THE NAMES OF THE HIGHEST MOUNTAINS OF THE WORLD

 

This list does not include patronymic names like Mt. Hood, McKinley, Everest etc.

 

Aconcagua, 6959 m. Highest summit of the Andes. From Araucan konka "something convex": mountain, Araucan konka "straw stack". The root konk "convex" or sometimes "concave" is also widespread in the Indo-European languages.

Allegheny. A mountain range in the Eastern United States. From the Delaware Amerind alleghany "mountain without end".

Alps. A European mountain range, culminating with the Mont Blanc, 4810 m. A name meaning "height" (Pokorny, Zeitschrift für Keltische Philologie 38: 313) as in the following terms:

 

Welsh

allt (also ailp)

height, mountain

Welsh

alt

slope

Spanish

alto

high (see note below)

French (Aoste)

aat

high

French

haut

high

With change t>p:

Gaelic Scot.

alp

high mountain

Welsh

ailp

height, mountain

French

Alpes

the Alps

Catalan

Alp (Puig d')

name of a mountain

Corsica

elpa

steep rock face

Galicia

alpe

sierra

With change p>b:

Gaelic Ireland

Alba

Scotland

Welsh

Alban

Scotland: Highland

Gaelic Scotland and Ireland

Albanach

inhabitant of the Highlands

Ancient Greek

Albanoi

an Illyrian tribe

German

Alb

a mountain name

With change l>r:

Albanian

Arbën, Arbëror

Albanian

etc.

Altai. A range in Central Asia, culminating at 4374 m with the Yuyi Feng. From Kirghiz altyn "gold" or altaïn-uka "golden mountain", from its golden yellow color when lit by the sun.

Altyn Tagh. A range in Central Asia. Same meaning as the preceding name (Altai); tagh = mountain.

Andes. The longest range in the world, in South America. From Quechua Amerind andi "high summit" (not from anta "copper").

Annapurna, 8091 m. One of the highest summits of the Himalaya. From Nepali Annapūrnā, a goddess providing abundant food; from anna "food" and pūrnā "full". No explanation is known to me.

Aorangi, 3764 m. The Maori name for Mt. Cook, highest mountain in New Zealand. In the Maori language the name means "the cloud-piercer" or, according to a another source simply "the mountain".

Apo (Mount), 2954 m. The highest summit in the Philippines.

Ararat, 5137 m. A mountain in eastern Turkey. Name given by the Hebrew and Greek to the mountain called Masis by the Armenians. The Assyrian name was Urartu, whence the name of this historical region. No satisfactory etymology has been found for Ararat. In Zend Haraiti was the summit of the Celestial Mountain. In Kurdish Agirī, in Turkish Ağri Daği,  in Aramaic qardū and in Ancient Syriac qordū.

Aso (Mount), 1592 m. A volcano in Japan. From a widespread root –s "fire":

Sanskrit

išira

fire

Turkish

isik

heat, fire

Vogul

isim

hot

Japan

Mount Aso

a volcano

Japan

ise

a divinity

Hindi

isa

a goddess

Basque

su

fire

Akkadian

isu, iâtu

fire

Assyrian

išu

god of fire

Sumerian

izi

fire

Old Norse

ysja

fire

 

Atlas Mountains. A range in Morocco, culminating at 4185 m with the Djebel Toubkal.

It is suggested here that Atlas is a metathesis for Altas (montañas), an Ibero-Romance name for this high Moroccan mountain range (I contend that Romances languages existed before Latin). The Greeks gave this name a Greek etymology, from tlaō "to bear", whence the birth of the legend of Hercules carrying the sky. The Berber name is Jebel Deren.

Asturias. A mountain range in northwestern Spain. A name meaning "axial mountains", from a root ast- cognate to axle:

 

German

äste

branch

Dutch

neste

branch (/n/ prosthetic)

Latin

hastile

branch

Latin

hasta

stem, staff, javelin

Italian

asta

stem, handle, lance, staff

Spanish

asta

horns (of the bull)

Spanish

Asturias

a mountain range

Italian

Cima d'Asta

name of a mountain in the Trentino

Albanian

asht

bone: bony axle

Ancient Greek

ostêon

bone

Ancient Greek

astragálos

neck vertebrae; a convex moulding

With change t>p:

Spanish

aspa

wings of a windmill

Spanish

Monte-de-Aspa

the Pyrenees

Italian

Cima de l'Aspre

name of a mountain (cf. Cima d'Asta, above)

Romantsch

aspa

poplar (a straight axle-like tree)

German

espe

poplar

English

aspen

poplar (now restricted to the species Populus tremula

etc.

 

Cantabrica (Cordillera). Mountain range in the Asturias mountains, culminating at 2648 m. From a root cant- convex :

 

French

canton

an administrative division

French: Valais

tsanton

small hill

Ital.: Grigioni

cantón

angle

Ital.: Ticino

cantogne

angle

French: Valais

Catogne

a mountain

French

Cantal

a mountainous region

Spanish

Cantabrica

a mountainous region

English

cantilever

a projecting bracket

English

cant

slope

Ital.: Grigioni

cantée

slope of a roof

French

chante (merle etc.)

hill (in oronymic compounds)

 

Carpathian Mountains. A mountain range in Romania. From Albanian karpë, krep "rock". The word crapa "rock" also occurs in northern Italy.

Caucasus. A mountain range between the Black Sea and the Caspian, culminating with the Elbruz.  From a widespread root meaning "something convex, hill, crest, head" etc.:

 

Pelasgic

kauk

mountain

Ancient Greek

Kaukasis

the Caucasus

Albanian

kokë

head

 

Cervin, Italian Cervino, 4478 m. The original name for the Matterhorn, famous Swiss mountain. From a root k-r meaning "summit, crest, tuft, antlers":

 

Ancient Greek

koryphê

summit

Galician

carapucho

tuft

Breton

karv

red deer

Italian

cervo

red deer

Italian

Cervino

French Cervin, German Matterhorn, an impressive, pointed mountain

 

Chimborazo, 6272 m. A volcano, the highest in Ecuador. From Quechua rasu "snow"; Chimbo is said to be the name of a tribe.

Chomolhari, 7315 m. One of the high peaks of the Himalaya. "The lady of the mountain of the gods".

Citlaltepetl (Pico de Orizaba), 5656 m. A volcano in México. A Nahuatl name meaning "star mountain".

Cook (Mount). See Aorangi.

Cotopaxi, 5897 m. A volcano in Ecuador. From Aymara coto "peak" or "head" and paxi "brillant" (and also "moon"); apparently a pre-Quechua name.

Damavand, Demavend, 5610 m. A volcano and highest summit in northern Iran. In Persian Damāvand, Sanskrit Himāvant "snowy mountain". The city's name of Damavand appears to derive from the mountain.

Denali, 6194 m. The Indian name for Mt. McKinley, Alaska, the highest mountain in North America. Meaning: Home of the Sun. Its summit is lit by the sun long after the lowlands are plunged in twilight.

Dhaulagiri, 8167 m. A summit in the Himalaya. In Nepali Dhavalagiri, Hindi Dhaulagiri; in Sanscrit dhavala means "white" and in Hindi giri means "mountain.

Elbruz, 5642 m. The highest summit of the Caucasus Mountains. See Elburz.

Elburz, 5670 m. A high mountain range in northern Iran. From a root bor- meaning "convex, swollen, protruding" :

 

Gaelic

borr

swollen

Gaelic

boirich

protuberance

Basque

bor

something rounded

Russian

burun

nose

Romanian

buric

navel

German

brust

breast

Persian

burz

nose

Persian

Elburz

a high mountain range in northern Iran

Caucasus

Elbruz

the highest summit of the Caucasus

 

Elgon (Mount), 4321 m. A summit in East Africa. The mountain is named after the Elgonyi tribe, who once lived in huge caves on the south side of the mountain. It was known as Ol Doinyo Ilgoon (Breast Mountain) by the Maasai and as Masawa on the Ugandan side (Wikipedia).

Erebus, 3794 m. The highest mountain of the Antarctic continent. Named after the Erebus, the ship of the James Ross expedition. Erebus is borrowed from the Greek mythology.

Etna, 3345 m. A famous volcano in Sicily. In ancient Greek the name was Aitnê, from aithein "to shine". See Monte Belle.

Everest (Mount). See Qomolangma and Sagarmatha.

Fuji Yama, 3776 m. A volcano, the highest mountain of Japan. The name is pre-Japanese and means "fire mountain", from Ainu fuji "fire". In Japanese the name is Fujisan; Yama means mountain but the Japanese use the word unaccompanied.

Haleakala, 3055 m. The high Hawaiian volcano. "Home of the sun" in Hawaiian.

Hsifan. A high summit in China. "Barbars of the West".

Himalaya. Mountain range south of the Tibetan Plateau, comprising the highest summits in the world. In Sanscrit Himalayah, from himah "snow" and alayah "abode".

Ixtaccihuatl, 5196 m. A volcano in México. From Nahuatl iztac "white" and ciuatl "woman".

Jebel Deren. The berber name for the Atlas Mountains. From Berber adrar, adaren "mountain" a name related to Welsh adarc "horn". Jebel means "mountain".

Kanchenjunga, 8598 m. One of the highest peaks of the Himalaya. "The great glacier of the five treasures", such appears to be the translation of the name.

Karakorum. A high range of the western Himalaya, culminating at 8475 m with the Ch'aio Ko li Feng (Mount Godwin Austen). "Black mountains". (Kara = black; for the root kor- see Cervin).

Katahdin, 1606 m. Highest mountain in Maine, USA. An Indian name meaning "greatest mountain)".

Kenya (Mount), 5199 m. From the Kīkūyū language Kere-Nyaga "Mountain of Whiteness".

Kilimanjaro, 5895 m. A volcano in eastern Africa. From Kilima mountain, and njaro cold.

Kinabalu, 4036 m. The highest summit of Borneo."Revered place of the gods".

Kun Lun Shan. Mountain range north of the Tibetan Plateau, culminating at 7282 m with the Muztag.

Matterhorn. 4478 m. The German name for Cervin. Literally "peak of the meadows", from German horn "peak" and matt "meadow". This impressive summit rising above extensive pastures is a characteristic feature of the region. Zermatt, the resort at the foot of the Matterhorn, means "to the meadows". See Cervin.

Mauna Kea, 4208 m. Hawaiian volcano. Means "white mountain" in Hawaiian

Mauna Loa, 4710 m. Hawaiian volcano. "Tall mountain".

McKinley (Mount). See Denali.

Minya Konka, 7556 m. Tibetan name for the highest mountain of central China. "White mountain" or "snow peak". The Chinese name is A'nyêmaqên Shan in which A'nyê means "old man" (i.e. white) and chen "great"; also Gongga Shan.

Monte Belle. Another name for the Etna. Montebelle is the Italianized form of Muncibbeddu the northern Sicilian name, which is a juxtaposition of the Romance Monte and the Arabic gebel which also means "mountain".

Mont Blanc, 4810 m. The highest European mountain. In the Vallée d'Aoste, it is called Mont Tout-Blanc. The meaning is crystal clear in itself. However some recent linguist managed to see in blanc the Breton "blain" mountain !

Mulhacén, 3482 m. The highest mountain in the Sierra Nevada. From a root mul- convex :

Namangkawi, 4950 m. New Guinea's highest mountain. The native name for Mount Carstenz; means "white arrow"; the name also designates the inflorescence of the reed that the natives use for making arrows.

Nanga Parbat, 8126 m. One of the highest peaks of the Himalaya. "Naked mountain".

Olympus, 2917 m. The highest mountain in Greece. In Greek Olympos. From an Indo-European root lamp "shining", Greek lampê "light", lampros "shining". Its modern Greek name is Lacha, also from a root lach "shining", as in Welsh llachar "shining", Albanian lehtë "light".

Pamirs. High ranges in central Asia, culminating at 7729 m with the Kongur Shan. In the Tajik language Pamir means "roof of the world".

Pennine mountains. A range in Italy. From the Celtic (Welsh) pen "head, summit".

Popocatepetl, 5452 m. A volcano, the highest summit of México. From Nahuatl popokani "to smoke" and tepetl "mountain".

Pyrenees. A mountain range between France and Spain, culminating at 3408 m with the Mount Aneto in the Montes Malditos (the Cursed Moutains).Ancient Greek Pyrênê, Spanish Pireneos, French Pyrénées. From a root meaning "pointed", to which belong the following terms:

 

Ancient Greek

pyrên

pip

Ancient Greek

pyramis

pyramid

Romanian

pirten

spur

English

spur

a pointed object

Welsh

pyr

fir (pyramidal form)

English

spear

a pointed weapon

etc. The mountain was named by the Greeks. The name cannot derive from pyrrhos "fire", the derivative of which take a double rrh as against pyr "pointed". "Fire" or even "red" are by no means a characteristic of the Pyrenees while "pointed" is. The original Spanish name was Montes de Aspa (see Asturias). In the department of Basses-Pyrénées this mountain is called Bortou. The Basque name of the Pyrenees is Aunamendi, from maun "high" and mendi "mountain".

Qomolangma (Chomolungma) 8848 m. The Tibetan name for the Everest, highest mountain in the world. From Tibetan qo "the highest" + suffixe -mo; lang "elephant" (symbol of the world) and ma "mother"; thus: Mother goddess of the Earth. See also Sagarmatha.

Ruwenzori, 5119 m. High mountains in eastern Africa."cloud king" or "rain maker".

Sagarmatha. Nepali name for the Everest. "Forehead in the sky". See Qomolangma.

Sierra Nevada. Mountain range in southern Spain, culminating with the Mulhacén, 3482 m "The Snow-covered Sierra".

Shasta (Mount), 4317 m. The highest mountain of the "lower" United States.

Tien Shan. A range in Central Asia, culminating at 7439 m with the Pik Pobedy. "Celestial mountains".

Ural Mountains. A long range in Russia. In the Vogul language urala means "mountain top".

Vesuvius, 1277 m. An Italian volcano near Naples. In Italian Vesuvio. From a root meaning pointed, cone-shaped :

 

Italian

Monte-Viso

a mountain the shape of a pointed cone in the southern Alps

Italian

Vesuvio

a cone-shaped volcano

Swiss Alps

Veisivi

names of two pointed peaks

Slovak

vezhovka

bell-tower

Modern Greek

vytzi

udder, tits

Ukrainian

vistrja

point

French

visière

the pointed part of the armour protecting the face; the pointed front part of a cap

 

Yosemite. A range in California. From u-zu-ma-ti "grizzly bear", the name of an Indian tribe.

Yü Shan, 3997 m. The highest mountain of Taiwan. Meaning: "white mountain".