10 Worldly Cities & The Origin of Their Names

10 Worldly Cities & The Origin of Their Names

Ever wondered why New York is called New York? Where the name ‘Dublin’ came from or what ‘Nairobi’ means? These 10 cities below have fascinating namely origins.

1. Sydney, Australia

Sydney, Australia

It was a fine day in 1788 when Arthur Phillip arrived in Botany Bay and founded the capital of Australia. Originally wanting to call it ‘Albion’, Phillip quickly changed his mind and decided to name the colony Sydney Cove – after Thomas Townshend, 1st Viscount Sydney and Baron Sydney, who helped devise the plan to settle convicts there.

2. New York City, US

New York City, US

It was first known as New Amsterdam, thanks to its founding in 1624 by the Dutch Republic. But when the English took control in 1664, they changed it to New York – after the Duke of York (who would later become King James II). PS. New York’s other name, the Big Apple, became popular in the 1920s by John Joseph Fitz Gerald, a writer for the New York Morning Telegraph.

3. Hong Kong, China

Hong Kong, China

There are many legends surrounding Hong Kong, including that it was named after pirates and even a waterfall. Tracing it back, we know that Hong Kong actually translates to ‘fragrant harbour’ in Cantonese – which makes sense, considering the city used to be a massive producer of incense!

4. Valencia, Spain

Valencia, Spain

Valencia, the third-largest city in Spain was named after the Roman soldiers who battled against the Lusitanians in the 2nd century BC. The soldiers settled in the town and the name of Valentia, meaning ‘valour’ was bestowed upon the town in their honour!

5. Dublin, Ireland

Dublin, Ireland

Originally a Viking settlement, Dublin translates from the Gaelic words dubh (which means ‘black’) and linn (which means ‘pool’). However, the actual Gaelic name for Dublin is Baile Átha Cliath – meaning ‘town of the hurdle ford.’ This refers to the wooden hurdles that the Vikings constructed on the River Liffey.

6. Bali, Indonesia

Bali, Indonesia
Bali is a popular holiday destination for us Australians, but no one knows exactly where the name ‘Bali’ came from. It is likely, however, that it grew out of ancient languages since many old inscriptions of the name Bali dwipa (meaning ‘Bali Island’) have been discovered there.

7. Buenos Aires, Argentina

Buenos Aires, Argentina

When the Spanish arrived on Argentinian shores, they were grateful for the heavens and the winds that brought them there, and so they named it the Santa Maria de los Buenos Aires, meaning the ‘Holy Virgin Mary of the Fair Winds.’ Several variations ensued over the years, until the shortened version of ‘Buenos Aires’ became popular (and probably easier to say!) in the 17th century.

8. Nairobi, Kenya

Nairobi, Kenya

With its modern origins in the 1890s as a railway camp for the Lunatic Line, Nairobi was named after a water hole that the local Maasai people called Ewaso Nai´beri, which means ‘cold’ or ‘cool water.’

9. Mumbai, India

Mumbai, India

Indians have a richly religious culture and history, so it’s no surprise that Mumbai comes from the name of the goddess Mumbadevi, which loosely means ‘mother’ or ‘stone goddess.’ As we all know though, prior to 1995, Mumbai was known as Bombay – which came from the Portuguese, who initially called it Bombaim.

10. St. Petersburg, Russia

St. Petersburg, Russia

The Tsar Peter the Great came up with the name of this famed Russian city, which he founded in 1703 and named, not after himself, but after Saint Peter the Apostle. Interestingly, Peter the Great died in the same city (from a bladder problem) in 1725.

Photo credits: Steve Arnold, Nicki Mannix, Thomas Hawk, Roberto Trombetta, KΛ13, Giuseppe Milo, Joan Campderrós-i-Canas, José María Pérez Nuñez, ninara, M M and Mariano Mantel.

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