Because the British were the most active in the early years, British names are predominant in the geological lexicon. Devonian is of course from the English county of Devon. Cambrian comes from the Roman name for Wales, while Ordovician and Silurian recall ancient Welsh tribes, the Ordovices and Silures. But with the rise of geological prospecting elsewhere, names began to creep in from all over. Jurassic refers to the Jura Mountains on the border of France and Switzerland. Permian recalls the former Russian province of Perm in the Ural Mountains. For Cretaceous (from the Latin for "chalk") we are indebted to a Belgian geologist with the perky name of J. J. d'Omalius d'Halloy.
Originally, geological history was divided into four spans of time: primary, secondary, tertiary, and quaternary. The system was too neat to last, and soon geologists were contributing additional divisions while eliminating others. Primary and secondary fell out of use altogether, while quaternary was discarded by some but kept by others. Today only tertiary remains as a common designation everywhere, even though it no longer represents a third period of anything.