The Natisone Valleys and Cividale

For understandable reasons, people have always been intrigued by etymology, that is the origins of place names. A knowledge of the origin and meaning of "toponyms" (names of towns and villages), "oronyms" (names of mountains), "hydronyms" (names of rivers,) and "microtoponyms" (names of fields, meadows, woods and other tracts of land) can shed light on the history of man’s early settlements, on a group’s ethnic and linguistic roots, and on the geographical and productive characteristics of a particular area in bygone days; it can also provide useful linguistic and historical information, especially when written records are lacking.

The Natisone Valleys are particularly interesting in this respect, since they present a rich variety of name forms, not only Slovenian in origin, but also pre-Latin and Romance. There are many examples of “polyform” toponymy, the term used when a place has several names – for example, Slovenian, Italian and Friulian.

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