Spanish Term: What Does "Baja" Mean?

In the name, Baja California, what does Baja translate to? Does it mean “next to”, perhaps? Also, was this piece of land once known as “Cortez” (since the “Gulf of California” was once known as the “Sea of Cortez”)? - Jinx

Lower. Contrast with present day California and other states, which comprised “Alta California.”

I’m not aware of the sea being named after any specific land; is there a reason it has to be? It’s probably named after Hernando Cortez.

While there is no reason, was there a reason to rename this body of water for the neighboring land?

Ah, I see what you’re getting at. I find now that it was named in honor of Cortez, but at some point more recently the name was changed. This would have been after California was claimed as a state. WAG but maybe the official name changed because people started naming it after the state due to proximity.

The Gulf of California is also known as “the Sea of Cortez” – though, as with Castellano as alternative language name, the usage Mar de Cortez is far more common in Spanish than the English translation is in English. (My admittedly-casual knowledge of matters Mexican suggests that Mar de Cortez is preferred over Golfo de California in Spanish, though both are used.)

I was unable quickly to identify some other examples of Bajo and Baja used geographically, but I seem to recall districts in South American countries being named “Alto [Rivername]” and “Bajo [Rivername]” in much the same way as some French departements are Bas-Rhon and Haut-Rhon or similar examples.

Oops. Also important, in toponymy, to distinguish between “Bajo”, roughly translating as “Lower,” and “Bahia,” which means “Bay” in both Spanish and Portuguese, and is by itself the name of political subdivisions located on or around large bays, something like if the Florida Panhandle and the southern extremities of Alabama and Mississippi constituted a state named “Gulf.”

This is why we often refer to Texas as “Baja Oklahoma”.

It’s very common in these parts for the higher and lower parts of settlements in the mountains to be distinguished by these adjectives: Alto and Bajo Boquete, Alto and Bajo Quiel, etc. Also, a bajo can mean either a “hollow” (deep valley) in the mountains (Bajo Frio, Bajo Mono) or a sand-bank or shoal (Bajo Bayoreno).