Nepal // Trekking //

Names, places and pronunciations

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The spelling and pronunciation of Himalayan place names has given many a traveller a headache. There are competing systems for transliterating from Nepali into English, and many names in mountain regions are taken from Tibetan dialects or even unwritten languages, so the possibilities can proliferate chaotically. When reading from maps and guides, or asking for directions, keep an open mind as to what might mean where. In general, we follow the most widely used spellings, but significant alternatives are given in brackets.

As regards pronunciation, there’s not even agreement on what to call the country – or its mountains. Should it be Nuh-pawl, as it has been in English for a century or so, or Nay-paal, imitating Nepali pronunciation? Is the range a singular Hi-maal-ee-yuh (reflecting the local word for mountain, himal) or Him-uh-lay-ers? Actually, that one’s easy: the name derives from the Sanskrit hima laya, or “Abode of Snow”, not himal, so the stress should be fairly even; and in English mountain ranges are usually plural, like “the Alps”. Hee-maa-lay-ahs it is, then.

besi lower
bhanjyang
pass, col
cho, tso
lake
chorten
stone religious monument/reliquary
deurali
meeting point, often of paths on the saddle or side of a hill
danda
hillside
gao
village
gompa
monastery
himal
mountain range
kosi
river
khola
stream
la
mountain pass
lekh
watershed range of hills, ridge
mani
wall of stones inscribed with prayers
phedi
settlement at the foot of a hill
pokhari
lake
ri
peak
tal
lake

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