Aksujärvi's summer home. Photographer Erkki Mikkola 1931. Museovirasto.




Place names here in the Inari region tell, among other things, how the lion’s share of place names is derived from living nature. The predominant share of place names in the Inari region come from fish and this tells us that we were above all a fishing people, but also a hunting people; at least used to be. Fish appear 338 times of which perch are at the head (82 times). Second place is taken 318 times by animals, of which reindeer and various derivatives appear (59 times). A hardy third place is occupied by people with names appearing in 278 place names with Antti in the lead (36). Fourth place is taken by birds which are met in 242 place names, with the most being red throated divers (43 times) but not one great northern diver. We can conclude from this that in olden days these two bird species were considered the same and I still believed, for example, in the 1980s that the great northern diver’s Inari Sámi name was kähtee; I had not even heard of the name tuhtuu.

Trees and plants occupy fourth place at 227 times with pine in the lead (42 times). The sixth place is taken by gods, shamans and nature spirits which show up 82 times, Ákku and Äijih (a female god and a male god) in the lead (43 times). Seventh place belongs to insects which are met in names 20 times, blackflys most (4 times). The absolute last place is taken by berries and mushrooms, even though they were important to people. They show up only 16 times of which blueberries (7 times) are at the top. All in all, the above mentioned species appear in 1502 place names, over one fifth of all Inari Sámi place names. My research has not yet extended to North Sámi and Finnish language place names in this respect. The names in question are nevertheless mostly the same names as the Inari Sámi names, i.e. they are Finnish and North Sámi translations.

What kind of names then are the four fifths left over? They are based on appellations, i.e. they are based on names relating to the land and appear most often in the main portions, but also in the adjuncts. There are a few place names with these kinds of words in both the main and adjunct parts, such as in Suáluičuálmáásuálui – Island, “Island Channel Island”, and Suáluinyeresuálui – Island, “Island Long Channel Island”, which has been translated into Finnish as “nuotoon”, in Nuoransaari. All in all, there are over 6000 Inari Sámi place names, Finnish names somewhat less, North Sámi names over 2000, Skolt language names about two hundred and the same amount for seine-fishing grounds. Of all the fishing grounds, the exact locations of the seine-fishing grounds are not all known; neither will we be able to determine them. Altogether the registered and mapped names of locations are about 14,000.

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Altogether the Inari Sámi geographic appellatives are about 300. The following is a Top-40 list or 40 most frequent appellative place names in order of preference:

1. jävri + jáávráš + jávrádâh = lake (and various forms) 1956 times
2. vääri + váárááš + värehâš = ridge (and various forms) 712 times
3. suálui + suolluš + lássá = island (and various forms) 629 times
4. juuhâ + vei + juuvâš + aajâ = river (and various forms)  + source 552 times
5. njargâ + njaargâš + njargâstâh = peninsula (and various forms)  537 times
6. luohtâ + luovtâš = bay (and various forms)  480 times
7. luobâl + luobbâlâš = pond-like widening within a stream 233 times
8. jeggi + jiägáš = bog and diminutive form 198 times
9. uáivi + uáiváš = top and diminutive form 185 times
10. keđgi + kiäđgáš = rock and diminutive form 157 times
11. čuálmi + čuálmáš = channel and diminutive form 152 times
12. ruávi + puállám = rocky bulge, burnt hill + burnt hill 149 times
13. vyeppee = bay in a river 132 times
14. láddu + lááduš = pond and diminutive form 117 times
15. čielgi + siälgáš = massif and diminutive form 114 times
16. kuoškâ = rapids 97 times
17. vuonâ + vuonâš = fjord 89 times
18. kieddi + kiäddáš = field 72 times
19. moorâst = low birch-clad ridge 70 times
20. eennâm = land 63 times
21. pähti + páávtáš = steep rocky wall 61 times
22. puolžâ = ridge/esker 54 times
23. skäiđi + skááiđáš = woods (woods between rivers) 52 times
24. uáivuš, river mouth in a lake 48 times
25. savo ~ savvoon + savonâš = calm pool 44 times
26. čukkâ ~ čokke ~ čohhááš + čummâ = hill + peak 43 times
27. pohe + povvááš = small, cramped place + valley 42 times
28. myetki + muáđháš + muáđhád = stage of a journey 41 times
29. vuodâs = sandy beach 38 times
30. tupesaje = cottage location 35 times
31. käldee = spring, opening 33 times
32. juovâ = cave ~ rock field ~ boulder field 31 times
33. ämmir + tiävá = knoll ~ hillock 29 times
34. kuolbâ + kuolbânâš = sandy heath with juniper 28 times
35. ävži = ravine 27 times
36. kárgu = shoal/rock 25 times
37. nyeri + nuárááš = long and thin channel 22 times
38. viälmá = deep spot in a slow river 21 times
39. kaavâ = gentle bend 20 times
40. puornâ = storage pit 18 times

And as we noticed, there are no words related to fells on the list, though there is a significant amount of fells in the Inari region. It only occupies 41st place, appearing 17 times, of which the greatest part are located outside of the Inari region. Forty favored terrain-related appellatives appear as many as 7254 times. The number of appearances of the rest of the 260 terrain-related appellatives has not been counted.

The kinds of human constructions or technical implements that are found in the place names of the Inari region:

1.    The predominant word encountered, kuáti = kota, Lapp hut 146 times
2.    A good second, tupe = cottage, 107 times
3.    Third most encountered, lyevi = stack, 19 times
4.    Fourth is seine net – related words,  koldem ja nyetti = seine fishing and seine 18 times, but surprisingly the same amount is attained by  puornâ = storage pit for meat and fish 
5.    Fifth place attained by äiđi = corral, fence 16 times
6.    Sixth place, láávu = conical tent 14 times
7.    Seventh place is ákšu = knife, 11 times
8.    Eighth place is taken by kerris = sledge and puárree = raft, 10 times
9.    Ninth place,  käärbis = boat and piärtušm = deer hunting barrier fence, 9 times by both
10   Tenth place is taken by viermi = net, 8 times
11.  In eleventh place are lyevdi = board and káskástoh = fall trap, 7 times
12.  In twelfth place huonâs = wolf trap, 6 times
13. In thirteenth place are the implements nijbe = Lapp knife, láávtáš = high platform for storing meat, árdu = drying rack (for meat and fish), tävgi and pelbi = bow and sharp arrow, as well as pisso = gun, 5 times each
14. In fourteenth place are suárváš = pole for fishing nets used in pulling, saaveeh = ski and puvre = storage hut, often of peat, 4 times each
15. Fifteenth place is shared by säitti = spear, čyeimi = pole and hirsâ log, 3 times each
16. Seven words share sixteenth place: veeččir = hammer, liššá = scythe kaŋgâ = handspike, läbži = strap, stávrá = pole, naavit = cowshed and láátu = barn, 2 times each
17. The last place is shared by eight: sivlá = long fence used in separations, háárááv = rake, puuvko = knife, suábbi = pole, kiällár = cellar, kiämppá = cabin, syermi = dry pine with many branches for drying food ja tävgi = bow, once each.

In all, these constructions, tools and devices appear in adjuncts 492 times.

Ilmari Mattus

Kove: Martti Rikkonen
Ritakoski Rapids of Juutuajoki River with Otsamo fell in the background.






Kove: Martti Rikkonen
The red-throated diver is a common water bird of Lake Inari and a favorite bird’s name among place names.








Kove: Ilmari Mattus
Ukko in Lake Ukonjärvi.
















n Nature and People in Place Names in the Inari Region

n What Do Place Names Tell Us?


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