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First visited by us on November 19, 2020
TL;DR: What does Gjirokastër mean? It most likely means Silver Castle. Originally it was called Argyrocastron, a name combining the medieval Greek words Argyro and Castron, Silver and Castle. This probably in reference to the stone houses, cobblestone streets and shale covered roofs shimmering like silver in the sun, and in the rain. The Silver City is another name mentioned as is the Argjyri Clan and Princess Argjiro. It's pronounced [ɟiɾokastəɾ].

What does Gjirokastër mean

Gjirokastër is a city of many names. First of all, you’ll find many different variations of the city’s name. Answering what does Gjirokastër mean is somewhat complicated. In standard Albanian, Shqip, the name of the city is actually Gjirokastra. In the Gheg Albanian dialect spoken in the north, it’s called Gjinokastër. Gheg is the other of the two major varieties of Albanian. The main dialect is Tosk, and the one standard Albanian, Shqip, is based on. You’ll also find it spelt Girokaster (with e instead of ë) and Girokastra outside of Albania. An example of that is this guide. On top, in Aromanian which is also spoken in Albania, the city is called Ljurocastru. Sometimes it’s also called Iurucasta or Iurucast in that language. In modern Greek, it’s called Argyrokastro Αργυρόκαστρο. Aaaaand, during the Ottoman era, the town was known under its Turkish name Ergiri. Easy peasy, right?

The Formal version of what Gjirokastër means

The earliest written mention of the city is from 1336. Back then a man called John VI Kantakouzenos, a Byzantine Greek nobleman, statesman, and general, wrote about it. He then called it by its medieval Greek name Argyrocastron Αργυρόκαστρον. That name is actually a combination of two words, Argyro and Castron. The medieval Greek word Αrgyro Αργυρό means Silver. Kastro κάστρον is in turn from the Latin Castrum meaning Castle (or fortress). Other Byzantine writings use a similar name, calling it Argyropolyhni Αργυροπολύχνη, meaning Silver City.

The Nationalistic version of what Gjirokastër means

Locally, a few (one?) Albanian historians claim that there was a tribal clan native to the area called the Argjyri. They were supposedly descendants of an Athenian tribe expelled from Athens after the Trojan War. There is really nothing to actually support this theory. We actually don’t even know for sure that the Troyan War happened.

The Legendary version of what Gjirokastër means

The legend is that the city took the name from Princess Argjiro. This is not a happy story. It supposedly happened during the time of many small Albanian independent Princedoms roughly a thousand years ago. During the final siege of the city by the Ottoman Turks, she threw herself from the battlements, together with her young son. She did not want to be taken alive by the attacking enemy. The name The Fortress of Argjiro comes from this legend. Now, the first mention of the town’s name in Byzantine records is from 1336. The Ottoman conquest of the Principality of Gjirokastër from Prince Zenebishi was in 1419. He had no sisters named Argjiro. All together the timeline doesn’t match. It makes this story seem highly unlikely.

[ ɟiɾokastəɾ ]

[post:title]? Now you have the answer! So, how is it actually pronounced /prəˈnaʊnst/ then? Well, as you probably guessed you have the answer above.