Monday, April 25, 2011

Hvar - What's in a Name?

So just how do you pronounce this beautiful island? And what are the origins of its linguistically-challenging name? For Westerners used to a good coating of vowels in their words, Croatian can be a handful to pronounce (For Trieste, read Trst for example), and words in English beginning with H+V are in short supply.

There seem to be two approaches which seem to work. The first is to ignore the ‘H’ completely and ask the ticket seller at the ferry terminal for a ticket to Var. The other is it to insert an ‘A’ and come up with Ha-var. You will sound like a tourist, but at least you should get a ticket to the right island. The correct pronunciation is somewhere between the two, a very shortened ‘A.’ If in doubt, just ask for Croatia’s premier island.

The origins of the name seem to descend from the Ancient Greeks, who named the their settlement Pharos (lighthouse). The Romans derived the name Pharia, which then became Fara. This changed in the Middle Ages to Hvar, as the Slavonic consonant ‘F’ was superceded by ‘HV’. This was sometimes spelt Quara or Quarra. To further confuse the issue, the Italians renamed the island Lesina in the 11th Century (or Liesena or Liesna in Venetian dialect), which was derived from an old Croatian word for ‘forest’.

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