Our island features three spacious and magnificent harbours: the Grand Harbour, Marsamxett harbour and Marsaxlokk harbour. Gozo has one semi-artificial harbour, Mġarr, on its southern coast.

At the inner end of the Grand Harbour, “a large village a mile inland from the inner reaches of the Grand Harbour” (Wettinger 2000: 286) lies Qormi. With its extant Roman quays lying under a few feet of soil or building material, and just off the Marsa marshes, it lies at the deep end of this splendid, sheltered harbour, further inland from today’s Il-Magħluq, or the enclosed harbour.

While the Greek name for a port or harbour is Órmos, Qormi may be its Maltese derivative, with a guttural ‘Q’ added in Maltese pronunciation. The Greek name for a particular multi-purpose harbour in northern Sicily is panormos, having numerous inlets or creeks, its modern Sicilian equivalent being Palermo or, colloquially, Palemmo.

An Italian nautical derivative of Órmos is the process of mooring or berthing ships or boats, being ormeggiare. Its Maltese version is irmiġġ.

In a probable slip, the late Godfrey Wettinger found some connection of the name Qormi with a Crimean person or his nickname.

But this, while being possible, sounds far-fetched and unlikely when the inner reaches ofour island’s Grand Harbour were so near.

George Mifsud’s ascribing a connection between Qormi and Órmos (a port, a harbour) sounds more plausible and appears to sound geographically correct, in my view. Qormi, or Ħal-Qormi, hence takes on a new meaning.

The place-name Il-Marsa, around the Mediterranean, including Malta, takes on a wider meaning. It is probably the Arabic word for the Greeks’ Órmos for a port or harbour.

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