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Naming of a city Naming of a city

From the archives – what’s in the name of Dubrovnik

Written by  Mark Thomas Jan 03, 2018

It has been called “the pearl of the Adriatic,” and “heaven on earth,” but how did the ancient city of Dubrovnik actually get the name of Dubrovnik?

In fact, Dubrovnik wasn’t the first name given to this Adriatic beauty, it wasn’t even the second name. You could say that the actual naming of this city reflects the complicated and yet fascinating past of the city. The first recorded use of the name Dubrovnik came in the 12th century, but it didn’t really catch on till 400 years later.

It is difficult to delve into Dubrovnik’s rich history without getting tangled in a spider’s web of information. Let’s start at the beginning. The city was founded in the 7th century on a rocky outcrop. This outcrop was named Laus by the first inhabitants, which means rock in ancient Greek, and so we have the first name – Laus.

Laus over the centuries was changed to Raus, Rausium, Ragusium and eventually Ragusa. From the 10th century until the 1808 Ragusa, or the Republic of Ragusa, was used as the official name. Although strangely the first recorded use of Dubrovnik was in the 12th century and was used more frequently by the late 16th century. Meaning that the two names overlapped for a few centuries.

So where does the name of Dubrovnik come from?

name of dubrovnik 3

Name changes over the centuries 

Rising high above the Old City is the mountain of Srđ has both protected and served the city in differing ways for years. Although its slopes are mainly bare today they weren’t always naked. Thick oak forests used to spread far and wide over Srđ. This very oak was used to start building the city and then in later years to create a powerful maritime force. Although today the city is one stone façade after another its beginnings were very much more timber. And the Slavic name for oak is – Dub. You’ve already seen the beginnings of the name Dubrovnik. Just to spread it out a little the Slavic word for an oak forest was Dubrava.

And that is where Dubrovnik gets its present day name from.