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There are ancient ruins of fortresses in Tbilisi and Derbent which share a name.

In Tbilisi there is ნარიყალა Nariqala and in Derbent there is Нарын-Кала Naryn-Kala.

The story of the name ნარიყალა in Georgia is that it was given this name by the Mongols and that it means "little fortress".

The problem is that I can't find Mongolian words meaning "little" or "fortress" which resemble the words used in the name. But they also don't resemble Georgian words with those meanings.

I only found out about the similarly named fortress in Derbent because the Russian Wikipedia articles of each are linked. I haven't found a story about the name of this fortress.

Could these be now obscure Mongolian words or is it just that I'm using a dictionary from modern Mongolia and the Mongols responsible spoke a very different variety?

Or could it be that the Mongols took words from some third language to give this name? I know the Caucasus has had many rulers over the centuries.

Or could it be something else entirely?

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    Nariin in Mongolian means narrow.
    – Dagvadorj
    Mar 22 '15 at 18:11
  • @Dagvadorj the sense "narrow" is very common for places at narrow passages of a river; cp England, Ger Enge; G Vogt; also perhaps G Hav, Habsburg, Hannover. No doubt there's more along those lines. The idea is that river traffic is easy to control at those sweet spots, and that the passage is vitally important, cp Cambridge, and similar. I think the idiom camel through the eye of a needle also belongs here, but that's a different question.
    – vectory
    Dec 11 '19 at 16:08
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The second part is certainly from Arabic qalʿa, a word loaned all over the Orient.

The first part may be from a given name. Armenian has Նարին Narin and Turkish has Narin, both from Persian نارین nārīn ‘fresh, shining, clear, polished, elegant, adorned’. Or directly from the Persian appellative.

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I think I've found half of the answer.


Turkish kale means "fortress" and comes from Arabic قلعة.


As for "nar" / "narin", that could come from a King of Georgia, დავით VI ნარინი Davit VI Narini. The story is that there were two King Davids at that time, the other being დავით VII ულუ Davit VII Ulu, with these names meaning "junior" and "senior".

But those don't seem to be the normal Georgian words for those concepts and so far I haven't found their sources to be Turkish or Mongolian either. Another puzzle ...

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