On the Origin of the Toponym Tbilisi


  • Shalva Gabeskiria Free University of Tbilisi


Tbilisi, tbili, Tabal, Tubal, contamination


In the scientific literature, there are two viewpoints on the etymology of the name Tbilisi and priority is given to the version, according to which the name of the Georgian capital had been derived from the Georgian adjective tbili//tpil by adding the ending -is to it.

The author of the paper does not share this opinion, first of all, due to the fact that the topo formant -is does not form toponyms from adjectives.

The version of deriving “Tbilisi” from “tbili” (warm) is not justified in foreign (Greek, Armenian) sources either. In the first century A.D., Josephus Flavius put forward his view according to which the Iberians originate from Tobel. This opinion was shared by many scholars afterwards.   

In the present paper, on the basis of linguistic and historical evidence, there is an attempt to show that the name of our royal town is connected with the ethnonym Tubal. The deity of smithery as Tobel is known in Qiziki and Meskheti. According to the opinion of some scholars (V. Saint-Martin, A. Khakhanashvili, Arch. Baramidze, G. Kavtaradze), in the name of the city of ancient Kartli Uplistsikhe, there is the biblical ethnonym Tubal with the initial consonant being lost.

In the Armenian language, together with the names of Tbilisi, adapted from Georgian, we encounter tpkhq form, which is supposedly obtained as a result of phonetic changes *tplq >  tpghq > tpkhq. It is worth mentioning that the Armenian suffix q, equivalent to the Kartvelian -kh for forming nouns, is mainly added to ethnonyms.

 In the name of Tbilisi, it is more possible to suggest the reference to the Babylonian ethnonym and patron deity of smithery Tabal than Biblical Tobal//Tubal. Tabal must be the old Semitic form of the Sper province from the historical South-West region of Georgia. In view of the s > h phonetic change, Sper is given as Havila in the Old Testament in which the land of Havilah is mentioned (Genesis 2: 12).

Tabal could have given the form *Tablis//*Taplis.

The author of the paper thinks that the old name of our capital Tpilisi is obtained as a result of contamination of *Tablisi and the adjective tpili.



How to Cite

Gabeskiria, Shalva. 2020. “On the Origin of the Toponym Tbilisi”. Free University Journal of Asian Studies, no. 2 (December). Tbilisi. https://journals.org.ge/index.php/asianstudies/article/view/46.