Edinburgh - A City by Any Other Name
The Anglicised name of Scotland's capital city is Edinburgh - pronounced 'Ed-in-bu-ruh'. The city was named for the feature which still dominates its skyline, Edinburgh Castle; in Gaelic (the language native to the Highlands of Scotland) the city is Dùn Èideann, itself taken from the old Celtic 'Din Eidyn' meaning 'fort on the hill'.
The modern name is a mix of Celtic ('edin') and anglo Saxon ('burgh'), a linguistic divide which is one of the examples of Edinburgh as a city of two halves - the Old and New Towns being a physically visible sense of this split...
For a long time 'Edinburgh' was specifically the collection of properties stretching from its castle down the ridge of what is now the Royal Mile, as far as the junction with Mary Street/Jeffrey Street. At this junction a large gateway, the Netherbow Port, marked the main entrance into the city - there were six gates in total, but this was the busiest and most strategically significant.
There is a pub on this corner still named the World's End in recognition of that fact that entering the city gates required the payment of a toll, and for the impoverished residents of Edinburgh this meant they simply couldn't afford to leave the city to venture further afield as they wouldn't be able to pay the fee to get back home. The Netherbow junction was truly the end of their world.
In time the city grew outwards, incorporating outlying townships - areas considered integral to the city centre today, such as Grassmarket, Stockbridge, and even Canongate and Holyrood, were all at one time separate settlements outside of the Edinburgh city boundaries. The port of Leith only became integrated into the city in the 1920s.
This tightly boundaried city was marked at different periods in history with a series of defensive walls, the King's Wall, the Flodden Wall and the Telfer Wall. Surviving sections of these walls are visible at various points around the city.
The city itself enjoys a number of nicknames, most commonly being referred to colloquially as 'Auld Reekie', a Scots name translating as 'old smokey' on account of the prodigious number of chimneys that the city boasted, especially after the construction of the New Town. Such was the volume of wood smoke and other pollution generated by the city that a plume of dirty smoke hovered in the air over the city, visible from Fife, across the Firth of Forth to the north of the city.
Sometimes you may hear Edinburgh referred to as 'the Athens of the North', on account not only of its National Monument on Calton Hill, an attempted (and only partially completed) recreation of Greece's Parthenon, as well as other neoclassical influence on the city's architecture, but also for its surge in intellectual reputation as a centre of philosophy during the Scottish Enlightenment of the 18th century.
Poets like Robert Burns sometimes used Edinburgh's Latin name, 'Edina', in their work, and people who live here may be heard contracting its four syllables to 'Embra'.
Others just call it home.
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