Cham lies within the Cham-Further lowland, which is bordered on the south by the Bavarian Forest and on the north by the Oberpfälzer Wald. The city lies on the Regen River, which joins the Danube at Regensburg.
The name "Cham" is of Celtic origin and probably means "bend" or "curvature". In fact, a few kilometers from the city, a winding brook called the Chamb flows into the Regen; it probably gave its name to Cham, the first settlement at the bend of the larger river. Alternatively, the name may have derived from Kamm . The city's coat of arms contains a comb. A partner city, also called "Cham" in Switzerland, is actually pronounced with an initial "ch" sound, whereas Bavarian Cham is pronounced with a /k/.
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