 as Pavlovi after, sincerely, we hope, the Pavlov (Ива́н Пе́трович Па́влов, 1849-1936).
Seli (?): Named after a farm (or hamlet?) it was built upon, although the origin of the name is as obscure as the actual avenue itself which looks more like a footpath that gives up before it gets there. There is a village and/or farm named Seli some 16 km SE of Tallinn, and a manor house about 30 km south of T, where the name comes from the German Sellie. Interestingly, but probably irrelevant, selli means journeyman, chap, pal, etc., all the way down to scoundrel. However, with expressions such as selili for “on one’s back” or selildi for “back to back”, other placenames such as Selimägi aka Seljamäe küla (hillslope village) suggest an affinity with selg:selja, back, ridge. Then again the Seli Mõis south of Tallinn is recorded to have belonged to Pirita convent in 1474, and the MLG for German Seele, soul, was sēle, which is as tempting as it’s misleading… Unresolved. (Soviet Era renaming [1982-1994]: Jüriöö).
Selja (Selg): Back. Often used in sentences such as “Pane riided selga, “get dressed”, or “put your clothes on” (or, more optimistically, “võta riided seljast” or “take your clothes off”), i.e. clothes in general. More specifically, you put clothes onto the particular parts of the body involved: for example panema püksid/kingad jalga (“put your trousers/shoes on your legs/feet” [see Sõnajala], müts pähe is “hat on head”, kindad kätte is “gloves on hands” (arms), sall kaela is scarf on neck, and kampsun selga is “sweater on back” all inessive forms, but short. Street renaming of western part of Tuleraua
Seljaku (Seljak): Bank, ridge.
Sepa (Sepp): Smith, blacksmith (also “yeast” in some dialects). Like wright in English, the sepp ending corresponds to “maker therewith”, giving terms such as a soss-sepp from soss, dud, a bungler and katelsepp (cf. English kettle), boilermaker, etc. One of a mini trade-name area, see also Treiali. Anagram of Pesa.
Sepapere (Sepapere): Possibly former name of blacksmith’s family, household, farm.
Side (Side): Communication, contact, liaison, or any sort of attachment: physical, emotional, mechanical.
Siduri (Sidur): Commonly understood as clutch (of cars, not chickens) but, being part of the Tallinn-Väike railway street set, quite likely means coupler, the hook and eye system for attaching wagons. See also Suitsu.
Siia (Siig): Whitefish, laveret. Two sorts, salt and freshwater: Merisiig, Common or European whitefish, Coregonus lavaretus and Peipsi siig, Peipsi whitefish, C. l. maraenoides. Part of a fish-name street group. See also Silgu.
Siire (Siire): Transfer, transmission (next to Kõrgepinge). Also Enjambment (värsisiire or stroofisiire), poetic device for “straddling” a phrase over two lines. One of those litigious words: generally considered as a Saagpakk 261 group noun or ÕS 1999 group 31 (siire:siirde), elsewhere* it is given a siire:siire declension, stating that the siirde form is tüveerand (irregular root). Here, we assume the street name commission wished to disagree with the men in dust.
Sikupilli (Sikupill): Bagpipe(s), lit. goat’s instrument. Named after nearby inn. What is a shopping center today was a prison in the late-19th-C and, prior to that, a hospital, but its damp limestone walls didn’t do the patients’ health much good, which didn’t seem to be an issue for the next occupants. It also had its own loop of railway passing in and out, allowing the reasonable deduction that the favored occupation of, or rather for, convicts – breaking stones – was not to provide ballast for ships which, Tallinn being a port, naturally lends itself to sensible explanation but, rather, for stabilizing railway lines. Local by-ways add weight (no pun intended) to this argument. On the other hand, it was a women’s prison… Maybe they broke smaller stones? Renamed (1960-1990) as Killustiku during the Soviet Era. One of a rock-based neighborhood. See Tuha.
Sikuti (Sikuti): Combined rod (short, or very short for trolling through ice holes in winter), line and trolling spoon, sometimes translated word-for-word from mänguõng as playing-hook. In southern Estonian dialects, notably around (or on…) Lake Peipsi, they tend to say sikuska (and sometimes, and perhaps incorrectly, tirk). Part of a fishing-related street-name zone, see also Sumba.
Silikaadi (Silikaat): Silicate. Soviet Era renaming (1939; 1950-1990) of Risti. Why this though? For symmetry? There is a street called Silikaltsiidi next to Liiva kalmistu (sand cemetery) and this is next to Juudi kalmistu (Jewish cemetery)…
Silikaltsiidi (Silikaltsiit): Silicalcite, possibly calcium silicate, a hardening material used in bricks and a very romantic name to give any street.
Silmu (Silm): Lamprey. Two sorts: the European river lamprey: Jõesilm, Lampetra fluviatilis, and Ojasilm: European brook lamprey, L. planeri. Interestingly, aged 21, Sigmund Freud wrote a paper on the anatomy of the lamprey’s notochord (Über den Ursprung der hinteren Nervenwurzeln im Rückenmark von Ammocoetes Petromyzon planeri [name since corrected]). Part of a fish-name street group. See also Säina.
Sinilille (Sinilill): Hepatica, Liverleaf, Hepatica. Various of its names reflect the liver-shaped three-lobed leaves: maksalehed, liver leaves; Hepatica, “of the liver”; or its need for cold and snow: keltsalill, frozen-ground flower, lumelill, snow-flower, etc. See also Astri.
Sinitiiva (Sinitiib): Lit. blue wing, but take your pick: Kevad-sinitiib, Holly Blue, Celastrina argiolus; Kukeharja-sinitiib, Chequered Blue, Scolitantides orion; Liivatee-sinitiib, (Eastern) Baton Blue, Pseudophilotes vicrama; Lutserni-sinitiib, Green-underside Blue, Glaucopsyche alexis; Niidu-sinitiib, Mazarine blue, Cyaniris semiargus; Siilak-sinitiib, Short-tailed Blue, Everes argiades; Tähnik-sinitiib, Large Blue, Maculinea arion. Part of a lepidopteran group. See also Sirptiiva.
Sipelga (Sipelgas): Ant. One clever building company decided to entice buyers with the tempting residential name of Sipelgapesa, Ants’ Nest. Bet that got punters itching to buy. Part of an insect street-name group. See also Vaablase.
Sireli (Sirel): Lilac, Syringa.
Sirptiiva (Sirptiib): Hook-tip moth, dozens of ’em. Kase-sirptiib, Pebble Hook-tip, Drepana falcataria; Hambune-sirptiib, Scalloped Hook-tip, Falcaria lacertinaria, and many more… Part of a lepidopteran group. See also Suru.
Sitsi (Sits): Derived, they say, from Hindi: printed cotton or calico, perhaps सूती, sūtī, which seems to be cotton the finished product (cloth or thread) as oppposed to कॉटन, kŏṭana, cotton the raw material. Renamed (1953-1990, along with Kari, as Majakovski V. during the Soviet Era. One of a textile raw materials street group. See also Kanepi.
Sitska (?): Former farm or farming family, renamed in 1996 from Mähe, and once enticingly known as Kaarel, maatükk 22, 16-a, or, more or less, Charles, piece o’ land 22, 16a. Also Estonian surname. Anagram of Kitsas.
Smuuli J. (Juhan Smuul, 1922-1971): Johannes Schmuul until 1954. People’s Writer and winner of the Stalin Prize (1952) and Lenin Prize (1961). The Estonian SSR State Prize was named after him (the Juhan Smuul Literary Prize), an honor he shared with Aram Khatchaturian (for the Armenian SSR equivalent). Author of the rousing song Lähme tööle (Let’s go to work!) and “I, a Komsomol”, a poem I’ve long been promising myself to read… Vague noises circulate about changing the street name.
Sompa (Sompa): Named after a farm that used to be there.
Soo (Soo): Swamp, march, bog. Two streets called Soo: 1) the current one in the Kalamaja district, Renamed (1951-1991) as Nikonovi J. during the Soviet Era, and formerly occupying parts of both Uus-Kalamaja and Tööstuse; 2) the old one, in Nõmme, now known as Alliksoo.
Sookaskede (Sookased [pl.]): Sing.: Sookask. Aka Karune kask (hairy birch), Sokikask (sock birch), Sookõiv (marsh birch), Suukõiv (mouth birch), Downy, White, European White or Hairy Birch, Betula pubescens. This must be the one that younger Estonians use to flagellate themselves in the sauna.
Soolahe (Soolaht): Marshy inlet or bay.
Soone (Soon): Little spring. More commonly used today for vessel, vein, artery; groove, slot; lode, vein. But street named after the winding brooklet or spring on the Nõmme-Mustamäe border.
Sooranna (Soorand): Edge of a marsh, beach by a marsh
Spordi (Sport): Sport, athletics, exercise. Named for the then planned sportsground nearby.
Stoltingi torn (⇑): Stoltynk, presumed fl. late 14th / early 15th-C. A Stoltynk was listed in the 1410-1414 list of Tallinn tower chiefs, earning the tower its one-time nickname of “Väike Uhke” (little pride, cf. stolt, Middle Low German, and Stolz, German: pride). See also Tallitorn.
Sulevi (Sulev): Short for Sulevipoeg, Sulev’s son. Note: where Kalev may well derive from kala, fish, Sulev may well derive from sulg < Sule, but then this could let Olev derive from ole(ma), to be, not an impossible whimsy for earlier folk who may well see themselves as halfway between two poles of human existence, fact (fish=eat) and fantasy (bird=fly). Nice try, probably from plain old Olaf, and where would that have left Alevi (qv.)? According to Kreutzwald, cousin and fighting companion of the epic hero Kalevipoeg, Kalev’s son, or, possibly, rhyming variant of Kalev’s name.
Sulevimägi (Sulevimägi): Sulev’s mountain or hill. Begin its career as de Iseren Doer (1471), tor Iseren Doren (1481), de Iseren Dore (1529), auf Thabor (1599), auf dem Taborsberge (end 17th-C), Brockussackgasse (end 18th-), Kleine Strandstraße (end 18th-C), Kleiner Brockusberg, Kleiner Brokusberg (1907), Väike Brookusmägi (1921), Väike Brokusmägi (1923), Väike Brokusmäe (1935)
Suru (Suru): 1) Swarming of gnats; 2) Press, throng; 3) Hawk-moth (Sphingidae). Has to be No.3. Who would foist the others onto their tenants? During the collective apartment period, perhaps No.2 might have been apt, but No.1? Part of a lepidopteran group. See also Sügislase.
Suurevälja (Suur väli): Big field (“the great outdoors” maybe?). Possibly former farm name.
Suur-Karja (Suur-Kari): [Greater, Upper] Cattle (also flock, pack, troop, crowd), once leading to pasture outside town. Earliest recorded names in a mix of various languages included vee strate, MLG for cattle or livestock street (1362), Kariestrate, Esto-MLG for cattle street (1365), Lat. Platea or Strata Pecorum, Cattle gate (see Karjavärava), with an attempted later gentrification, not without a touch of condescension of strata pecorum vulgaritur vestrate, i.e. Lat. Street of the cattle, commonly known as (MLG) cattle street (1363-7). Known for a while as Michaelis-Straße / Михайловская ул. (1776), apparently after Russian victories of 1710 in the Great Northern War and a procession through the gate on Michaelmas day. Maybe. See also Väike-Karja.
Suur-Paala (Suur-Paala): Greater, Upper Paala. Paala is said to be a river near Viljandi, and site of the Madisepäeva lahing (St-Matthews’s day battle, 21/09/1217) where Lembit, unwisely, lost his head. Street-name chosen for its location in Sõjamäe, site of yet another battle. Suur-Paala’s previous name, respectively Suur-Poltava, Große Poltawsche Straße and Большая Полтавская ул., commemorated (possibly the same year) the decisive victory of Russia over Sweden in the Battle of Poltava on 27/06/1709 during the Great Northern War, heralding the rise of Russian Imperialism and decline of Swedish power. One of those interesting name-changes where both the topic (a battle) and sound of the name were similar enough for a quick nationalistic make-over. And why not?
Suur-Patarei (Suur-Patarei): Battery, of the military sort, after the former “Patarei” marine fortress. Previously spelled Battarei (1885) or Batarei (1908, etc.), and by the Germans Große Batteriestraße (1877, etc.) or Groß-Batteriestraße (1942), following on from its earlier appellation of Köismäe tee / Reperbahn(straße) or ropemakers’ street. Dissected by a railway line, the northern part now leads to the “Patarei”, converted into Tallinn’s Central Prison in 1919, now disused following its merger with Tallinn’s other prison at Magasini 35 (2003), built on a 1944-1949 prisoner-of-war camp originally known as Correctional Work Colony no. 5, and the new chamber-system prison at Maardu (2004) where miscreants are entitled to fewer opportunities for exchanging tricks of the trade. See Väike-Patarei.
(0): Great coastal gate. Named Suur-Rannavärava tänav, [Great-] coastal gate street, until 1987. Eliminating the tänav to call it Suur Rannavärav, Great coastal gate, loses it its dash, but not its elegance.
Suusa (Suusk): Ski. Close to the Alpine slopes of Mustamäe.
Suvila (Suvila): Summer cottage, house (nothing to do with villas, lit. summer place).
Suvorovi A. (Alexander Vasilyevich Suvorov, 1729–1800): One of Russia’s, and the world’s, finest generals: brilliant, charismatic, and a remarkable tactician. Never lost a battle, seriously wounded six times, more decorations than a Christmas tree, more titles than Amazon. Soviet Era renaming (1950-1989) of Kaarli puiestee.
Sõjakooli (Sõjakool): Military school, academy.
Sõjamäe (Sõjamägi): Tricky, literally War Hill, its meaning could range from Soldiers’ Knoll, Martial Mountain, Battle Bump, to Bruise. Military vantage point / observation post sound good too. Most faithful, however, is Battle Hill. Comes in all sizes: Väike (Small), Kesk (Medium), Suur (Large), and, forgive the mixed metaphors, Vanilla. Believed to be the site of a battle following the Jüriöö ülestõus (St. George’s Night Uprising) of 23/04/1343 where the Teutonic Order killed some 3000 Estonians in an orgy of revenge.
Sõle (Sõlg): Brooch, pin, ouch (not an onomatopoeic consequence of mishandling, “ouch” is derived from French, nouche, the socket of a precious stone, later the stone itself, by a process called deglutination, familiar to Shakespeare groupies in the shift from, for example “a nuncle” to “an uncle”, or orange going from English “a norange” to “an orange” and deriving ultimately from Persian nāranğ via Venetian naranza to Italian narancia and thence arancia through French orange or orenge, although the Spanish route from naranja to French is not to be ruled out). These are the famous, usually silver, but sometimes bronze or copper brooches, ranging from the small buckle-type (vitssõlg), through the ±5-cm almost-closed-horseshoe-shaped fastener (rõngasõlg, reminiscent of Viking-era brooches, although some of these might more aptly be called a Prees) and heart-shaped brooch (südamekujuline sõlg) to the >15-cm (or up to 35 cm in the Setu area) circular, gently-conical boss (kuhiksõlg) worn by Estonian women on the breast of their traditional dress. In addition to decoration, they also served as security for buying bread in the spring of lean years. Renamed (1968-1990) during the manifestly communist period as Karl Marxi.
Sõmera (Sõmer): Gravelly, shingly, gritty; the latter two not to be confused.
Sõnajala (Sõnajalg): Fern (lit. word-leg or -foot). Oddly, Estonian does not differentiate foot from leg (both jalg) or hand from arm (both käsi), then again the English seem unable to distinguish the stomach (part of the digestive tube) from the abdomen. Hungarian, Estonian’s… German cousin, on the other hand scinds kéz, hand, from kar, arm, but, like a well brought up language, keeps its legs together: láb = leg and foot. If it really wants to be nice, it says lábfej, literally the “head of the leg”, for foot. As the very old joke goes (sorry): “Doctor, Doctor, my feet smell and my nose is running. Am I upside down?”
Sõstra (Sõstar): Currant. Three varieties indigenous to Estonia: Mage Sõstar (“bland” currant, it is rather tasteless), the Alpine Currant, Ribes alpinum; Must Sõstar, the Blackcurrant, R. nigrum, and, rarer, Karvane Sõstar (“furry” currant), the Wild or Downy Currant, R. spicatum. Punane Sõstar, the Redcurrant, R. rubrum, will grow, with a little encouragement. Another berry street group. See Maasika.
Sõstramäe (Sõstramägi): Currant (or, more likely, dark berry) hill. Either way, a fish very much out of water: as yet unbuilt and in the middle of the Paneeli group, maybe an optimistic euphemism for the electricity that might, one day, come this way…
Sõudebaasi (Sõudebaas): Rowing base. Road leading to same on Harku Järv
Säde (0): Spark, Estonian translation of Lenin’s (Oops, the Russian Social Democratic Workers’ Party’s) short-lived newspaper of that name, Iskra. (As the joke went: Lenin called Stalin and asked: “How do you like the latest Iskra?” – “Very good paper, Vladimir Ilyich, very soft.”) The genitive of säde is actually Sädeme (next entry). So presumably either because used as a nominitive (not very likely) or to emphasize the titular nature of the spark in question, this is an alternative genitive (see Süda P.). Soviet Era renaming (1948-1987) of Pühavaimu. Known as Iskra for a brief spell in 1941, and Hel(l)iste (1885-1921), Heiligengeiststraße (1907) and hilligööst ulits (1732) then all the way back to hilgen gheestes strate (1405).
Säina (Säinas): Ide, or orfe, Leuciscus idus. Alongside Orfe, Germany may well set the record for alternative names, with at least 46 ranging through Gängling, Gänzling, Göse, Häwt, Jesen, Juntling, Mähne, Münne, Nennen, Nerfling, Tapar, Topar and all the way to unechter Goldfisch, or unreal (OK, false) goldfish. Spawning occurs towards the end of Q1, with small eggs, ±2 mm, attached to gravel, weed and stones in shallow water. For ecological reasons, swimmers, therefore, beware the ides of March. Part of a fish-name street group. See also Tursa.
Särgava E. (Ernst Peterson-Särgava, 1868-1958): Critical, social-realist, satirical writer, better known for growing a beard (the statue of which is washed every 29th April) longer than his face.
Särje (Särg): Roach (fish), Rutilus rutilus.
Särjesilma (Särjesilm): Water crowfoot, Ranunculus subgenus Batrachium, related to buttercups and growing in still or running water.
Sääse (Sääsk): Gnat, midge or mosquito. A pedant or a hair-splitter (and why do I know this one?) is a sääsekurnaja, literally a gnat-strainer or gnat-distresser… Although the name is on the list, it was swatted in 1984. Revenge.
Südalinn (0): Town center, lit. town heart.
Süda P. (Peeter Süda, 1883-1920): Organist and composer, born on Saaremaa. His collection of folksongs and library are now housed in the Estonian Theatre and Music Museum. NB: whereas süda, heart, declines normally as süda:südame, for the person’s name it is Süda:Süda. Odd, but why not (see, for example, Lauteri A.)? His grandpaternal uncle was called Peter Südda. Odd, why? Why, because it’s part of Estonia’s complex track record in trying to express its rather subtle sound-length variations, this particular example lasted till mid-19th C. Part of the street used to be Ahju.
Sügislase (Sügislane): Autumn silkworm moth, Lemonia dumi, rare in Estonia, although a bit more common on the western coastline. Part of a lepidopteran group. See also Täpiku. Before the street was built, this was the name the original land-owner wanted. The street-names commission, following guidelines, proposed the historical toponym of Potissepa (potter) after the name of a farm on the site: rejected. They then proposed a list of butterfly names already reserved for the zone: rejected too. So the street-names commission is not always to blame ;o)
Süsta (Süst): Canoe, folding-boat.
Sütiste J. (Juhan Sütiste, 1899-1945): Known as Johannes Schütz until 1936, a sort of patriotico-anti-fascist “kitchen-sink” poet with socialist leanings and an anti-romantic bent.
Šnelli (Johann Schnell): Pond named after 18th-C Tallinn town gardener. Name seems to have been transliterated (in)differently as Šnelli or Schnell.
Taani Kuninga (Taani Kuningas): King of Denmark. The king in question being Valdemar II, or Valdemar the Victorious (1202-1241) who, the papers say, founded Tallinn.
Taara (Taara): Supreme god in Estonian folklore (often suggested as related to the Norse god Thor), also known as Uku, sometimes Vana Isa (Old Father), or Tharapita (claimed, with unintentional humor, as coming from Thor, avita!, Thor, help!), probably derived from Finno-Ugric words meaning “sky”/“high” and “great”. Very complex. Its seeming relation to Saaremaa and its famous meteorite craters suggests a literal manifestation of “the sky is falling” (pace Goscinny) but its proximity to taevas, Estonian for sky or heaven, loaned (when?) from Baltic words of similar meaning related to Latin deus, Greek Zeus, “Scandinavian” Týr and French dieu, etc., may well be fortuitous. Also poetic name for Tartu: Taaralinn (Taaratown). Part of a small Estonian mythology street-name group.
For a fuller treatment of the question, see Taarapita the Great God of the Oeselians by Urmas Sutrop in References.
Taime (Taim): Plant, vegetable.
Tallinna (Tallinn): Capital of Estonia, presumed derived from Taani Linn, Danish town/castle. Other suggestions have included Talu-linna (farm/house/farmstead town/castle) and Tali-linna, spelled Talli-linn in (winter town/castle).
Talviku (Talvik): 1) Yellowhammer, Emberiza citrinella, a member of the bunting family. Nominative often Talvike, also known (in earlier times perhaps) in vernacular or dialect forms as jõhviklind, kadakasass, kaerasööja, kollane varblane, külmatihane, talitsiitsitaja or tsiitsilind. Also means Umbellate wintergreen and, for non-hibernating agriculturalists, Cow born in winter. One of a bird-name group of streets. See also Tedre.
Tambeti (Tambet): Father of the hero of Bornhöhe’s novel Tasuja, The Avenger, written aged 18. Tambet was a yeoman (free) farmer, killed by Oodo, German (hence bad-guy nobleman) childhood friend of Jaanus angry at the unjust state of affairs (these plebs getting ideas above their station), and killed in turn by Jaanus, triggering off the Jüriöö ülestõus. Another indeterminate street in the hinterland of Peterburi. Perhaps just a project.
Tamme (Tamm): Oak. harilik tamm (common oak), Hiiepuu (sacred oak), Talitamm (winter oak), Suvitamm (summer oak), Oak, Pedunculate or English Oak, Quercus robur. See also Tõru. The oldest oaks in Tallinn today, 350-odd yonks or so, in Kadrioru are dwarfed by the Tuhandeaastane tamm (thousand-year-old oak) that used to grow beside Kopli beach.
NB: Since this is the 24th time we use this word and since we strive, ever, for honesty and integrity in our scribblings, we find ourselves required to admit that harilik – ordinary, usual, common or garden – although a fundamental word in most any language including even North Sentinelese according to those survivors who managed to learn any vocabulary beyond the optimistic “friend” prior to embracing a more succinct community welcome in the shape of an arrow in the upper torso is not, actually, Estonian. This, along with alcodollars and an extensive peripatetic clientele, comes from Finland.
Tammede (Tammed [pl.]): Oaks. (Sing.: Tamm).
Tammepärja (Tammepärg): Oak wreath, oak garland. (I hope we’re talking leaves here.) Street name might have replaced that of the eastern half of Pärja in 1989, but for what possible reason I cannot fathom.
Tammiku (Tammik): Oak grove.
Tammsaare A.H. (Anton Hansen Tammsaare, 1878-1940): One of the best-known Estonian novelists, author of the 5-volume masterpiece, Tõde ja Õigus (Truth and Justice, 1926-1933). His portrait is on the 25-krooni note (see Hiidtamme). Clearly, there’s never much money in it for writers… but then again, embryologists get even less. Karl Ernst von Baer (1792–1876) – first to establish that mammals develop from eggs – is only worth a 2 krooni banknote. Then again, he was one of Darwin’s major critics.
Tammsaare Museum, in Koidula tänav, Tallinn, photo by Simon Hamilton
Tanuma (Tanum): Village lane between houses or fences (cf. tänav, originally a village lane), or cow path. Mainly a south Estonian word, also tannom (Mulgi, Tartu and Võro dialects), or Tammõq too in Võro.
Tare (Tare): Main dwelling room in old-fashioned farmhouse (possibly a small, single-roomed house, sometimes also used for drying grain). In watermills, the room housing the wheel.
Tarja (Tari): Wickerwork, basketwork, something made of wicker (fish-drying stand, bottom of sled, wattled stable partition…), bead embroidery at edge of skirt; bundle; bunch (of grapes).
Tarna (Tarn): Sedge, carex, a species of grass immortalized by Edgar Valter, humorous illustrator and creator of the Pokus (ask your local bookseller).
Tartu (Tartu): University town in southern central Estonia, settled since 5th-C CE, known previously as Dorpat, Tharbata, Yuryev. Ruled by the Poles in the 16th century, the city received its red and white flag from Stephen Bathory (István Báthory), King of Poland and Grand Duke of Lithuania, one-time Prince of Transylvania, and uncle of Erzsébet Báthory, sometimes known as Countess Dracula for her extremely questionable employment of girls whose blood was said to provide her with eternal youth (possibly, like France’s Gilles de Rais, framed for financial reasons). Happily, Tartoons are given to gentler occupations such as grammar.
Tatari (Tatar): Tatar, Tartar. Name derived from the Tatar settlement built there during the 18th-C.
Teaduspargi (Teaduspark): Science park.
Teatri (Teater): Theatre.
Teeääre (Teeäär): The street is not actually in Tallinn (in Randvere, a Tallinn suburb) but the name’s too good to miss: Teeääre tee: Roadside road, Beside-the-road road.
Tehnika (Tehnika): Technical science, technology, engineering; technique, equipment. Named after nearby Raudtee Tehnikakool, railway technical college.
Tehumardi (Tehumardi): Village in Saaremaa where a brutal battle between Russians and Germans was the beginning of the end of German presence on the island. Monument erected in 1967. Soviet Era renaming (1979-1995) of Vilisuu.
Teisepere (Teisepere): Sounds like old farm/family name. Also means neighbor(s) (although most people say naaber these days: Idanaaber, for example, “eastern neighbor”, is another way of saying “Russian”); lit. second or other family. Farm group. See also Toomapere.
Teivi (Teib): Common dace (fish), Leuciscus leuciscus.
Tervise (Tervis): Health, constitution. An odd name to give a street running alongside two cemeteries, but why not. Tallinna Lastehaigla (Tallinn Children’s Hospital, formerly the Balti Raudtee Eesti Raudteekonna Haigla, Balto-Estonian railway association hospital) is at No.28.
Note: all author proceeds from this book go to Tallinna Lastehaigla Toetusfond (Tallinn Children’s Hospital Foundation, set up to aid purchase medical equipment):
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Tihase (Tihane): Tit. Breeding in Estonia: Kukkurtihane, Eurasian Penduline Tit (which must surely raise the occasional eyebrow), Remiz pendulinus; Lasuurtihane, Azure Tit, Parus cyanus; Musttihane, Coal Tit, P. ater; Põhjatihane, Willow Tit, P. montanus; Rasvatihane, Great Tit, P. major; Sabatihane, Long-tailed Tit, Aegithalos caudatus; Salutihane aka Sootihane, Marsh Tit, P. palustris; Sinitihane, Blue Tit, P. caeruleus; Taigatihane, Siberian Tit, P. cinctus and Tutt-tihane, Crested Tit, P. cristatus. One of a bird-name group of streets. See also Tiiva.
Great tit, © Remo Savisaar (blog.moment.ee)
(see next photo by Remo Savisaar)
Tihniku (Tihnik): Thicket, coppice, copse.
Tiigi (Tiik): Pond.
Tiigiveski (Tiigiveski): Pond mill. After one-time mill on a weir-retained pond.
Tiiru (Tiir): 1) Rifle range; 2) Gland; 3) Colic or gripes; 4) Round, circle, twirl; 5) Alternative genitive for the tern or sea swallow. Given the street was thus named during the wartime year of 1940, when it replaced that of Kaitseliidu, Defense League (see Maleva), I’d tend to opt for 1.
Tiivase A. (Alma Tiivas, 1893-1942): Farmer’s daughter from Rakvere, player in the Estonian revolutionary movement, secretary of the Tallinna Tööliste ja Sõjaväelaste Saadikute Nõukogu (Tallinn Workers’ and War Orphans’ Government Delegation). Soviet Era renaming (1927-2001) of Nõmme-Kase.
Tildri (Tilder): Redshank, Greenshank, Sandpiper. Breeding in Estonia: Hallkibu aka Kibutilder, Terek Sandpiper, Xenus cinereus; Heletilder, Common Greenshank, Tringa nebularia; Lammitilder, Marsh Sandpiper, T. stagnatilis; Metstilder, Green Sandpiper, T. ochropus; Mudatilder, Wood Sandpiper, T. glareola; Punajalg-tilder, Common Redshank, T. totanus; Tumetilder, Spotted Redshank, T. erythropus and Vihitaja aka Jõgitilder, Common Sandpiper, Actitis hypoleucos. One of a bird-name group of streets. See also Varese.
Wood sandpiper, © Remo Savisaar (blog.moment.ee)
(see next photo by Remo Savisaar)
Timuti (Timut): Timothy grass, cat’s-tail. Formerly known as Tarabella (1910-1939), at one stage believed to be some mythological deity, but in fact turned out to be the name of city councilor and arbitrageur Albert Koba’s dog. Other streets he named after the more bipedal members of his family (see Pebre, although the accusations of megalomania seem rather exaggerated. Despite the sordid machiavellian rumors, there seem to be only four “Kobaesque” street names attributed to him in all: the present one, his own, Alberti, Olga, perhaps his blameless better half, and one Oskari (friend? business partner? in-law?…). Today, part of a fodder and staples street-name group. See Õle.
Tina (Tina): Tricky word, ranging from (or commonly used to mean) Tin through Pewter to Lead. The “Pharus-Plan Reval” street map of Tallinn (see Refs) gives Blei, German for lead, but Elements 50 & 82 are, respectively, Tin (Eng.), Tina (Est.), Zinn (Ger.) and Lead, Plii, Blei. Discussing tina, the Tallinn Linnamuuseum website (06/2009) translates it as pewter, where tinasulam, tin alloy, would be better. ÕS does give plii as a possible acception for tina along with adages like Jalad on tina täis (lit. “the legs are full of tin” ≈ interestingly enough the British-English “my legs feel like lead”), but adds argikeelne: in common parlance. Well, we’re not commonly parlancing here so Tina is Tin. One of a metals street group. See Vase.
Tindi (Tint): Ink; smelt – Täis kui tint: as drunk as a lord (lit. as full as ink, go figure). Tallinn, city of multiple delights and trivially-priced vodka, is a routine destination for stag weekends with all its attendant rutting behavior. One Londoner, hauled before the courts for creating a disturbance, attempted to dodge responsibility by describing his state as “drunk as a judge”, not perhaps the most ingratiating parallel to express under the circumstances. Blasé, the magistrate asked: “Don’t you mean ‘drunk as a lord’?”, to which he retorted “Yes, my lord.” Odd, located in a decidedly fishy street-name zone, but named some 70 years before them, so unlikely to be tenuously linked via squid ink. Perhaps refers to a former ink or dye manufacturer or even a (dry) cleaning co (cf. French teinturier), or, possibly, still in the courts, to the ink cap mushroom, aka the “lawyer’s wig”, which rapidly deliquesces to release its spores, spilling a lot of ink along with its seed.
Tirgu (Tirk): Aka Lõunatirk, Common Guillemot, or Murre, Uria aalge. Breeds in Estonia.
Tiskre (Tiskre): After one-time manor house as well as residential area some 12 km west of Tallinn, and river in Haabersti. Parts of this street renamed (1995) as Jõeoti and Räime. Tiskre seems to come from a German name, Tischer, which, oh sensitive snob in my soul, sounds like Tischler, lit. table- but more usually cabinet-maker (see Tisleri A. below), trying to sound noble.
Tiskrevälja (Tiskreväli): Area/land outside/around Tiskre estate. Presumably former farming-estate name.
Tisleri A. (Alice Tisler, 1893-1918): Who once lived in this street. Daughter of a farm laborer, tulihingeline kommunist (ardent, lit. “fire-bespirited” communist), member of the Tallinn Red Guard, killed in the Battle of Keila, February 23, 1918. Tisler, the noun, means cabinetmaker, from German Tischler, lit. table-maker. Soviet Era renaming (1949-1990) of Magasini.
Tobiase R. (Rudolf Tobias, 1873–1918): First Estonian professional composer, whose Julius Caesar was also the country’s first symphonic work. Can be seen on the front of the 50-krooni (see Hiidtamme) banknote with the Estonian Opera House on the back. Previously Slobodi (-1923) after the Russian quarter Новая Слобода (new sloboda), where Слобода originally designated a settlement exempted of (Russian) State obligations, later to take on the meaning of “suburb”, while its Estonian translation of agul tends nowadays to mean “slum”, especially if preceded by räpane, slovenly, foul or squalid, although their common association seems to have rendered the adjective superfluous.
Tohu (1] Toht 2] Tohk 3] Tohu): 1] Birch bark. The earliest-known written document in Finno-Ugric – Tohtkiri (birch bark letter) No.292 – was carved on birch bark in the first half of the 13th-C in a dialect of the Olonets Karelia region. Although its meaning is far from clear (jumolanuliinimiži | nulisě[x]anoliomobu | [xu]molasudьnipoxov[i], QED), it seems to involve God and arrows, and may well be an incantation or “thunder spell”; Tohtkiri No.403, incidentally, has been said to be a “Finnic-Slavic business travelers’ lexicon” although with only six words aide memoire may be a better description; Also 2] Stern of small boat, and 3] Mist, haze. Street forms a loop off Kase, so 1] is the most likely.
Tolli (Toll): 1) Customs, duty; 2) Inch. Clearly the former, named after the Tallinna Tollimaja (Tallinn Customs Building, 1786-1873). Street once known as dwerstrate (1430) suster dwerstrate (1505), ‘across sister (i.e. nun) street’, then apparently nameless until the end of 17th-C.
Tombi J. (Jaan Tomp, 1894–1924): Communist who earned the unhappy distinction of being the only person sentenced to death in the 1924 149 protsess (Trial of the 149). Reincarnated nomino-nautically as an Ecuadorian tanker. Soviet Era renaming (1940-1991) of Vilmsi J..
Tondi (Jobst Dunte, 1569-1615): Disappointingly, not from tont, ghost or specter, as local lore would have it but from the summer estate of Jobst Dunt(e), Tallinn burgermeister (1688–1696), landowner and trader, member of the “Mustpea”, Brotherhood of St. Maurice, or Blackheads, organization, and alderman (raehärra). (See Dunteni and Vaimu). Although Estonians tend to translate tont as above, historically, it was more a house fairy, generally evil, often used as bogeyman for children, while its Swedish ancestor, tomte, was more benign. The more usual term for ghost is kummitus as in the following tongue-twister Kummikutes kummitus kummitas kummutis (ask someone to explain). Soviet Era renaming (1950-1990): Matrossovi A..
Tondiraba (Tondiraba): Ghost’s mire/fen/marsh, but see above.
Tooma (Toomas): Named after the lake and/or historical farm, Tooma, it runs by. Probably derived from the name, Toomas (Thomas), but it would be nice to imagine it comes from tooma (to bring or fetch), the sort of thing people used to do with pond water, although the only lugging they’ll be doing these days is stone from what looks like a 280 ha quarry.
Toomiku (Toomik): Bird cherry grove.
Toom-Kooli (Toom-Kool): Cathedral School, school founded in 1319.
Toompark (0): Cathedral park.
Toompea (Toompea): Cathedral (sometimes known as Castle) hill (lit. head, but perhaps more in the sense of “on top of”, i.e. cathedral on top of [the hill]). Named Domberg (1486) (Est. Toomimägi) due to nearby church. Earlier records had it as mons (1327) or bergh (1372). A wooden fortress is reputed to have existed there as far back as the 10th-C. Known as Вышгород, upper city, by the Russians.
Toonela (Toonela): Realm of the dead, exact location uncertain. Toone is either ancestor or realm of the dead, too.
Tormi (Torm): Storm.
Tornimäe (Tornimägi): Although it means Tower Hill, there’s neither one nor tother in sight. Apparently named after a certain Adam Tornimäe (or Adam X from Tornimäe in Saaremaa), a worker who rented a property from St John’s Almshouse, Jaani Seek, in the early 17th C, long enough for it to become known as Tornimäe Maja (house). In the 19th-C, Tornimäe was also the place to go for autopsies.
Torupilli (Torupill): Bagpipes. Slightly nicer name than Städtischer Schlachthof, municipal slaughterhouse. Better known for its shopping-mall.
Trahteri (Trahter): Public house, tavern. Saagpakk suspects this comes from the Russian or German. I wonder whether it may also come from French traiteur, historically a restauranteur, purveyor of food, now more or less a delicatessen.
Trepi (Trepp): Staircase, flight of stairs, doorsteps. Town-center version once known as Sunte Nyclawes stegel, later switching to a name closer to the German heart, Unter den Linden (1890), Russified and Estonified as Подъ Липовая (1890) and Väike-Niine (1913), the Trepi tänav off Harju was destroyed in 1944. It seems to have been re-built, -named and -opened on 20 August 2007 as Nõelasilm.
Trummi (Trumm): Drum, but not the sort you play on: one of the large drainage “pipes” or flues used as culverts, named in 1922 after the kuivenduskraavi trummi drainage ditch “drum” or truubi (> truup, culvert) used there. But why Trummi not Truubi then? Once known as Brückenstraße or Мостовая ул., bridge street, dates unsure.
Tšaikovski P. (Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, 1840-1893): No introduction needed I hope. But interesting family history: his great-great-grandson’s younger brother’s daughter is Britney Spears. Soviet Era renaming (1953-1995) of Randla.
Tuha (Tuhk): Ash, cinders, and cinders = Cinders = Cinderella, in Estonian Tuhkatriinu: Ash-Katie. Street built over limestone quarries filled with oil-shale ash. One of a rock-based neighborhood. See Kivimurru.
Tuhkru (Tuhkur): Polecat. Native to Estonia is the Metstuhkur, European polecat, Mustela putorius.
Tuisu (Tuisk): Snowstorm, blizzard.
Tuki (Tukk): Firebrand, piece of smoldering wood (not to be confused with tukk:tuka, tuft of hair, bang [US], forelock, or tukk:tuku, nap, forty winks, or tükk:tüki, piece, lump, chunk, etc. Part of a fire, fire-making and fireplace group, see Lee. Also part of a land-clearing group of streets, see also Aedvere. Tukk:Tuki is also a slang term for pistol, something else you fire, but see Hiiu-Suurtüki.
Tulbi (Tulp): Tulip, Tulipa spp.. In the chapter on “Tulipomania” in 17th-C Holland, Charles Mackay’s Memoirs of Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds relates the story of a sailor who pocketed an “onion” he saw lying about, to go with his lunch. When, half an herring later, he was eventually discovered, he found he’d eaten a tulip bulb valued, at the then grossly inflated rates, at about 25 oxen or 30 tons of butter. Probably far better for his cholesterol level. One of a group of flower-name streets. See Tulika.
Tungla (Tungal): 1) Firebrand (cf. Icelandic and Old Norse tungl, moon); 2) Smut, blight, rust (plant mold or fungus). Difficult this one, street named some 30 years after the Taara and Vanemuise bunch, so one might assume a degree of Kalevifiliation was intended, but the closest we get is a description of Latvian-born Baltic German Garlieb Helwig Merkel (1769-1850) – author of Die Vorzeit Lieﬂands: Ein Denkmahl des Pfaffen- und Rittergeistes (1807) and catalytic agent in Estonian and Faehlmann’s awakening – as a “somewhat pathos-ridden romantic firebrand”. Slim…
Turba (Turbas): Peat.
Turu (Turg): Market. First official naming as Salzmann-Dörptsche Straße (Saltzmann-Tartu road, 1825), moving later to various herring-based names: Heringstraße (1865); Heeringa (1908-1948); and even Heeringi (1885). Also Soviet Era renaming (1954-1991) of Keldrimäe. Anagram of Rutu.
Tuukri (Tuuker): Diver, of the diving suit, bronze helmet and concrete knickers variety. Formerly known as Hollandi from 1850-odd to 1950.
Tuulemaa (Tuulemaa): Collection of poetry written by Gustav Suits (1883-1956) in 1913 where he portrays Estonia, literally and metaphorically, as a “land of wind”. Renamed under Soviet rule, along with a street that doesn’t exactly join it, Vihuri (1953-1995), as Belinski V.
Tuulemurru (Tuulemurd): Windfall, wind breakage (in a wood).
Tuuslari (Tuuslar): Wise man, sorcerer or witch who knows how to raise the winds (tuul = wind), possibly by whistling; sorcerer from Finland who tried to rape Kalevipoeg’s mother Linda. See Kalevipoja. The wind-sorcery of Finns was commonly believed by Estonians.
Tuvi (Tuvi): Pigeon, Dove. Street named after local saddler called Taubenheim, dovecot (Taube / Heim, German for pigeon, dove / home). From 1882 to 1959, traumatized by the horrendous Rechtschreibungsschmerz, Tallinn dodged and weaved between Tuvi, Tui and its plural Tuide. Similar situation in Pärnu ended up opting for Tui, which only goes to show. The following species breed in Estonia: Kaelus-turteltuvi aka Pargi-turteltuvi, Eurasian Collared Dove, Streptopelia decaocto; Kaelustuvi aka Meigas, Common Wood Pigeon, Columba palumbus; Kodutuvi, Feral Pigeon, C. livia; Suur-turteltuvi, Oriental Turtle Dove, S. orientalis; Turteltuvi, European Turtle Dove, S. turtur and Õõnetuvi, Stock Pigeon, C. oenas. Anagram of Vuti.
Tõllu (Tõll): After Suur-Tõll (Big Tõll), legendary character who lived on the island of Saaremaa and spent much of his time throwing rocks at people, notably Vanatühi, Lord of the Underworld, literally “Old Empty” although sometimes translated as “useless old bugger”. Parallel to Leigeri, his brother on Hiiumaa.
Tõnismäe (Tõnismägi): St Anthony’s mountain or hill. Confusingly, Tõnismäe, the hill/district, is in the genitive while the street, uncluttered by any street type (tänav, tee, etc.) is nominative… Not to be confused with Tõnis Mägi (b. 1948), singer & pop musician. Here too, the Estonian subconscious Angst about the size of its mountains claims that Tõnismägi used to be much higher until the bloody Swedes came along and made local peasants cream off its towering peaks to use as building material for the city earthworks. Tõnismäe haljak was known as Vabastajate väljak, Liberators’ square, from 1945-1996. Interested parties may rejoice in the knowledge that St Anthony was the patron saint of pigs, often represented as one of his temptations (whether the consumption or creation of bacon remains obscure) but more likely a distortion of his dismissal of the devil, another cloven-footed character of equally unkosher qualities.
Tõrviku (Tõrvik): Torch. Think dungeons, think Olympics. Word derived from tõrv, tar. An electric torch is taskulamp, or pocket lamp.
Tõusu (Tõus): 1) Flood tide, rising tide; 2) Rise, upsurge, advance, boom.
Tähe (Täht): 1) Star; 2) Letter. Street known as Romanovi after a neighboring dynasty (1613-1917) until 1922. Its switch to stellar symbolism may not be unrelated to the changing political fortunes of the times, a message hammered home by its renaming as Vasara from 1940-1941.
Tähetorni (Tähetorn): Observatory (lit. star tower). After the Tallinn Observatory, former watch tower on the Glehni N.v. estate. Tallinn’s previous observatory, the cupola of which can still be seen, was at Estonia 15.
Tähtpea (Tähtpea): Scabious, gipsy rose, mournful widow, flowers all. Scabiosa spp., genus of the Dipsacaceae family, flowers named for their use in treating scabies and other skin disorders, not to be confused with related genera such as Knautia (see Jaanilille).
Täpiku (Täpik): Dotted or speckled. But probably short for, in order, Väike-täpikpunnpea, the Grizzled Skipper (as the late French sailor Eric Tabarly once wrote: a man overboard should never have been on a boat in the first place…), Pyrgus malvae; Täpikpõrnikas, a chafer or dung beetle which the Maltese call the White-spotted barbary bug, and the French the Drap mortuaire, or winding sheet, Oxythyrea funesta; Kase-täpikvaksik, the Birch Mocha, Cyclophora albipunctata. Which one, your guess is as good as mine. Part of a lepidopteran group. See also Udeselja.
Töökoja (Töökoda): Workshop, shop.
Türi (Türi): Town in Järvamaa. Street running parallel to the railway track at Tallinn-Väike leading to it.
Türnpu K. (Konstantin Türnpu, 1865-1927): Born Türnbaum. Renowned conductor of various male choral groups. Capable of playing organ for morning prayer at age eight.
Ubalehe (Ubaleht): Buck or bog bean, Menyanthes trifoliata, a flowering plant of bogs and marshes.
Udeselja (Udeselg): Lit. Downy-back, moths of the lutestring (nothing to do with lutes, from lustrine, an old term for silk derived from Italian lustrino, a Genoa-made silk fabric) and related families: Ahhaat-udeselg, Buff Arches, Habrosyne pyritoides; Hall-udeselg, Poplar Lutestring, Tethea or; Kevad-udeselg, Yellow Horned, Achlya flavicornis; Silmik-udeselg, Figure of Eighty (the 80 being the white markings on its forewings), T. ocularis; Vaarika-udeselg, Peach Blossom, Thyatira batis. All of which known to the local police. Part of a lepidopteran group. See also Uneliblika.
Ugala (Ugala): One-time province of south-eastern Estonia, otherwise known as Ugandi, Ugania, Ungannia or, most accurately, Ugaunia, present-day counties of Tartu, Põlva, Võru and Valga. The Latvian for Estonia is Igaunija. Soviet Era renaming (1960-1990]: Leberechti H.
Uku (Uku): Mythological character: possibly a sky or thunder god, a weather and lightning sprite, or an alternative name for the more fictional mythological supreme god Taara, possibly related to Thor. Tallinn’s only “true” (i.e. both nominative and genitive) palindromic street name (cf. Aia, WW doesn’t really count). Part of a small Estonian mythology street-name group. See Vanemuise.
Umboja (Umboja): A brook which stops before entering a body of water. Umb:umme is a place without an outlet; see Umbtänav in introduction (aka Ummik, whose Finnish cognate ummikko also means a person who doesn’t speak foreign languages, although the Estonian equivalent of which, umbkeelne, lit. tongue-bestopped, referring to someone unable to make themself understood in a foreign language, is more picturesque).
Uneliblika (Uneliblikas): Lit. Sleep-butterfly. Large Chequered Skipper, Heteropterus morpheus (someone in the Tallinn Street name commission really likes butterflies). Part of a lepidopteran group. See also Vaksiku.
Unna (Und): Trimmer, ligger or bank runner, essentially a device allowing the business end of a fishing line to remain dangling in the water for extended periods (e.g. all night for pike, while you go and cook sausages for ice-fishing). Could be a disk-shaped block of wood that floats, or one too large to pass through the hole in the ice, a spring-action system planted into the snow… Part of a fishing-related street-name zone, see also Vaalu.
Urva (Urb): Catkin, a tube-like cluster of flowers, usually but not always male, found on various plants: alder, birch, hazel, mulberry, oak, poplar, willow, etc.
Ussilaka (Ussilakk): Paris, Truelove, True-lover’s Knot, or Herb Paris, Paris quadrifolia (not the city Paris, but from the Latin par:paris, equal), due to its regular leaves, poisonous. Lit. Snake’s mane. NB: uss also means worm; see next entry. One of a 2nd flower-name group. Kõlviku.
Ussimäe (Ussimägi): Snake Hill, name of an ancient stronghold on the northern coast of Estonia, close to Kunda (site of hunting and fishing settlements dating back to 6500 BCE, and cement works to 1870). Snakes – Estonians are a little hazy here: if it’s long and wiggly (p lease…) it’s an uss, so that includes snakes and worms. If they want to be really nice, they specify the soggier version by calling it vihmauss or rain worm.
Uue Maailma (Uus Maailm): New world. Suspected due to proximity to an inn called Ameerika, Wirtshaus America. Street a couple of hundred meters from Väike-Ameerika and Suur-Ameerika. Renamed (1950-1990) as Oja during the Soviet Era.
Uuepere (Uuepere): New family, household, farm. Belongs to a farm-name group, and sounds like an old farm name, but no record found. Despite the various conspiracy theories involving alien abduction, we suspect pre-1958 Tallinn farmland to be exempt of interest to UFOrnication, and David Icke is probably incapable of converting farmers to reptilian street-name commissioners. Case dismissed. See also Uustalu.
Uus (Adj.): New. This street, along with Aia and Vene is in the light blue section of the Estonian Monopoly board, below the purple Paldiski mnt, Mustamäe tee and Sõpruse pst. Since the Soviet Union prohibited the game until 1987, this must have reflected the prices at the time, and considerably undervalues current values.
Uus-Kalamaja (Uus-Kalamaja): New Fisherman’s hut. At the end of this road was once the Non-Germans’ (undeutsch or mittesaksa: contemporary term of contempt for Estonians) cemetery. In the late 18th-C, to maintain the road, Tallinn council put a tax on corpses using it: 10 kopeks an adult and 5 per child.
Uuslinn (0): Newtown. Note nominative form for district name as opposed to street, below.
Uuslinna (Uuslinn): Newtown.
Uus-Maleva (Uus-Malev): [New] Army (see
Uus Tatari (Uus Tatar): New Tartary, New Tatary.
Vaari (Vaar): Grandfather, old man. The expression Vaar ja moor (see Moora) suggests it comes from either Swedish or Danish where far and mor mean father and mother. Street, interestingly, next to Hallivanamehe. See Äia.
Vaate (Vaade): 1) Look, glance, eye; 2) Sight, spectacle, view, opinion, retrospect.
Vabaduse (Vabadus): Freedom, liberty. Two addresses: 1) Built over part of the former city walls and bastions (southern part of Pommeri Bastion and northern part of the 1686 Berghi Ravelin), today’s Freedom Square, Vabaduse väljak, has gone through many, many changes, the full dating of which I shall spare everybody, not least myself. The name sequence seem to have been: Новая пл., New Square (±1767, see Harju), followed (in approximate order) by Palgi turg, Timber market; Heina turg, Hay market (Ger. Heumarkt, Rus. Сенной рынокъ [old spelling]) and/or Puu- ja Heinaturg, Wood and Hay market (Ger. Holz- und Heumarkt) until around 1875; then Peetri plats, Peter’s square, after Peter I (Ger. Peterplatz or Peters-Platz, Rus. Петровская пл.) from 1910 till around 1922; with an interlude as Harju turg (±1921) and ending up with some 80-odd years of shilly-shallying between Vabaduse plats, Vabadusväljak (Ger. Freiheitsplatz. Note, väljak [square] is more Estonian than the German-sounding plats [square]), Võiduväljak (Victory Square by the Soviets in the 40s, twice), later revamped to Võidu väljak (note space) and back at last to Vabaduse väljak in 1989. The manufacture of street-signs is clearly a good business in Estonia. And 2) Vabaduse puiestee in Nõmme which was basically changed only once, briefly, to 21. Juuni from 1940-1941. Before being a road, however, records (1926) list it as Vana kindluse raudtee, old defensive railway, after the remains of Peter the Great’s “Naval Fortress” aka Tallinn-Porkkala defense station, a line of fortification including (on the Estonian side) hundreds of kilometers of railway with guns designed to protect Saint Petersburg from attack by sea.
Vabaõhumuuseumi (Vabaõhumuuseum): Open-air/Outdoor museum.
Vae (Vaag): Weighing-scales. Note: not content to have the most staggering number of declension/conjugation types (69, 170-odd or 594 according to source), or possibly because of having them, many Estonian words can be declined in various ways (see Vaagi). If asked to choose, just… say no.
Vaestepatuste (Vaestepatused): Poor/Miserable sinners. Sing. Vaestepatune. Usually spelled and declined separately as Vaeste patuste (gen. pl.) from Vaene patune (nom. sing.). Most of the entry should be under its present-day name of Hariduse. Bizarre. Whatever, one of its former variants was Zechi tänav (1873?, 1885), after local saddler Aleksander Ferdinand Zech, which gradually evolved over the years through Tsehhi (1908), Zehi (1910) or Tsehi (1910) to Tschechi (-1923) which most sane people would understand as Czech, all the more so since the latter spelling seems clearly to be an attempt at Estifying the Czech “cz” / če sound, rendered in today’s Estonian by “tš”, as in tšehh:tšehhi. Further, the accent on Estonian letters used to represent non-Latin alphabet sounds, č, š, ž, i.e. the caron, háček or upside-down circumflex, is reputed to have been invented by Jan Hus ( 1415, obviously, before he was burned on the stake for heresy while under safe conduct to Rome…) in the very early 15th-C, so there is a definite relationship to the Czech language (Český jazyk or čeština) somewhere. But, and were things so simple, the street was named after Zech’s workshop, and workshop in Estonian is tsehh:tsehhi.
Vahe (Vahe): Interval, gap, middle, space in between; difference: Ma ei oska siin vahet teha or Ma ei näe siin vahet: I can’t tell the difference.
Vahtra (Vaher): Maple. harilik vaher, sometimes known as Pikaninapuu (long nose tree), Norway Maple, Acer platanoides.
Vahtramäe (Vahtramägi): Maple mountain.
Vahtriku (Vahtrik): Maple forest. Also family name.
Vahulille (Vahulill): Milkwort, or Snakeroot, Polygala spp..
Vaigu (Vaik): Resin, pitch, gum.
Vaikne (0): Being an adjective, it simply means quiet, restful, peaceful. It is next to a park and a graveyard. Vaikne also means the Pacific.
Vaimu (Vaim): Spirit, ghost, apparition (also means: mind or mental power as well as a woman farm laborer on corvée duty, this being the compulsory service on the manor). Earliest records (1694 onwards) give the German Spockstraße, Spuk-/Spuck- straße/gasse (ghost or revenant street). In 1872, translating the German into Russian caused buckets of grief all round: the governor didn’t accept the grotesque travesty of Шпуковская улица (Shpukovskaya, the German already reminiscent more of spucken, to spit, than anything spooky, and the clamoring townspeople, pitchforks in hand, rejected his counter-proposal of Нечистая улица (unholy or dirty street), so it ended up as Страшная улица, Scary or Terrible [in the sense of that which engenders terror] street (1907). The Soviets, anti-superstitious and prosaic to the last, renamed it Vana, Old, (1950-1987).
Vainutalu (Vainutalu): Farmstead or place by the common. Or Vain’s farm, Vain being a family name. We recommend Peep Vain’s The Most Important Question, from your local bookstore.
Vakmanni R. (Rudolf Vakmann, 1894-1937): Estonian revolutionary. Involved in the attempted 1924 Estonian coup d’état, for which he was definitively thanked in 1937. Soviet Era renaming (1959-1991) of Kauka.
Vaksali (Vaksal): Railway station. Street also known as either Bahnstraße (train) or Vauxhallstraße from some time (date unsure) until 1882, with later records (1907) giving the Russian name as Вокзальный бульваръ, which looks like a direct borrowing from Vauxhall in London, but may probably have arrived via Russian. According to world-renowned etymologist of Russian, Indo-European, Finno-Ugric and Turkic languages, Max Vasmer, the word Вокза́л, voksal, meaning central railway station today, was first recorded in the Санктпетербургские ведомости (St Petersburg Gazette) of 1777 as Фоксал, foksal, or pleasure garden (such as the Vauxhall Gardens outside Moscow run by theater man Michael Maddox (1747–1822)), and although railways of sorts date back about 2500 years, e.g. the 6th-C BCE Diolkos wagonway (Δίολκος, from Greek διά, “across” and ὁλκός, “portage”), used for pushing boats across the Corinth isthmus in Greece, they didn’t really come into their own until the 1800s, and in Russia not until 1842. So when Pushkin penned На гуляньях иль в воксалах, “At fêtes and voksals, la la la la…”, in his 1813 ditty To Nathalie, the association is clearly to pleasure gardens too. At some stage then its meaning shifted from pleasure garden to station. In London’s history, Vauxhall was long known for its Pleasure Gardens, operating from about 1660 to 1859, year of publication, need anyone be reminded, of Darwin’s The Origin of Species, and no foreign visitor to London could have ignored it. Various apocryphal stories suggest that a) a Russian railway delegation of 1840 and b) Tsar Nick the One in 1844 both pointed at Vauxhall station and mistook its specific name for that of a station in general (although the actual building station known as “Vauxhall Bridge Station” was not opened until 1848, a “stop” known as Vauxhall can be seen in Bradshaw’s Railway Companion of 1841), but this seems highly unlikely. They cannot not have known the word voksal, and may well have visited it too, perhaps even arriving by train at Vauxhall, common enough in those days. Any surprise must have come from the change in social importance of the two places: the gardens were teetering on bankruptcy and railways were definitely on the fast track, so Vauxhall now meant station. Parallel evidence in the shift in meaning comes from the fact that certain Russian stations were also used for concerts, the prime example being the Pavlovsk railroad station concert hall. What does seem odd, however, is what looks like earlier Russian spellings attempting to map something meaningful onto the original, with фок, “fore-”, and сал or за́л, place of assembly, or hall, suggesting an ante-room or waiting-room (a good 65 years before the railroad arrived), although вок is related more to voice. As to the origin of the actual name, it is unlikely to derive from the Garden’s original landowner, Jane Fauxe (or Vaux, once wistfully claimed to be the inevitably better half of Guy Fawkes) but predate her, from Faulke’s Hall (Fr. la Sale Faukes) where both “hall” and “sale” were metonyms for castle or “seat”, later Foxhall (Samuel Pepys spelled the gardens Fox-hall which better matches the original Фоксал), one-time property of her possible Anglo-Norman ancestor Sir Falkes de Breauté (d.1226) whose first name, rumor has it, was disparagingly derived from French faux, scythe, after the agricultural implement with which he once harvested a person disagreeable to his happiness, but rumor has many things, and a scythe was an effective cutting weapon too. Although it more sensibly derives from the far older Germanic name of Falco from falcon. So we end on an interesting and, yes, rambling, piece of serendipity with a piece of metal at both ends of the linguistic track from cutting cuttings to cutting through cuttings. Soviet Era renaming (1950-1987) of Nunne [Vaksali tänav] and Väike-Kloostri [Vaksali põik]). Vaksal seems to have gone out of fashion in the first quarter of the 20th C, before which numerous Estonian towns and even villages used the term.
Vaksiku (Vaksik): Looper, caterpillar (and adult) of the Geometer moths. Bit complicated this one: vaksik comes from vaks a span. So possibly a translation from German, Spanner (word also used for shoe-trees and peeping-toms). But since the name in Latin (Geometer, lit. land-measurer), English (looper, spanworm or inchworm), French (chenille arpenteuse, lit. measurer, surveyor or geometer caterpillar), Swedish (Mätarlarv, lit. measuring-larva), Hungarian (Araszolóhernyók from a) arasz, span*; b) oló, an “-ing” ending: and c) hernyók, caterpillars), Japanese (shakutorimushi (katakana: シャクトリムシ, kanji: 尺取虫), the “shaku taking bug”, shaku being an archaic (officially out in 1966 but still used in carpentry…) Japanese measurement equal to 10/33 m, or about 30.3 cm, or the average distance between two nodes of bamboo, although most inchworms are incapable of such refinement), and a mile-long list of other names all imply a similar notion. The interesting point about all this is we (I) still don’t know whether the name is due to obvious (i.e. simply observing their typical looping gait) convergent naming or from a perhaps late-19th-C spread of international zoological nomenclature. I could look it up, but do you really want me to? Family includes Biston betularia of English “pollution as evolutionary agent” fame. Part of a lepidopteran group. See also Villkäpa.
* Hungary has two spans: one from tip of the thumb to tip of the index, the kisarasz or small span, and th’other, presumably the one we have looping around the back of our minds despite the fact the distance spanned is probably still small, but hey, from tip of thumb to tip of little finger, the nagyarasz, or large span.
Valge (Adj.): White. Street names referred to by an adjective (occasionally an adverb or attributive) are in the nominative. See also Kollane. Name given (2001) to the NE stretch of former Lasnamäe. However, there used to be another Valge, named after the Tallinna Alumine Tuletorn, or Tallinn lower lighthouse (N 59°26.233’ E 24°47.917’, visibility 12 nautical miles), sometimes known as Katharinenthal Front Light, but correctly as Tallinn leading-line front lighthouse, formerly known as Valge majakas, or white lighthouse. Today it is painted red where the previous red lighthouse Majaka is painted black and white.
Valguta (?): Name of 17th-C manor house in Tartumaa, (from German, Walguta).
Valli (Vall): Wall, rampart, earthwork. May also mean halyard, but not in this particular instance. Previous name of walliwahe (±1913) rejected for sounding too much like a Scotsman arguing with porridge.
Valve (Valve): Watch, lookout, surveillance, duty. Named for the local level-crossing watch. Also, slightly dated woman’s name.
Vambola (Vambola): Named after the mine-cruiser Vambola/Wambola, ex Soviet Spartak, ex Russian Kapitan 2, one of two Russian destroyers (sister ship/street Lennuk a block away) hijacked by the British and given to Estonia in 1919 (or maybe Dec 1918). Name almost certainly comes from the eponymous hero of Wambola: Jutustus wanast Eesti ajaloost (1209-1212), Vambola: a story from olde Estonian history (1209-1212) (1889, Publ. J. Solba), reviving interest in Lembit of Lehola, first tome of a trilogy including Aita (1891) and Leili (1892/93) by Andres Saal. Said to have been sold to Peru in 1933 and scrapped in 1954. It is not impossible that Varbola may have had played some initial influence in the name. Not to be confused with EML (lit. Estonian Naval Ship) Wambola (M311), ex “Cuxhaven” of German Navy given to Estonia in 2003.
Vana-Keldrimäe (Vana-Keldrimägi): Old-Cellar hill, see Keldrimäe. Previously Drewingi, Drevingi, Grevingi, after local gentleman with name hard for Estonians to pronounce (historically, native words do not start with “D”).
Vana-Kuuli (Vana-Kuul): [Old] Bullet, Shot, Ball.
Vana-Liivamäe (Vana-Liivamägi): Old Sand Mountain. Trouble here: given the Reynold’s number – or, strictly speaking, angle of repose – of sand, it should be called the “Old Sand Dune” and, indeed, from 2003 to 2008, an attack of municipal modesty caused the thoroughfare’s qualifier to be changed from “old” to the more realistic “little” but an Estonian will relinquish a mountain only under the greatest of duress and so, on 22nd Oct. 2008, they switched back to Vana.
Vanalinn (0): Oldtown.
Vana-Mustamäe (Vana-Mustamägi): Sometimes known too as Sinisemägi, blue mountain (but see alt. spelling, Sinimäe, for its appearance when seen at a distance in the mist. With a quick boing as Trampliini (1965-67), and previously known as plain old Mustamäe and variants Черногорская, which also back-translates as Montenegrin, and Hohenhauptstraße which doesn’t: upper high street (1926), Sinise mäe (1919) and Синегорская, both meaning blue mountain. See Mustamäe.
Vana-Posti (Vana-Post): [Old] Post, or Mail. Tallinn post office built on corner in 1870s. Known as vicus / platea quappenstrate (1367-73), lutso ulits (1732), or Quappenstraße (1737) apparently for the burbots in the basin behind nearby Karjaveski, probably Suur-Karja, watermill.
Vana-Pärnu (Vana-Pärnu): [Old] Pärnu (coastal town in SW Estonia).
Vana Tooma (Vana Toomas): Old Thomas. Named after the character on the weather-vane on top of the Raekoda spire. Soviet Era renaming (1963-1987) of Dunkri, although what political message they were sending out is not sure.
Vana Turg (0): Old market. One of the oldest parts of Tallinn, the point at which all main roads to/from Narva, Viljandi, Tartu, Pärnu, the Islands (Saaremaa & Hiiumaa), Riga, Novgorod, Rome and Faverolles sur Cher (site of future Antonino Museum, definitely worth a visit) converged. Initially forum inferior (1368) to differentiate it from plain forum, Raekoja (plats), then retaining its name of old market throughout the ages: dat olde market (1442), Olde Marketh (?), wanna turro (1732), Alter Markt (1789), Vana Turu (1885) & Alt Markt (1942).
Vana-Veerenni (Vana-Veerenn): [Old] Channel. Between this and Liivalaia, close to the present-day Sõprus Cinema, was one of Tallinn’s earlier outdoor entertainment parks, the hukkamispaik (execution square), aka timukaaed (hangman’s garden), where guests were broken on the wheel, hung, drawn, gouached and quartered, their heads impaled and encouraged to acquire a belated sense of civic behavior. But there is some confusion here. Tallinn seems to have had three execution areas along a line from Roosikrantsi through Vineeri to here. The one within the Vineeri, Pärnu, and Vana-Lõuna triangle seems to have been called Jeruusalemma Mägi (Jerusalem hill) or Kolgata (Golgotha). But Toompea had one with the same name too, oddly near present-day Lilleküla station. Not clear.
Vanemuise (Vanemuine): God of music created by Faehlmann and Weizenberg in their Estonian mythology, name borrowed from Finnish Väinämöinen of folklore and Kalevala fame, giving its name to a theatre in Tartu. The name may well come from Finnish väinämö, minstrel, but see Väina (my original interpretation that it came from “old”, vanha in Finnish and vana in Estonian, is almost certainly wrong, and some people wouldn’t say “almost”). Part of a small Estonian mythology street-name group. See Haldja.
Vaniku (Vanik): Wreath, garland, chaplet, ranging from the traditional garland of flowers to the increasingly popular garland of autumn leaves draped below the window, to woven headdresses. Previously known by its Pelgulinn synonym Pärja in 1959.
Varbola (Varbola): Town and hillfort: largest-known stronghold in 11th-to-13th-C Estonia. Used as cemetery in 16-17-th C. Latin name Castrum Warbole, Estonian name Jaanilinn or Iani-Lin, translating into English as John’s town or, in its shortened form, Johnston, not very romantic.
Varese (Vares): Crow. Two species breeding in Estonia: Künnivares, Rook, Corvus frugilegus and plain old Vares, Hooded Crow, C. corone. One of a bird-name group of streets. See also Vindi
Crow, © Remo Savisaar (blog.moment.ee)
(see next photo by Remo Savisaar)
Variku (Varik): Brushwood, dense shrubbery.
Varjulille (Varjulill): Lit. Shadow flower: Woodruff, Squinancy Wort, Asperula spp.. Name due to former use in treating quinsy, or peritonsillar abscess, a sometime complication of tonsillitis or, for George Washington, possible cause of death. Its Estonian name reflects its preference for shady, as well as moist, rich soils.
Varraku (Varrak): 1) Character from the Kalevipoeg: the Lappish sage who agrees to take Kalevipoeg to the end of the world. Name derived from Varjaag, Estonian for Varangian (Old East Slavic: Varyag), the Viking traders, pirates, mercenaries (to 11th/13th-C Kievan and Novgorodian princes among others), known mainly as bodyguard to the Byzantine Emperors. Renamed (1979-1995) as Lumiste J. during the Soviet Era. See Kalevipoja.
Varre (Vars): Stalk, stem; handle, stock, pole. Aka vart or koot also meaning shinbone suggesting the more rudimentary tools available to our first agronomists.
Varsaallika (Varsaallikas): Foal’s/Colt’s/Filly’s source/spring. Feeds a river which once drained into the Tallinna Laht, Tallinn Bay or Bight. Said to be named after a spring used by local stud farm to water its, er, draught foals. Known as Warthallick in 1689, the loss of it the “t(h)” suggests the modern name is a mondegreen of a now-forgotten personal name.
Vati (Vatt): Being next to “Lamb street” would suggest this is wadding, padding, cotton wool (from the French ouate) or, by extension, a short jacket or clothes. But no, false friends. Lambi is a lamp, and a Vatt is a Watt, so be careful with your abbreviations. See Juhtme.
Veduri (Vedur): Locomotive, iron horse. Interesting: vedama means to draw or pull, and vedu:veo means draught or conveyance, but vee is water and, in many countries, the traditional course of long-distance haulage was the river. So instead of using the sluggish meandering motorway, they took an infinitely small proportion of its water, made steam, and shunted tons of metal along an unbending iron road. Etymology is the paleontology of words: fractured glimpses of one-off usages out of the infinite variations of the collective idiolect.
Vee (Vesi): Water. After the tower supplying trains on the Tallinn-Väike railway line. See also Auru. Water seems to share a common ancestor from very far back, with Uralic *weti corresponding to Indo-European *wed- (Sanskrit ud-, English “to wet”) or *woder- (Hittite wātar, Greek húdōr, Old Church Slavic voda (“vodka” is thus its diminutive: dear/nice little water), and Gothic watō, water).
Veeriku (Veerik): 1) Roller, something that rolls; 2) Edging, binding of a (traditional) skirt; or 3) if you believe Kreutzwald, a blood blister (from vere, blood) Kalevipoeg got between the toes from dancing too much. See Kalevipoja.
Veerise (Veeris): Pebble, perhaps shingle; edge, margin. Tricky one this: Veerise is close to Loigu, and the Vabaõhumuuseumi beach, so the first acceptions seem reasonable. But, close also to Õismäe raba (marsh/bog), as well as to an old farm-name region, and swiddening (see Aedvere) is an time-honored foundation for cultivation, the “edge” could be of the marsh or the newly-cleared farmland. And its translation as “pebble” doesn’t seem that commonly used. Buggered if I know.
Veetorni (Veetorn): Water-tower.
Veimeri A. (Arnold Veimer, 1903-1977): Communist – oxymoronically – economist. Head of the Stalinist puppet state (1944-1951). Enabled the 1949 “March Deportation” of some 20,000 mainly women, children and infants critical of the regime to Siberia. Awarded “Hero of Socialist Labor” in 1973, Order of Lenin three times, etc. Soviet Era renaming (1981-1995) of Kivila.
Weizenbergi A. (August Weizenberg, 1837-1921): Sculptor and wide-ranging artist, writing fiction, poetry, composing songs, etc. His 17 years in Rome gave him his taste for classical esthetics. Formerly Salongi after a Mr Witte’s bathing establishment.
Building in Weizenbergi, Tallinn, photo by Simon Hamilton
Velikije Luki (Velikije Luki): Вели́кие Лу́ки, City in Pskov Oblast, Russia (about 150 km SE of Estonia), where the Red Army wiped out a German force of some 7000 in the Battle of Velikiye Luki (1942-3). Also burial place of Matrossovi A.. Literally meaning “Great Meanders” after the meandering Lovat River, Estonians “interpret” it, inaccurately but humorously, as “Big Onions” (onion is Лук). Soviet Era renaming (1979-1995) of Virbi.
Vene (Vene): Russian. There is a hypothesis that the term Vene shares the same origin as Wend (see Kanuti) and/or Vend (although debated, see also Ümera), as well as Vandal and perhaps even Vote/Votic (see Kingissepa V.), and may once have designated peoples living in or coming from the east (from German-Danish point of view), even including the Finns (The mercurial Menius lists the Vandali, Venedae, Wendi, Veltae as early inhabitants of Livonia in his Syntagma). Similarly, a tribe called Vends are said to have settled near the present-day city of Ventspils on the Venta River in the 11th- or 12th-C before settling in the Wenden area around 12-16 C. Some say they were the Western Slavic Wends speaking a Slavic language, others that they were related to the Livonians and Votes and spoke a Baltic-Finnic language. Further suggestions include the possibility that Wends of the 8th-C Slavic migrations were behind the founding of Venice. Far be it for me to say “yea” or “nay”. Let’s say a vast open question. The fact that modern Estonian doesn’t differentiate V from W doesn’t help matters either. Also an archaic term for a dugout canoe or rowing-boat, usually from aspen with its sides bent out, cf. veneh, boat, in Veps.
Versta (Verst): Russian distance, about 1 km (1.067 to be exact). New street name (2008), still under development?
Vesikaare (Vesikaar): West-northwest. Interesting… literally “water quarter” or “water bearing”, this compass direction, along with Idakaar (E), Läänekaar (W), Põhjakaar (N) is present on Tallinn maps while Lõunakaare (S) is absent. Is there some atavistic collective subconscious migratory lodestone here? The direction proto-Estonians traveled before coming to a sudden (or at least very wet) halt at the edge of the Baltic Sea as they wended their way toward their Maker (north-west is Loe < Loode, related to (?) Loe:Looja, which also means Creator or, adverbially, setting, as of suns in the evening). And Vesikaare lies along a NW not WNW axis anyway (but see Edela). Or are Estonians just “out” to lunch? See Lõuna which, although claimed to be thus named because it points south, actually starts SSE and ends up SSSE. Or are we getting a bit too pedantic? Perhaps not, previously called Loode… and briefly, 1940-1941, Loo. The explanation is probably much simpler anyway: a wind from this direction may well bring rain. See also Põhja.
Vesikupu (Vesikupp): Water lily, Nenuphar, Nuphar spp., aquatic plant of the Nymphaeaceae family. Common name of Water lily or Waterlily shared with other genera in same family, and Nenuphar might better be suited to Nymphaea alba, aka European White Waterlily or White Lotus.
Vesioina (Vesioina): Hydraulic ram, aka hydram.
Vesiveski (Vesiveski): Watermill.
Vesivärava (Vesivärav): Watergate, named after the lock and sluice controlling water-supply to the harbor. Odd, at first glance, but not, apparently, à la coals to Newcastle: even harbor-masters have to wash their hands.
Veski (Veski): Mill: See on vesi tema veskile: that’s grist (in this case water) to his mill.
Vesse (Vesse): Vesse (or Wesse), one of the leaders of the Jüriöö ülestõus (St. George’s Night Uprising) against the German invaders, beginning 23rd April 1343. Vesse was from Saaremaa where the uprising lasted about two years, and was relieved of his life in 1344. Street named after a children’s novel about the hero as seen through his son’s eyes by Aadu Hint (born Adolf Edmund Hint, 1910-1989): Vesse Poeg, Vesse’s Son.
Vete (Veed): Waters, singular: vesi:vee: vesi ahjus olema, to have water in the oven, to be on your uppers, to be hard up.
Viadukti (Viadukt): Viaduct. Carrying the Tallinn-Väike narrow-gauge railway line.
Videviku (Videvik): 1) Twilight, gloaming, dusk, owllight; 2) According to Kreutzwald, the Moon’s spouse; 3) One of the world’s creator’s three servants, a cowmaid, with whom the moon fell in love and lay, “mouth to mouth and lip to lip”, as a result of which, one of her oxen was eaten by a wolf. Celestial street-name group. See also Virmalise.
Wiedemanni F.J. (Ferdinand Johann Wiedemann, 1805-1887): Linguist of Swedish-German descent, the first to describe Estonian’s peculiar opposition of three phonological quantities (for more details, ask a native, they probably won’t know either); compiler of various dictionaries (e.g. Ehstnisch-deutsches Wörterbuch (1869), Estonian-German dictionary) or grammars: northern coastal Estonian, Võru, Livonian, Syjranisch (aka Siranian, Sirenian, Sirjenic, Syrjenic also written Zirianian, a perhaps now extinct Finnish dialect of the Vologda Oblast, Russia)…
Vihuri (Vihur): Whirlwind. Renamed under Soviet rule along with Tuulemaa [1953?-1995] as Belinski V.. Oddly, the streets join the same road, Kari, but don’t actually meet. Perhaps the wind and the lack of connections merited its association with a literary critic?…
Viige (?): Unsure. There are plenty of meanings for viik:viigi: fig, draw or tie, tapeworm and crease. Viige exists/ed in the Harjumaa Juuru dialect form of viigi from viik, crease, but even if a crease could be thought of as a sort of valley, it’s still scraping the bottom of the barrel. Another dialectal meaning of viik:viigi is bay or cove, which at last make sense, the street is roughly between Kakumäe and Kopli bays, about 2 & 1 km respectively, but still i not e. Said to be an old farm name, but I find no record of it, although there used to be a Viki manor about 5 km SSE. For what it’s worth, Palun viige ta asjaga kurssi means “Fill her up, please” but that’s not much help either…
Viimsi (Viimsi): Name of a small borough and manor house (German: Wiems) located a few km east of Tallinn, first mentioned in 1471. Settlements date back to late Bronze Age.
Viiralti E. (Eduard Viiralt [Wiiralt], 1898-1954): One of Estonia’s more outstanding artists, born in St Petersburg province, Viiralt, a “sympathetic, balanced and humble man” (Toivo Miljan: Historical Dictionary of Estonia), spent most of his life in Paris (and, buried in Père-Lachaise, death too), traveling widely, leaving a significant collection of drawings and prints. It has been suggested that absinthe was not a million miles away from his copperplate of Põrgu, Hell. Has a tree in Viljandi named after him for a drawing he did in 1943, Viljandi maastik (Landscape near Viljandi), a copy of which recently sold at auction for just over €11,000.
Viirpuu (Viirpuu): The Hawthorn, none of the Estonian species seem to have an English name, so I’ll create some and see what happens: Kuramaa viirpuu, Courland Hawthorn, Crataegus curonica; Daugava viirpuu, Dvina Hawthorn, C. dunensis; Eesti viirpuu, Estonian Hawthorn, C. estonica; Kupfferi viirpuu, Trouty Hawthorn, C. kupfferi; Lindmani viirpuu, Lindman’s Hawthorn, C. lindmanii; Rand-viirpuu, Strand Hawthorn, C. maritima; Saaremaa viirpuu, Saaremaa Hawthorn, C. osiliensis; Lääne-viirpuu, Lumpy Hawthorn, C. palmstruchii; harilik viirpuu, Pfläumcious Hawthorn, C. rhipidophylla and Viidumäe viirpuu, Hillside Hawthorn, C. viidumaegica.
Vikerkaare (Vikerkaar): Rainbow.
Vikerlase (Vikerlane): Estonian viking. Vikerlased (Vikings), was the first Estonian opera to be written, premièred in Tartu’s Vanamuise theatre on 8th Sept. 1928. Renamed (1979-1995) as Kuramaa during the Soviet Era. And the point of that was?…
Vilde E. (Eduard Vilde): Prolific writer (33 volumes of novels, stories, plays, travelogues and humorous pieces), considered the first modern European in Estonia, and acclaimed as one of its greatest writers. There is a sculpture of him sitting next to his namesake Oscar Wilde outside the former Wilde printing house now pub in Vallikraavi (moat, counterscarp) in Tartu. See also Mahtra.
Vilisuu (Vilisuu): Lit. Whistle-mouth. Now rarely-used bogey-man type threat (from Vaivara parish) for children: Ära mine õue, vilisuu tuleb!, Don’t go out, Whistle-mouth will get you! Folklore character perhaps related to Tuuslar? Renamed (1979-1995) as Tehumardi during the Soviet Era.
Viljandi (Viljandi): Town in southern Estonia first mentioned in 1283, although hill-fort mentioned by al-Idrisi in 1154. Formerly known as Fellinn. Major fortification of the Hanseatic Livonian Order, today home to the annual July Viljandi Folk Music Festival. Local settlements date back to 5th millennium BCE. Nearby Võrtsjärv (lake) is the largest natural eel breeding location in Europe.
Villardi (?): Uncertain, known as Willase in 1875 after local peasant farmer Karl Willase (< willane/villane, woollen) or Wilas, but recorded as Villari in an 1885 Tallinn guide book. Later, the Germans used Willarstrasse and Willertstrasse believing it named after local landlord Willert (wrong, he wasn’t around then). The street appeared as Villardi in a gazetteer of 1923, one year after a physical map of Estonia drawn by a certain Ad. Villard was published in Tallinn, suggesting a logical sequence of minor copying errors. Soviet Era renaming (1950-1991]: Laari J.
Villkäpa (Villkäpp): Probably Hele-villkäpp, the Pale Tussock moth, Calliteara pudibunda. What’s pudibunda about it I’m not sure, perhaps because its caterpillar, once known in hop-picking times as the “hop-dog”, may curl up into a round hairy little thing with a hole in the middle, although that seems rather tenuous. Part of a lepidopteran group. See also Öölase.
Vilmsi J. (Jüri Vilms, 1889-1918?): Along with former President Konstantin Päts (1874-1956, no street named after him, although see Kentmanni) and Konstantin Konik (1873-1936), one of the three members of the “Rescue Committee” which proclaimed Estonian independence on 24 February 1918, assumed executed in Helsinki by German Expeditionary Forces in April the same year. Renamed (1940-1991) as Tombi J. during the Soviet Era. And known from 1885 on as Riesenkampffi plus permutations after alderman Diedrich Ferdinand Riesenkamff who took the Villa Fonne (later a chemist’s) on Narva mnt 50 (corner of Vilmsi) as summer residence in 1845.
Vimma (1] Vimb 2-4] Vimm): 1] Vimba, or Vimba Bream, a species of Eurasian carp (Vimba vimba), also known as vimm, vimmakala, vemmakala, sirt, sirk, kottsuu (bagmouth), podust, podus. Also means 2] Grudge, ill-feeling; 3] Incubation (of a disease); 4] Hunch (e.g. on the back). Part of a fish-name street group. See also Vähi.
Vindi (Vint): Finch. Also means 2) Endless screw (probably not what you think); and 3) Card game. Breeding in Estonia: Suurnokk-vint aka Suurnokk, Hawfinch, Coccothraustes coccothraustes; Rohevint, European Greenfinch, Carduelis chloris; Põhjavint, Brambling, Fringilla montifringilla; Koldvint, European Serin, Serinus serinus and Metsvint, Chaffinch, F. coelebs. One of a bird-name group of streets. See also Viu.
Chaffinch, © Remo Savisaar (blog.moment.ee)
(see next photo by Remo Savisaar)
Vineeri (Vineer): Plywood, veneer. Named after former plywood and furniture plant, Tallinna Vineeri ja Mööblikombinaat.
Vinkli (Vinkel): Corner, angle (from German).
Virbi (?): Name (seemingly of Swedish origin) of a marsh/bog on Saaremaa (the street does cross Saarepiiga), or a point, Virbi ots, on N tip of Naissaar (island off NE coast of Tallinn known, optimistically, by Adam of Bremen as Terra feminarum, land of women and, incidentally, birthplace of Bernhard Schmidt [1879–1935], Esto-Swedish optician and inventor of the Schmidt telescope), site of lighthouse dating back to 1788. The only other occurrence of the name in Estonia is a historical reference to a Virbi põik in Rapla, also known as die Virpe (1456), Ges. in der Freppe (1516) and Ges. zu Werpe (1523), none of which are particularly helpful. The word has been associated with mythology: virp is a (rare) word denoting something like witchcraft, virvatuli is an ignus fatuus or will-o’-the-wisp, vilbus is an old name for a ghost, and virp:virbi is a Setu word for ghost, apparition, wraith. Given the streets around it (see Arbu), this is probably the solution. Then again virb:virva seems to be a (which?) dialect term for sprig or young green branch. Renamed (1979-1995) as Velikije Luki during the Soviet Era.
Virmalise (Virmaline): Aurora borealis, northern lights (usually plural in Estonian too, Virmalised). Celestial street-name group. See also Komeedi.
Northern lights, © Remo Savisaar (blog.moment.ee)
(see next photo by Remo Savisaar)
(Viru): Earliest records (1362) give this as Leymstrate, Lemstrate and a variety of permutations, all meaning clay street, evolving through to modern German Lehmstraße (1907) which, with lehm meaning cow/cattle in Estonian, and this street leading into Suur-Karja, should have led to at least some confusion but, confusingly, didn’t. Spelled wirro wärraw in the 18th-C (1732), and called Нарвская ул., Narva road, from 18th-C to early 20th-C, with interlude as Uus-Viru (1908). The name Viru is, obviously, very deep-rooted in the Estonian consciousness. Virland is mentioned in various Icelandic sagas, Viro is Finnish for Estonia (taken, originally, from the name of North Estonia, see Ugala) and Finnish vireä means alert, brisk, lively, vivacious, hale and hearty, etc., so it may well have originated from self-designation as “true/real beings/people” (as opposed to the next-door neighbors) or, going further back, the Finno-Ugric proto word for “live”, “life”, *elä, (questionably [i.e. quite possibly not] related to the Etruscan “vital”, “lively”, ala), cf. too, Hungarian elev-en, “lively”, and Vepsian elo, “life” (was ela- [root of verb ‘to live’] ever related to ole- [root of verb ‘to be’]?), and who knows what relation it bears to PIE *wi-ro-, man (from *weiə- vital force), which also gave Latin, vir, man, hence not only English virile but also were, man, as in werewolf. The name of the Võru people/language in SE Estonia may ultimately be derived from the same source or, simply, from the name of a brook, Forro or Farro, first recorded in 1438, but most probably not from võõras, foreign, cf. Livonian vȫrõz. Likewise, another term Estonians use to describe themselves is maarahvas, or people of the land. On the other hand, their (remaining) neighboring Vironians, a coastal people, use a similar designation, mõ-mīed, men of the land, to designate Latvians, as distinct from themselves, kalamīed, men of the fish, or fishermen. The two present-day counties of Ida-Viru and Lääne-Viru cover the approximate original homeland of the Vironians.
If nothing else, the above should remove any doubts as to my complete ignorance of Finno-Ugric etymology…
Viru (väljak) (Viru): Known as Flea market (Täiturg, Läusemarkt, Вшивый рынок) in the 19th-C, Russian market in various guises from 1791 to 1939: Russischer Markt (1791-1907), Vene Turu (1885), Русскій рынокъ (1907-1916) and Vene turg (1908-1939), and oddly acquiring its present name during the 1st Soviet Invasion (1939-1940), then moving on to greater destinies with Stalini väljak (1940-1960), punctuated naughtily by the Nazis as Wierländischer Platz (1942), which shows they were quite nice about it really: whereas Estonia was now known as Reichskommissariat Ostland, Generalbezirk Estland, they could pretend they chose this name themselves, moving on to a compromise with the one-name-fits-all Keskväljak, central square (1960-1970), then back, at last, to Viru väljak. Current municipal raison d’être: tramway switch-point.
Viru (värav) (Viru): Earliest records (prob. 14th-C) give this as porta argillae and Lemporte or Leimporte, later evolving to Lehmpforte and Глиняные ворота, all meaning clay gate, and then to Нарвские ворота or Narva gate.
Visase (Visane?): Name of a former farm along whose border the road now runs. But what the name means (assuming that names have to mean something) is obscure. In the coastal region of Kuusalu some 20-50 km east of Tallinn, visane means pus-producing, suppurating or weeping (as in wounds). One could happily imagine a dynasty of agriculturalists preferring a more client-friendly appellation. And the only other locations including Visase in their names are two very exciting fields in Pärnumaa: Ülem-Visase (upper-Visase) and Alem-Visase (lower-Visase). So, from the statistical point of view, we don’t have much to go by, and thus, with no pretensions to exactitude, we suggest a possible derivative of visa (meaning tough, tenacious, gritty or, in the case of diseases: obstinate, not too far in meaning from our festering sore above, etc.). If anyone offers you a better explanation, I’d take their word for it. See Armatuuri.
Wismari (Wismar): Baltic Sea port in Germany dating back to pre 12th-C, one of the earliest Hanseatic League towns. City used as setting for Nosferatu, the 1922 Dracula film. Renamed (1950-1987/9) as Mitšurini I. during the Soviet Era.
Vismeistri (Vismeister?): From Fischmeister or “fishmaster”, named, apparently, after the corresponding municipal official, a position dating back to at least 1515. In nearby Maardu there is a street called Teemeistri, inspector of roads, although some very dodgy pan-Gaian linguistico-bimbonerds claim this should be “tea-master” (tee is both road and tea) due to the putative parentage of Estonian and Japanese. One may legitimately suspect wishful thinking…
Viu (Viu): Buzzard (also interjection Viu! meaning Whew! Whiz! Ping! or other onomatopoeia of your choice). Breeding in Estonia: Herilaseviu, European Honey-Buzzard, Pernis apivorus; Hiireviu, Common Buzzard, Buteo buteo and Karvasjalg-viu aka Taliviu, Rough-legged Buzzard, B. lagopus. One of a bird-name group of streets. See also Vuti.
Buzzard, © Remo Savisaar (blog.moment.ee)
(see next photo by Remo Savisaar)
Volta (Volta): After the “Volta” electrotechnical factory (on the corner of Volta and Tööstuse, most of the remaining buildings are unused by today’s Volta AS) founded by the Carl and Christian Luther brothers in 1899.
Voo (Voog): Flow, current; also flood, billow, surge.
Voolu (Vool): 1) Stream, flow, current, tide; 2) (Electrical) current; 3) Trend. Vastuvoolu against the current, upstream, pärivoolu with the current, downstream. Was Külvi (1940-1941), recently-sown field or young crop.
Voorimehe (Voorimees): Cabman, coachman, carrier (voor = cart, wagon, etc.). Apparently where cabmen of the past used to wait. Very odd this one, despite being one of Tallinn’s oldest streets, no recorded names earlier than 1813, Kleine Rittergasse or lesser (lower) Knight’s lane.
Vormsi (Vormsi): Fourth largest island in Estonia, between Hiiumaa and mainland. Along with neighboring mainland region of Noarootsi (Sw. Nuckö), historical colonial homeland to Swedes known as Rannarootsi (coastal Swedes or, in Sw. Estlandssvenskar, Estonian Swedes) until WWII when most were evacuated or escaped to Sweden. Its original Swedish name, Ormsö, Snake/Worm island, with possible influence of its German name Worms, seems to have generated its Estonian through vernacular pronunciation of foreign words. Previously also called Hiiurootsi saar, Swedish Hiiumaa island.
WW (Wassili [Semjon] Woinoff, 1877-1942): Василий Семен Воинов, businessman and one-time owner of the underlying real estate (1910s) plus the Grand Marina cinema (which also showed circus performances, possibly explaining details below) at No.5 Mere puiestee (built 1912? to entertain the Tsar’s soldiers, later returned to the people as a Soviet naval officers [only] club, today the Russian Cultural Center), reputedly the wealthiest man in Estonia prior to deportation to the Urals on assumption of counter-revolutionary tendencies. Named by his grandson, one of the mall developers, Oleg Sapožnin, honorary president of the Eesti Jalgratturite Liit (Estonian Cyclists’ Union), son of Vladimir “Boba” Sapožnin (1906–1996), who began his professional life in a circus at the age of five, progressing to polyinstrumentalist and, later, violin virtuoso as well as friend of the famous Estonian violinist, David Oistrakh. Not exactly a street, WW Passaaž shopping mini-mall was opened after much brouhaha from the antiquities department in 19/04/1997.
Võidujooksu (Võidujooks): Footrace, race. Odd, usually for humans, but named after the Tallinna Ratsaspordi Selts, Tallinn Equestrian Club. First race: 1884.
Võistluse (Võistlus): Competition, rivalry. Named after the Komsomol Stadium, now known as Kalevi Keskstaadion. Formerly known as Aafrika (1885-1955) for its fields of shifting sand (or quicksand?), reminiscent of or associated with Africa. Alternative spellings included Afrika or even Ahvrika (1908-1910), which latter could also be (mis-)construed as “monkey land”: ahv, monkey, ape, and rika from riik, state, or punning on rikka, “full of”…
Võlvi (Võlv): Vault, arch. New street, barely a year old (22/10/2008), presumably inhabited by babes, almost inevitable in Tallinn.
Võra (Võra): Top of a tree, crown of a forest.
Võrgu V. (Vassili Võrk, dates not discovered: damnatio memoriae?): Colonel of the 8th Estonian Tallinn Rifle Corps (or Lieutenant-Colonel of the 300th Rifle Regiment), commandant of Tallinn for three days in September 1944, the story of him converting three Red Army gentlemen attempting to acquire high-discount vodka from the Rosen (now Liviko) distillery into definitive teetotalers may well be apocryphal. Soviet Era renaming (1979-1995) of Arbu.
Võrse (Võrse): Shoot, sucker, sprout, twig, sapling.
Võsa (Võsa): Brushwood, scrub, coppice, bosquet.
Võsara (Võsar): Billhook. Street named in 1998, but may not exist yet.
Võsu (Võsu): 1) Shoot, sprig, outgrowth; 2) Offspring, descendent.
Vägiheina (Vägihein): Mullein, Verbascum spp., aka Adam’s flannel, Aaron’s rod, shepherd’s club, & hag-taper (black mullein), member of the figwort family.
Vähi (Vähk): The noble, European or broad-fingered crayfish, Astacus astacus, aka Jõevähk, harilik jõevähk, väärisvähk (vääris = noble, costly…), not a fish, a crustacean (name derived from old French crevis [today écrevisse], becoming English crevish then seguing into crayfish due to similarity of sound [ditto with American crawfish]), but parked in a “fish”-name street group anyway, see also Abara.
Väike (Väike): Small, Lesser, Lower, any term designating a street or road with a big brother somewhere, usually nearby.
Väike-Karja (Väike-Kari): [Small, Lesser, Lower] Cattle. Written Veike-Karja in 1885, and known from 16th-19th-C as am, im or auf dem Schilde, by/in/on the shield, although why is unclear. TT suggests a shield-shape configuration of the Müürivahe and Karja streets, or signs (also Schild in German) indicating Kuradi torn or a nearby watch-house (Schildhaus) as possible reasons. Recorded also as
Väike-Kloostri (Väike-Klooster): [Small, Lesser, Lower] Abbey, Cloister, Monastery, Convent. Renamed (1950-1987], oddly, since it doesn’t lead there, along with Nunne [1950-1987], as Vaksali during the Soviet Era.
(0): [Small, Lesser, Lower] Coastal gate. Known as Väike-Rannavärava tn (since they now call it a värav, gate, instead of a tänav, street, the dash disappears) until 1987.
Väikese Illimari (Väike Illimar): After the eponymous hero of Väike Illimar, ühe lapsepõlve lugu (Little Illimar, a childhood tale), by Friedebert Tuglas (1886-1971) who lived at No.12 (then known as Veere > Veer, border, edge, brink), now a museum devoted to him and Marie Under, another previous writer-occupant.
Väina (Väin): Strait (as in Dover), sound, pass. Kalevala hero Väinämöinen’s name is sometimes accused of having originated, in part, from this: the modern-day term for old Finnish väinä is suvanto and one of Väinämöinen’s alternative names is Suvantolainen. Since the 700-year-gestated geriatro-fetus was born of a sea nymph, the strait could be an allegory of the female womb and genitalia (see also Salme for another pass and another Kalevine genetrix). On the other hand, given Finland and Estonia’s obsessive history of folklore research and its seeming absence from former Votic, Mordvin, Ingrian, etc. communities, we are probably working from skewed sources anyway. And whether the word comes from Finnish väinämö for minstrel, or this and the personal forename Väinämö are simply short forms of Väinämöinen, as Väinö also is, I couldn’t say.
Välgu (Välk): Lightning. Useful expression: Välk ja pauk! ≈ “Damn it!” Lit. Lightning and crash/bang! Readers of Pratchett’s earlier Discworld novels will be please to know that one possible translation of “to coruscate” is välkuma. Street non-parallel to its non-existent meteorological partner Pikse. Soviet Era renaming (1960-1989) of Glehni N.v..
Välja (Väli): Field, plain, green. In compound words, it can also mean “without” (as in outside), “outside” or “beyond”, or, as suffix, could indicate a farm name.
Väo (Väo): After one-time village, recorded in LCD as Uvæ tho (1241); and name of a lesser manor house in Väo (German: Faeht, hence its earlier name of Fähtscher Weg), Harjumaa, about 3 km E of Tallinn. Settlements recorded as far back as the Bronze Age.
Värava (Värav): Gate, gateway.
Värsi (Värss): 1) Verse; 2) Steer, young bull. From 1940-1941, renamed after Juhan Liiv (1864-1913), poet, dark romantic and, during certain phases of his muddled mental existence, son of Tsar Alexander II, King of Poland etc. Died after being thrown from a train in mid-winter for not having a ticket. They took it so much more seriously in those days.
Värvi (Värv): color, paint, dye, tint, hue.
Västriku (Västrik): Wagtail, probably Linavästrik, White Wagtail, Motacilla alba, rather than Jõgivästrik, Grey Wagtail, M. cinerea, more common in the south-western part of Europe, although both are known to breed in Estonia. One of a bird-name group of streets. See also Ööbiku.
Vääna (Vääna): Named after former narrow-gauge railway of that name: town, river (väänama is to twist, as many rivers do in flat countries like Estonia), and stately home (mõis) in various locations south and west of Tallinn. Once called Raadio after another sort of station.
Õhtu (Õhtu): Evening.
Õie (Õis): Flower, blossom. Known as Datši, Datschi, Datschenstraße, Villenstraße and/or Дачная ул. until 1922 (see Köleri J.). And name changed to Tõdva from 1940-1941, presumably after the village in Saku.
Õismäe (Õismägi): Flower hill.
Õitse (Õitse): Inflorescence.
Õle (Õlg): Straw or, when plural, chaff or thatch. Õlg:õla, on the other hand, is shoulder, hence any coleopteran antero-lateral elytral protuberance although I have my doubts that this would spontaneously appeal to a street-naming committee anyway. Part of a fodder and staples street-name group. See Ädala.
Õnne (Õnn): Luck, fortune, happiness – Palju õnne: lit. much happiness: Congratulations! or Happy Birthday! Accordingly, full version of the latter being Palju õnne sünnipäevaks. Name changed to Selja during those unhappy days of 1940-1941.
Õpetajate (Õpetajad [pl.]): Teachers (Sing.: Õpetaja). Named after a former teachers’ housing association.
Õuna (Õun): Apple.
Äia (Äi): Father-in-law. Although in the Võru dialect it (äi:äio) also means “devil” (and all its adjectival consequences: damn, bloody, fuck(ing)…), shedding a grim light on in-law affinities. See Hõimu.
Äigrumäe (Äigrumägi): Village about 7 km NE of Tallinn.
Ääre (Äär): Edge, border, brim, margin.
Ööbiku (Ööbik): Nightingale (with a great stretch of the imagination and very soggy elastic, this word can be extended to contain one of if not the longest sequence of identical vowels in Estonian. Follow me: töö is work and öö is night so töööö is night-work, so a tööööööbik is a night-working (i.e. -singing) nightingale. Of similar linguistic value to this is, perhaps, the 13-letter word for constipation in English, beginning and ending with “n”. Two species breeding in Estonia: Rubiinööbik, Siberian Rubythroat, Luscinia calliope and plain old Ööbik, Thrush Nightingale, L. luscinia. One of a bird-name group of streets. See also Sisaski and Algi. In the introduction, we mentioned dialects. One Estonian linguist, a certain Urmas Sutrop (anagram of Proust, I’m sure you noticed), analyzing the migratory patterns of the Estonian nightingale and currently being measured for suits with very long arms, managed to classify regional expressions of departural desolation into no less than 17 laments, all along the lines of “Our nightingale has gone elsewhere this year”:
|Standard Estonian:||Meie ööbik on tänavu mujale läinud|
|Hiiumaa:||Meide ööbik aa seaesta maeale läin|
|Saaremaa:||Meite ööbik oo siasta mäale läind|
|Muhumaa:||Meite üöbik uo sieoasta mõjale läin|
|Läänemaa:||Meite ärjälend oo tänäkond maale läin|
|Vigala:||Mede künnilind uu tänabö maeale läind|
|Kihnu:||Mede künniljõnd ond tänävasta maalõ läin|
|Harju-Risti:||Mete üöbik oo tänabu maeal läin|
|Kuusalu:||Meie üöbik on tänävu muuale mend|
|Järvamaa:||Me õitselind on tänavu maale läind|
|Põhja-Virumaa:||Meie kirikiut one tänävu mojale lähänd|
|Vaivara:||Mei sisokaine ono (olo) tänä vuo mojale mennö|
|Kodavere:||Meie sisask one tänävuade mõjale lähnud|
|Karksi:||Mee kiriküüt’ om täo muial lännü|
|Southern-Tartumaa:||Meie tsisask om tinavu muiale lännu|
|Võrumaa:||Mii sisask um timahavva muialõ lännüq|
|Setomaa:||Mii sisas’k om timahavva muialõ l’änüq|
Ülase (Ülane): Anemone or Windflower, Anemone spp.. The name, from the Greek Άνεμος, wind, is due to popular belief that the flower flowers because of the wind. One of a group of flower-name streets. See Kannikese.
Ülemiste (Ülemiste): Lake, now reservoir, in Tallinn; mythological character: the little old man of Ülemiste, Ülemiste Vanake.
Üliõpilaste (Üliõpilased [pl.]): University students (Sing.: Üliõpilane).
Ümera (Ümera): Another (the last!) Tallinn street that looks like a badly-knotted bootlace. Estonian name for the river Jumara in present-day Latvia. Here, near Cēsis, aka Wenden, or Võnnu in Estonian (see Vene), the Estonians fought and beat Teutonic Knight invaders during the Livonian Crusade in 1210, described in Metsanurk’s historical novel Ümera jõel (On Ümera River). The name Ümera itself may perhaps be derived from Low German Ümer ah. In the 16th-C, final long vowels were indicated by adding an “h” at the end, and my final wild stab in the dark underbelly of Tallinn odonyms is to conclude that it’s fair to assume that the ah meant “river” (cf. Swedish “å”, river)… but then again it might not.
The present article is based on a graduate thesis by Martin Marek Mileiko presented at the department of physics of the University of Tartu in 1994 (F). Its intention was to shed light on the application of physics to areas commonly considered far removed from the field. The thesis received wide attention among scientists and was assigned the highest grade, attracting further attention and elaboration (see, e.g., (G) & (H)). The following, however, is but a fancy, a mind game with little relevance to reality, or even folklore for that matter. But why not play along?
Kalevipoeg, youngest son of Kalev and Linda, is the best known Old Estonian epic hero. Various natural monuments, such as furrows, beds and boulders, still bear witness to his adventures (D). From a human viewpoint, all these monuments are extremely large. The furrows are tens of meters deep and tens of kilometers long, and the boulders he is claimed to have thrown weigh hundreds of tons. Judging by this, Kalevipoeg must have been very big indeed. Could someone that size be human? The national epic offers no explicit answer to that question. The only intimation of his human station is his intimate relations with the mortal Saarepiiga (Isle Maiden) (C). The present work attempts to find out whether Kalevipoeg could have been human, based on the presumption that he actually did exist and that the aforementioned natural monuments are connected to him. We put forward the hypothesis that Kalevipoeg was an extremely large and strong person, and test it.
Firstly, we determine Kalevipoeg’s height. For this, we simply take the length of his beds, since a bed is generally as long as the person who sleeps in it. There are several natural monuments in Estonia called Kalevipoeg’s bed, one at Alatskivi measuring 85 m, another of 40 m near Lake Saadjärv (B),and other equivalent monuments about the same. To simplify matters, we shall accept a bed length of 100 meters and consider it equal to Kalevipoeg’s height, LK.
Could a man of this stature perform the feats commonly attributed to Kalevipoeg?
To solve the problem we must first look at Kalevipoeg’s exploits (casting huge rocks and carrying a load of planks from Pskov), since these are frequently referred to in legends. Based on our estimated height, we must next determine whether a 100-m-tall human could have performed such deeds. If so, we have reason to believe that Kalevipoeg was human, if not, he must have been of non-human origin.
Our estimation is based on a method called scaling (E). In other words, the qualities of a body, such as muscular strength, are related to the so-called characteristic dimension. A body dimension may be called characteristic if it functions as a means for describing the body as a whole. For example, the characteristic dimension of a cube is the length of its side, the characteristic dimension of a circle is its radius, etc. So the characteristic dimension of an ordinary human is its height, LI, and the characteristic dimension of Kalevipoeg is his height, LK.
The greater a person’s characteristic dimension, the stronger the person, since muscular strength is a function of muscle cross-sectional area: the greater the area, the more myofibrils the muscle contains. A taller man with a proportionally-developed body has thicker arms with stronger muscles.
We reach the value to be determined (distance of the stone throw or weight of the load carried) by comparing the abilities of a normal human to those of Kalevipoeg. Ignoring the finer physical and mathematical details for the present purpose, we will apply the terms derived in Mileiko’s graduation paper (F). These allow us to estimate the distance, xK, of Kalevipoeg’s stone’s throw:
m is the mass of the body thrown by an ordinary man
M is the mass of a body thrown by Kalevipoeg
xI is the distance of a body thrown by an ordinary man
Estimation of the stone-throw distance is based on one of Kalevipoeg’s longest-known throws, described in the legend of Painuva stone:
“Once again Kalevipoeg visited Finland. The Evil One had come to Viru [Estonia] to spite him and throw stones in front of seagoing ships. Kalevipoeg had seen Old Nick from Cape Porkkala in Finland and thrown a huge rock at him, which landed near Mohn, the tip of Cape Turbuneem, right under the Evil One’s nose without actually hitting him.” (D)
Geologists have estimated the volume of the Painuva stone at 340 cubic meters. The density of the rock (granite) being 2.800 kg/m³, its mass, M, is about 1000 tons. The throwing capability of humans is calculated according to grenade-throwing, a popular sport during Soviet times and similar to stone-throwing. Stronger men could throw grenades (m = 0.7 kg) some 80 meters. Again, to simplify calculations, we use a grenade-throwing distance of xI = 100 m and the characteristic dimension of a human LI = 2 m, that of Kalevipoeg, LK, being 100 m.
Based on the above formula (1), had Kalevipoeg been human he could have thrown a rock that size about 10 m, considerably less than the distance from Cape Porkkala to Cape Turbuneem, which is about 80 km.
How tall would a human Kalevipoeg need to be to throw a rock so far? We find this too from the same formula: with xK = 80 km, the result is approximately 2 km. Stone-throwing calculations therefore demonstrate that a man tall enough to sleep in Kalevipoeg’s bed could not throw the rock as far as claimed.
We next test our hypothesis according to the legend of how Kalevipoeg brought boards from Pskov:
“Once, Kalevipoeg forded through Lake Peipus, carrying seven hundred boards on his back, cursing the water that wetted his whatnot.” (D)
Using the same formula from Mileiko (F) to estimate Kalevipoeg’s capacity:
M is the mass of Kalevipoeg’s load
m is the mass load of an ordinary human
We equate the mass load of an ordinary man with the mass of a large backpack, since legend has it that the load was not too heavy: “The load of boards was not too large / Nor was it too small, / Just the size of a man’s waist” (C). We may thus assume m = 30 kg, a fair weight for a hiker’s backpack. According to this formula, Kalevipoeg could carry approximately 75 tons of board across Lake Peipus.
Legend, however (D), has it that his load consisted of 700 boards of specific dimensions:
The boards were not thick
Somewhere over three inches,
Nor were they wide
Somewhere over two feet,
Nor were they long
Somewhere over three fathoms (C)
So we have a board about 0.08 m thick, 0.6 m wide and 21 m long. Given a wood density of 700 kg/m³, the load must have weighed about 500 tons. And a load like that must have been beyond the powers of even a 100-m-tall human Kalevipoeg. According to Formula 2, Kalevipoeg would need to have been at least 300 meters tall to carry such a load. Other legends say that Kalevipoeg could carry even heavier loads, some going as far as 1700 boards. Regrettably, the accounts mention nothing of the size of the boards in question, making it impossible to estimate the actual weight.
The examples suggest that human Kalevipoeg was much taller than 100 m. But a human body could never be that tall, let alone taller. There are at least two reasons for this:
Firstly, the bones of a man that tall would crush under his own weight: the mass of a body is proportional to the cube of the characteristic length, LI, while the strength of human bones is proportional to LI0.66 (A). Calculations show that the mass of a 100-m giant exerts nearly 200 times more pressure on his bones than that of a 2-m man. The bones of such a giant would therefore splinter and collapse under the weight of his body.
Secondly, a man of this stature would suffer from over-heating. The surface area of his skin would be too small to remove the heat emitted from such a huge body. Since the amount of heat produced by the body is proportional to the cube of its characteristic length, while the amount of heat emitted through the skin is proportional to the square of its characteristic length (E), the body of a 100-m-tall giant would emit 50 times less heat than an ordinary person, leading to over-heating.
To sum up, we claim that the Kalevipoeg who may have slept in the natural beds that can still be seen in different parts of Estonia could not have been of human origin. His muscles and bones must have been made of altogether different materials than those of ordinary humans.