Place Names

Interesting meanings behind ordinary place names.

There are thousands of places in the world and each and every place has a name with a significant meaning. Below are some very familiar places and a short description of how these places were named. Enjoy!

Amazon River
Early Spanish explorers noticed that women battled alongside men and so named the river for the legendary Amazon female warriors.

From the word Ostreich meaning, "eastern kingdom."

The Celtic tribe Belgae lived in the area before the first century.

Named for the South American independence fighter Simon Bolivar.

Delaware, United States
Named for the 17th century governor of Virginia, Thomas West, the Baron De La Warr.

Ganges River
In Hindi the word "ganga" means river.

From the Gaelic name of the country, "Eire", which is pronounced "air."

Ivory Coast / Cote d'Ivoire, Africa
In the 19th century, the French traded ivory from this coastal colony.

Comes to us from a transliteration the Chinese phrase meaning "land of the rising sun." In Japanese call their nation Nippon.

Mediterranean Sea
In Latin, the term "mare mediterraneum" means "sea in the middle of the earth." At the time of it's name, civilization surrounded the Mediterranean.

Sahara Desert
From Arabic for "brownish desert."

Sydney, Australia
Named for the British Secretary of State Lord Sydney. Australia itself is named for the ancient mythical Greek Terra Australis, or "southern land."

Tripoli, Libya
The name means "three cities" in Greek and is named because of three ancient cities which were once in the modern city's location.

Reminded explorers of Venice because of native homes on stilts; Venezuela means "little Venice."

Yellow River
This Chinese River is a translation of the Chinese and is named for the river which is yellowish due to the large amount of sediment it carries.

Want more meanings behind place names? Check out this additional list of place names.

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Your Citation
Rosenberg, Matt. "Place Names." ThoughtCo, Feb. 19, 2016, Rosenberg, Matt. (2016, February 19). Place Names. Retrieved from Rosenberg, Matt. "Place Names." ThoughtCo. (accessed December 18, 2017).