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Berlin: Etymology See also: Berlin/Name and etymology of Berlin See also: Name of Germany (disambiguation) and Names for Germany in different languages. The name "Berlin" is uncertain, but may be related to the Old Polabian stem berl-/birl-, meaning "swamp". All German place names ending on -ow, -itz and -in, since the Ber- at the beginning sounds like the German word Bär ("bear"), are likely to have had a bear cult. One theory holds that it is a shortening of 'berliner', from Middle Low German beryn 'beetle' (because early bears were captured by putting bait in holes), or from Old Polish brlyn ('swamp').