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Map of North America with Indigenous place names in English.

the Atlas of True Names: The Etymologic Secrets of Our World


A map that features the etymological roots of the names of the places we inhabit.

“What’s in a name?” Juliet asked.

The Atlas of True Names is the brainchild of a couple cartographers (and Lord of the Rings’ fans) who researched the etymological roots or original meanings of our modern map of the world. For example, where we would usually expect to see the name “Sahara”, the atlas shows us “Sea of Sand”–– derived from the Arabic es-sahra, “desert, sea of sand”, For the lovers of words, this project is little less than an exquisite feast.

map of Central America and Caribbean with indigenous place names

Translators and expert linguists aided cartographers Stephan Hormes and Silke Peust to create each and every one of these maps, and replace the modern geographical names with the original etymologies of cities, countries, mountains and bodies of water. The maps can be ordered in English, Spanish, Dutch and French.

map of Southeast Asia with indigenous place names

If we go back to the roman proverb nomen est omen (name is destiny), perhaps the meaning behind the names of places where we lived says a lot of who we are. The Atlas of True Names brings back a sense of enchantment to the world we believe to know so well. It takes the viewer on a journey towards the terra incognita of familiar places; a unique exploration through the territory we call home. It is, to say the very least, a refreshing way of seeing the world in a new light.

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