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Dear Ivan,

I've always wondered what the significance of the word Нижний in the name Нижний Новгород might be – please could you help?

Is it нижний because it's geographically lower than Великий Новгород, perhaps? Or even because it's further away from the capital? (In some languages, “up” refers to movement towards the capital, seen as exalted in some way.)

Best wishes, and many thanks,

Simon

Answer
Dear Simon,

Your first assumption is closer to the truth. At least that's what comes to one's mind naturally. Also, 'нижний' may point to a downriver area. Upriver areas are commonly referred to as 'верховья'. Likewise, downriver places are often called 'низовья'.

Historical data shows that even before the city was founded, the area had already been known as 'Низ' or 'Низовская земля'. I got no clue as to whether it's a reference to downriver, downhilll, or something else.

Here is a whole article about it: http://family-history.ru/material/onomastics/toponimika/toponimika_74.html

Regards,
Ivan

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Ivan Boryagin

Expertise

Any intelligent questions are welcome.

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I am a linguist with nearly 20 year experience as translator.

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Honours in Literature

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