By Dr. Amine Jules Iskandar President of the Syriac Maronite Union–Tur Levnon
If you know Syriac you can talk to Lebanon, to its villages, its mountains and valleys. Because Lebanon speaks Syriac, trough its topography, through its nature, and through its long and rich history.
Let us travel together from one mountain to the other. From one valley to the next. From village to village and listen to their names. The first group is the group of village names in Beit or B, also meaning Beit. Beit or B means a place or also a village in Syriac.
* Beit Merré: the place of the lords.
* Beit Shbéb: the village of the neighbors.
* Beit Kéko: the village of cookies.
* Beit Roumin, as well as Bterram: the village of the hills or the elevated place.
* Broumana: Roumono is the god of storms and thunder and he is symbolized by a pomegranate that is also called Roumono in Syriac.
* Bikfaya: Kifa is a stone and Kifaya mean from stone or rocky. Behsas : from Behsos means the region of Shingle.
* Bkerké: if it is from Beit kerké it would mean “a scroll” or more exactly, archives or library. If the origin is Beit karké, then it is a Castel.
* Bteddin: Place of Judgment. And to differentiate the second Bteddin village (because there are 2 of them), the one in the Jezzine area was called Bteddin Leqsh. Leqsh in Syriac means the fruit that comes after its season.
* Bshénéta: from Beit Shénto, the place of sleepiness.
* Btoura: from Beit Touro means the mountain village.
* Btouratij: from Beit tour togo, is the mountain crown village or the village crowning the mountain.
* Bzommar: place of Psalms.
* Bqorqacha: from Beit Qur Qashé, means the place of severe cold.
* Bednayel: It might come from Beit Daniel, the village of Daniel*
* Bsharré: This could mean the village of the Beginning because Shary means “to begin”.
The second group contains the village names starting with Kfar which actually means village:
* Kfar Matta stands for the village of Mathew
* Kfar Shima: the Shimo is the suffering or injured person
* Kefraya: Kfar is the village, and Kefroyo is the villager just like Kifa for stone, and Kifaya for rocky.
* Beqaa Kafra: from Peqaa Kafra means the village of the plain or the plateau
* Kfar Baal: Baal could be the Phoenician divinity or also sometimes simply the husband
* Kfar Melké: The village of the kings
* Kfar Noun: The village of the Fish
* Kfar Hay: the village of Life
* Kfar Zayna: from Zayno, the village of the Weapon
* Kfar Dabash: from Kfar Débsho, the village of honey
The third group of villages concerns names starting with the word Ain meaning source or spring:
* Ain Baal: the spring of Baal
* Ain Dara: the place of combat and fighting
* Ainjar : from Ain Guéro. Guéro is an arrow, whish refers to the concept of Fast waters
* Ain Kafra: the spring of the village
* Ain Qéné: the spring of the nest
* Ain Aar: the spring of the Laurel tree
The fourth group shows the village’s names with Tur meaning Mount. Turo is the equivalent of mountain, and Tur is the equivalent of mount.
* Tur Levnon is the Syriac name of Mount Lebanon: It could mean the White mountain like the French Mont Blanc; or maybe “Tur Levanon”, the Incense Mountain. Some also say it is “Lev Anan”, the Heart of God.
* Toura: from Touro means the mountain
* Ain Toura: the spring of the mountain
* Ain Tourin: the source of the mountains
* Tourza: from Tour Arza, the cedars’ mountain
* Hay Toura: the mountain of life
The fifth group contains the village’s names starting with Mar, from Mor, meaning lord or saint.
* Mar Méma
* Mar Moussa: from Mor Moushé
* Mart Shmouné
* Mart Taqla
Group number 6 is that of village’s names containing Kifa, the stone:
* Deir Kifa: the stone temple or the stone convent.
* Ras Kifa: the summit of the stone as it shows very obviously in the seen of the village.
Group number 7 shows village’s names starting with Qarn meaning horn or, more exactly, the summit:
* Like QornaEl: the summit of El, the Cananean god.
* Qornet Hamra: the hill of wine.
* Qornet Sodé: the Martyrs summit, the Martyrs of Christ. But because it was transcribed in Arabic, a language that does not have vowels like the O and é, the name became Qornet Sawda: the black summit, which is very uncomprehensive because this peak is white all year long.
Here are other famous and various names not belonging to any of these groups:
* Aphqa: from the verb Aphéq meaning to exit. This is where water exits from the mountain.
* Mayphouq: It finds its origin in the same verb Aphéq. May-Aphéq (Mayphouq) means the Water exit.
* Faraya: Firé means fruits, and Firoyé means fruity, just like kfar/village and kefraya/villager; and like kifa/rock and kifaya/rocky.
* Félougha: from the verb Plag meaning to cut, to separate a region, or a land.
* Méerab: from Maerbo meaning the West.
* Arz: from Arzo, the cedar.
* Adisha: from Qadisho, the Saint.
* Qbayyét: from Qebyoto, the water tanks.
* Chhim: from Chahém, blacken.
* Ferzol: Steel, iron.
* Fraydes: from Pardayso, the Paradise.
* Annéya: from ‘nonoyo, cloudy.
To realize how much the passage from Syriac to Arabic writing was complicated, we can consider the illustration of the letter Gomal. This is the example of a letter that does not exist in the Arabic alphabet. So how to write the names of Lebanese villages in Arabic? The Lebanese did not elaborate a grammatical rule to determine the equivalent of the Syriac Gomal. Therefor, we notice that sometimes it is replaced by an Arabic Djim and other times by a Ghayn without any logical reason or explanation. Of course the Djim is pronounced Jim by the Lebanese because it doesn’t exist in their Syriac language.
* G‘oto becomes J‘ita, with a Djim: G‘oto means the scream from the heart or from the belly.
* Gounié becomes Jounié also with a Djim: Gounié means the angle or the bay.
* Gouma becomes Ghouma with a Ghayn: Gouma means the beans.
* Gosta becomes Ghosta: Gosta, also with a Ghayn. Gosta, from Gawso, means the Shelter; or from Agousto who is the emperor Augustus.
So we have two examples where the Syriac Gomal is transcribed into an Arabic Djim, and two other examples where it is transcribed into a Ghayn with no clear explanation.
Learn Syriac to write your country’s names. To be able to speak to Lebanon and to understand it when it speaks back to you. Learn to understand the true meaning of Qornet Sodé. Learn Syriac if you dream of having a conversation with this beautiful mountain and its historical villages.
Amine Jules Iskandar is President of Syriac Maronite Union-Tur Levnon
For the article in Spanish. You can also watch episode 8 of the associated TV-series as broadcast by Nour Al-Sharq Tv.