Know the Etymology: 9
Place Name of the Day: Sunday, 12 March 2017

Kōvaḷam, Kaṟ-kōvaḷam

கோவளம், கற்கோவளம்
Kōvaḷam, Kaṟ-kōvaḷam

Kō+aḷam/ Kōvu+ aḷam/ Kuvavu+aḷam
Kal+kō+aḷam/ Kal+kōvu+aḷam/ Kal+kuvavu+aḷam

The cape/ headland/ curving seashore

The rocky cape/ rocky headland/ rocky and curving seashore

Kōvaḷam cape, headland, town near a headland (Tamil, MTL); Aḷam: maritime tract, sea (Tamil, DED 299); Aḷakkar: sea (Tamil, DED 299); the earth (Tamil, Tivākaram, 5: 12); Aḷa: (verb) to measure, limit, define (Tamil, DED 295); Aḷavai, Aḻappu: bounds, limit (Tamil, DED 295); also see column on Uppaḷam; 1. Kōvu+aḷam; Kō: root of many Dravidian terms meaning curvature, as in Kōṭu: (verb) to bend (Tamil, DED 2054a); Koṭu: curved (Tamil, DED 2054a); Kōṭi: corner (Tamil, DED 2054b); Kōṇu: (verb) to be curved, bent (Tamil, DED 2209); Kō: a curvature in the reef (Dhivehi/ Maldivian, DBF); 2. Kuvavu+aḷam > Kōvaḷam; Kuvavu: (verb) to be piled up, heap up; (noun) heap, pile, mound (Tamil, DED 1741); Kuvāl, Kuvai: heap, pile, mound (Tamil, DED 1741);
Kaṟ conjunction form of Kal: stone, pebble, rock, hill (Tamil, DED 1298). See columns 46, 165

The Tamil toponymic term Kōvaḷam means a cape, headland or a town near a headland (MTL).

Two places in Jaffna Peninsula have Kōvaḷam in their names. Both of them are located at sharply bending coastal points or headlands, and both have lighthouses.

Kōvaḷam is also noticed in the coastal place names in Tamil Nadu and Kerala.

The suffix Aḷam in Tamil means a maritime tract and it is listed as Dravidian (DED 299, see box for further etymology).

Deducible from the meaning of Kōvaḷam and from the landscape of the places having the name, the prefix Kō must either be connected to a curve, bent, point etc., or be connected to a heap or mound that usually make capes and headlands. See box for etymological possibilities.

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Kōvaḷam is in the northwest tip of Karainagar (Kārai-tīvu) island of Jaffna district. It is a sharply curving coast and a headland that would be sighted first by vessels coming from the north.

Kaṟ-kōvaḷam is in the northeast tip of Jaffna Peninsula, where the coastline makes almost a sharp 90 degrees turn. The place is a rocky heap.

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Location of Koava'lam and Kat Koava'lam in Jaffna
Location of Koava'lam and Kat Koava'lam in Jaffna

Revised: Sunday, 12 March 2017, 22:50

First published: Thursday, 21 June 2007, 01:00

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