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On the Etymology of the Name “Baku”

Debates are still going on in connection with the etymology of the word “Baku”, as well as the exact age of the city. For instance, the English archeologist Sir William Flinders Petrie suggests that the words “Bakhay” denoting “the mountain of Bakhou of the rising Sun” written in the Egyptian Book of the Dead in the 2nd millenium BC refer to Baku. Some scholars relate Baku with the names Gaytara, Albana, Baruka mentioned in the ancient sources. In the sources dating back to the V-VIII centuries AD it is referred to as Bagavan, Ateshi Baguvan. In the Arabian sources the words “Baku”, “Bakukh”, “Bakuya”, “Bakuye” are first encountered beginning from the IX century. Later in the European sources the name of the city is encountered as “Baga”, “Baki”, Bakkhi”, and in the Russian sources as “Baka”. Beginning from the XVIII century Baku is mentioned in the Persian sources as “Bardkube”. This word consists of two Persian words: “bard” meaning “wind” and “kube” -“to blow”, that is “(the city) where the wind blows”. Apparently the city was called so by some authors because of the strong winds blowing in Baku. At present in the Azerbaijani language the name of the city is used as “Baki”.

There is no one single opinion related to the etymology of the word “Baku”, and different assumptions are used in different sources. Here are some of the available versions.

Prof. Sara Ashurbayli, the leading specialist in this sphere thinks that the word dates back to Zoroastrianism and is derived from the word “baga” which means “the Sun”, “the God” in a number of ancient languages.

The Turkish “Islamic Encyclopedia” presents the origin of the word “Baku” as being derived from the words “Bey-Kyoy” which mean “the main city” in Turkish.

According to the version of the scientist-specialist in the Caucasian studies K.P.Patkanov, the name “Baku” originates from the Lak word “bak” meaning “a hill” as Baku is situated on the hills. Ali Huseinzada, the historian also confirms that the word “Baki” is encountered in the popular Turkish dictionary of the XI century compiled by Mahmud Kashgari in the meaning of “a hill”.

Some scholars consider Baku as an ethnotoponym, that is a name formed from the names of the ancient tribes “bakan” or “bagi” inhabited in Apsheron in the XII-V centuries BC.