As many of you probably know, the Latvian word for hill, “kalns”, is a fairly common Latvian surname, particularly in its diminutive form Kalniņš.

But there are many different kind of “kalns” as well, as evidenced by my journeys through old church records. These names are particularly common in western Latvia, especially in communities such as Tukums and Skrunda. Tukums is located on a series of hills, so many “kalns” names being associated with the town and its environs would not seem unusual. I have not been to Skrunda, so I can’t speak to the hilliness of that region.

Some of the “kalns” names that I have seen: Baltkalns (white hill; Skrunda), Bērzkalns (birch hill; Skrunda, Mazsalaca), Brīvkalns (free hill; Rīga), Kaļķukalns (lime hill [the mineral, not the fruit]; Skundra), Kroņakalns (crown hill; Tukums, Skrunda), Leiškalns (Lithuanian hill; Rīga), Liepkalns (linden hill; Skrunda, Suntaži, Kastrāne), Mālkalns (clay hill; Vecgulbene, Anna), Mierkalns (peace hill; Nurmuiža, Jūrmala, Tume), Ozolkalns (oak hill; Tukums), Pilskalns (castle hill; Aizpute, Rudbārži), Puķukalns (flower hill; Tukums), Sauleskalns (sun hill; Padure), Viduskalns (middle hill; Rīga), Vīnakalns (wine hill; Skrunda, Smārde), Zvaigznekalns (star hill; Rīga, Tukums).

It is quite possible that many of the ones I’ve seen in Rīga had their origins in western Latvian parishes that I have yet to explore. There are all sorts of interesting names to explore all over the country!

Do you have any “kalns” names to add? Share in comments!

Surname Saturday – Different Kinds of Hills
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One thought on “Surname Saturday – Different Kinds of Hills

  • May 29, 2012 at 3:44 am

    My surname is Ulmkalns which originates from the Ulms farmstead, now called Ulmi, in the Kuldīgas region.

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