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Why is the Black Sea called the Black Sea

The ancient Greeks were the first to name the Black Sea, and they called it "Inhospitable Sea", since the sea was difficult to navigate, and also at the time, hostile tribes inhabited its shores. With the settlement of Greek colonists at the shore of the sea, its name became “Eύξεινος Πόντος”, or "Hospitable Sea". This name is still used in some Greek sources, but also the name “Μαύρη Θάλασσα” or "Black Sea" is common in many sources.

Black Sea Bulgaria

Photo: Pixabey...

It has not been established exactly to which of the explanations the name of the Black Sea can be traced back, but is certain that the name comes from the Turkish vocabulary. 

When Anatolia was conquered by the Ottomans, they kept the names used by the Genoese and Venetians. They called the Black Sea the "Mare Maggiore", or the "Great Sea".

"Mare Maggiore" translated into the language of the Ottomans, means "KaraDeniz". Deniz stands for sea. The word Kara in Turkish has several meanings, like big, dark, and cloudy. Over the years the meaning of the word "kara" changed into the word "dark" or Black, and Slavic people like the Bulgarians and Russians kept this expression.

But why the sea is called - Black

The water of the Black Sea is so opaque that it is almost impossible to see through more than 2 feet (60 cm) of the upper water layer. The sea is more than 150 meters deep and its water is filled with hydrogen sulphide, therefore, there are no living beings in the deepest layers of its water, except for sulphur bacteria. Metal objects from ships, dead plants and animal matter that had sunk over 150 meters deep for a long time were covered in black mud due to the high concentration of hydrogen sulphide in the sea.

From the point of view of seafarers, the sea has been black due to severe winter storms which make the water so dark it looks black.

What other names are used for the Black Sea?

Current names of the sea are usually equivalents of the English name "Black Sea", including these given in the countries bordering the sea: (

  • Abkhazian: Амшын Еиқәа, romanized: Amʂən Eikʰʷa
  • Adyghe: Хы шӏуцӏэ, romanized: Xı ṩʔutsʔə
  • Armenian: Սեւ ծով, romanized: Sev tsov
  • Bulgarian: Черно море, romanized: Cherno more
  • Crimean Tatar: Къара денъиз, romanized: Qara deñiz
  • Georgian: შავი ზღვა, shavi zghva
  • Laz and Mingrelian: უჩა ზუღა, romanized: Ucha Zugha, IPA: [utʃɑ zuɣɑ], or simply ზუღა
  • Romanian: Marea Neagră, pronounced [ˈmare̯a ˈne̯aɡrə]
  • Russian: Чёрное мо́рe, romanized: Chyornoye more
  • Turkish: Karadeniz
  • Ukrainian: Чорне море, romanized: Chorne more


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