Place Names Derived From Names Of Persons

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Many place names, whether the names of sovereign states, constituent parts of sovereign states, cities, towns, or villages, have been formed from the names of persons, often the name of their founder or a person whom the founder wished to honour (e.g., a relative, a member of the reigning royal family, or a saint adopted as the patron saint of the place). For example, the South American republic of Bolivia, established in 1825, is named after Simón Bolívar (1783-1830), one of the leaders of the forces which drove the Spanish out of South America. The state of Maryland in the United States takes its name from Henrietta Maria (1609-1669), the wife of King Charles I (1600-1649), in whose reign, in 1632, the Province of Maryland was founded as an English colony. Constantinople, now the Turkish city of Istanbul, was so named by the emperor Constantine the Great (reigned 306-337) when in 330 CE he made the city, formerly known as Byzantium, the capital of the Roman Empire: the final part of the name Constantinople is the Greek noun πόλις, (polis, ‘city’) and so the whole name means ‘City of Constantine’. The town of St Neots in Cambridgeshire is named after Neot, a ninth-century Cornish monk who is venerated as a saint in the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Churches and whose bones were transferred c 980 to the Priory of St Neots, a Benedictine monastery close to the modern town which bears his name. Finally, Saltaire, a model village in West Yorkshire, combines the names of its founder, Sir Titus Salt, and the river on which it stands: in 1851 Salt, a wealthy industrialist, moved his woollen mills from the city of Bradford to a healthier location outside the city beside the river Aire, building a village there to house his workers.

Here, in alphabetical order, are some more place names formed from the names of persons:

  • The city of Annapolis in the United States has had many names, including for much of the second half of the seventeenth century Anne Arundel’s Towne (in honour of Ann Arundel (1616-1649), the wife of Lord Baltimore, the founder of the state of Maryland, of which Annapolis is now the capital). The city was renamed Annapolis in 1694 in honour of Princess Anne of Denmark and Norway (1665-1714), who became Queen Anne of England (reigned 1702-1714). (For the significance of the ending ‘–polis’ see above under Constantinople.)
  • The city of Baltimore in the US State of Maryland was founded in 1729 and named in honour of (the second) Lord Baltimore (1605-1675), an Irish peer who in 1632, by charter of the English King Charles I, became the first ’Proprietor’ of the Province of Maryland.
  • Bury St Edmunds, a town in Suffolk in the UK, takes the second part of its name from Edmund, a 9th century East Anglian king, who after his death in 869 fighting against the Vikings came to be venerated as a saint and martyr. In the 11th century Edmund’s bones were transferred to a church on the site of the present Bury St. Edmunds, and the shrine remained a popular place of pilgrimage until the Dissolution of the Monasteries in 1539. (Note that the cathedral in Bury St Edmunds is known as St Edmundsbury Cathedral, i.e., the two parts of the town’s name are reversed, as also in the diocese of St Edmundsbury and Ipswich, of which it is the cathedral.)
  • The US State of Carolina derives its name from Carolus, the Latin form of the English first name Charles. Carolina, the feminine form of the adjective Carolinus (meaning ‘Of Charles’), is used because the adjective is understood to qualify the feminine noun Terra (‘Land’). Carolina was so named in honour of Charles I, the English king who in 1629 granted land to the English immigrants who had settled in the region.
  • The city of Charleston in the US State of South Carolina was founded in 1670 with the name of Charles Town, chosen in honour of the English King Charles II (reigned 1660-1685).
  • The city of Cincinnati in the US State of Ohio was so named in 1790 by Major General Arthur St. Clair (1737-1818), the Governor of the Northwest Territory, who changed its name from Losantiville as a tribute to the Society of Cincinnati, an association of officers who had served in the American War of Independence (1775-1783). The Society took its name from Lucius Quinctius Cincinnatus, a Roman general who in 458 BCE was recalled from retirement and appointed ‘dictator’ to deal with a military emergency and, after rescuing the situation by a decisive victory, immediately resigned his ‘dictatorship’ and returned to his farm.
  • Colombia, the republic in the northwest of South America, derives its name from (Christopher) Columbus (!451-1506), the Italian navigator who discovered Cuba and the Bahamas, and in 1498 landed on the northern coast of South America.
  • Cottingham, a village in the East Riding of Yorkshire, and one of several claiming to be ‘the largest village in England’, is named, according to one widely accepted etymology, after Cot (or Cotta), presumably a local king or chieftain. The name combines the personal name Cot (or Cotta) with inga (in Old English ‘belonging to’ or ‘named after’) and ham (in Old English ‘home’), and so means ‘the home of Cot’s (or Cotta’s) people’.
  • The city of Port Elizabeth in South Africa’s Eastern Cape Province, founded in 1820 as a settlement for English immigrants, was named by its founder, the Acting Governor of the Cape Province, Sir Rufane Shaw Donkin (1772-1841), in memory of his young wife, Elizabeth (Frances, nee Markham), who had died two years earlier.
  • The German city of Friedrichshafen, established in 1811 on the northern shore of Lake Constance (in German Bodensee), was named after King Friedrich I of Württemberg (1754-1816), who granted the city special privileges as a free port. (In German the name means ‘Friedrich’s Harbour’.)
  • The US State of Georgia, founded in 1733 by the soldier, politician, and philanthropist, James Oglethorpe (1696-1785), was named in honour of the English King George II (1683-1760, reigned 1727-1760), who had issued the charter for its foundation.
  • The city of Louisville in the US State of Kentucky was founded in 1778 by George Rogers Clark (1752-1818), the leader of the American forces in Kentucky during the American War of Independence (1775-1783), and was named by him after the French King Louis XVI (1754-1793), whose forces fought with the Americans during the War of Independence.
  • Porto Empedocle, a town on the south coast of Sicily, founded as Marina di Girgenti in the 16th century, takes its name from the pre-Socratic Greek philosopher Empedocles (c 500-430 BCE), who was born in nearby Agrigento (ancient Akragas) and, according to legend, died by throwing himself into the flames of Mount Etna.
  • The city of Rome (in Latin and Italian Roma), founded, according to its official history, in 753 BCE, owes its name to its legendary founder and first ruler, Romulus, who having killed his twin brother Remus in a violent quarrel over the site of the new city, named it after himself.
  • The city of San Francisco in the US State of California was founded in 1776 by Spanish settlers, who named the city after the Italian mystic and preacher, St. Francis of Assisi (1181/2-1226) (in Spanish San Francisco de Asis).
  • The city of Volgograd on the banks of the Volga River in the south of the Russian Federation was originally called Tsaritsyn, but in 1925 its name was changed to Stalingrad (i.e., in Russian ‘Stalin’s City’) after Joseph (Vissarionovich) Stalin (1879-1953), the leader of the Soviet Union from 1922 to 1952. In 1961 the city’s name was changed to Volgograd as part of the process of de-Stalinisation that followed Stalin’s death.
  • According to Sebastian Cabot (1474-1557), the city of St. John’s in the Canadian Province of Newfoundland and Labrador is so called because his father, the great Venetian explorer, John Cabot (1425-c1500), the first European to reach the area, sailed into the bay on 24th June 1494, the feast day of St. John the Baptist, after whom he named the settlement. However, this account is disputed: some claim that St. John’s was so called by Basque fishermen who crossed the Atlantic in the first decades of the 16th century and finding a close resemblance between the Bay of St. John’s and the Bay of Pasaia in the Basque country, named the settlement after a similarly named town (San Juan) in the Basque Country.
  • The Russian city of St. Petersburg has had several names. When it was established as the capital of the Russian Empire by Czar Peter I (Peter the Great (1672-1725)) in 1703, it was named St. Petersburg (Санкт-Петербург, Sankt Peterburg) in honour of St. Peter, one of the twelve apostles of Jesus. On the outbreak of war with Germany in 1914 its name was changed from the German-sounding St. Petersburg to the more authentically Russian Petrograd (Петрогра́д, i.e., in Russian ‘City of Peter’). In 1924, shortly after the death of Lenin (Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov, (1870-1924)), the communist revolutionary and head of the government of Soviet Russia (1917-1924), St. Petersburg was renamed Leningrad in his honour. However, with the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 St. Petersburg became St. Petersburg again.
  • The Australian State of Victoria, established in 1851, is named after Queen Victoria (1819-1901, reigned 1837-1901), who was on the throne of the United Kingdom at the time. (The State of Queensland, established in 1859, is also named after her.)
  • Washington, D.C., the capital of the United States of America, and the state of Washington in the Pacific northwest of that country are both named after George Washington (1737-1799), one of the country’s Founding Fathers, the Commander-in Chief of its army in the American War of Independence and its first president. George Washington’s surname derives from Washington, a village in county Durham in the UK (designated a new town in 1964): his ancestors lived in Washington Old Hall, from which the family took its name
  • The German town of Wilhelmshaven on the North Sea coast was founded in 1869 as a base for the Prussian fleet by Wilhelm I (1797-1888, King of Prussia 1861-1888, Kaiser 1871-1888), after whom it is named. (The name means ‘Wilhelm’s Harbour’ in German.)