"Even old New York was once New AmsterdamDue to a large number of political events, certain city names have become politically incorrect and have been changed. Naturally, not all the locals will be fond of it. Referring to a location by its old vs. its new name may be a way of declaring one's political allegiance. A Soviet-era joke has an older Russian filling out a form:
Why they changed it I can't say—
People just liked it better that way"
Why they changed it I can't say—
People just liked it better that way"
- Where were you born? St. Petersburg.
- Where did you go to school? Petrograd.
- Where do you live now? Leningrad.
- And where would you like to live? St. Petersburg.
open/close all folders
Uses in Fiction
Anime and Manga
- The main setting of Higurashi: When They Cry was renamed from Onigafuchi to Hinamizawa, removing the "oni" (demon) part of the name—a reference to the villagers' beliefs that they were part demon—in the process.
- Aria does this to the planet Mars, which is said to have been renamed Aqua after being terraformed.
- Astro City was originally called Romeyn Falls, but was renamed in 1947 to honor Golden Age hero the Astro-Naut, who'd stopped an alien invasion that devastated the city.
- In the backstory of The Lord of the Rings, the city of Minas Ithil ("Tower of the Moon") was renamed Minas Morgul ("Tower of Black Sorcery") when it was overrun by the forces of Sauron. In response, its sister city, Minas Anor ("Tower of the Sun") was renamed Minas Tirith ("Tower of Guard").
- Similarly, the original Minas Tirith from the Silmarillion was on Tol Sirion (The Island of the Sirion, i.e. the Sirion river). After being taken over by Morgoth, and used by Sauron to breed werewolves, was renamed Tol-in-Gaurhoth or Isle of Werewolves.
- One of Private Eye's stock parodies is of an African tin-pot dictatorship called "Rumbabwe, formerly British Rumbabaland" (referencing Zimbabwe and Bechuanaland/Botswana). There are also less frequent parodies of other name changes, such as the Soviet ones.
- Strugatsky Brothers novel Hard to Be a God, mentions a lot of villages being given more upbeat names in hopes of reforming them. It sounded like the attempt wasn't successful.
- In the Star Wars Expanded Universe, this trope occurred on a massive scale when the extragalactic Yuuzhan Vong invaded the capital planet/global city of Coruscant, terraformed it into a humid jungle world, and renamed it Yuuzhan'tar, in an attempt to recreate their lost/destroyed original homeworld.
- Earlier, Coruscant was renamed Imperial Center during The Empire's rule and reverted to its traditional name under the New Republic. Only die-hard Imperials used the new name in the first place. It's been taken over by resurgences of the Empire and renamed Imperial Center again twice since then.
- Also, while the planet is called Coruscant, the city that covers it officially has another name, which changes from Galactic City to Imperial City to New Republic City. There's not much point in making the distinction anymore so it doesn't come up much.
- In the Star Trek Novel Verse, the capital city of Romulus changes its name at some point in the early-mid 24th century. In Star Trek: Vulcan's Heart, the capital city was given the name Ki Baratan. It had previously been called Dartha, but that was in a story set a century prior. Later novels used the time gap for a reasonable Retcon: the capital's name changes as new regimes come to power. Now, books set in the 22nd or 23rd centuries use "Dartha", those set in the 24th use "Ki Baratan". The name change is explicitly mentioned in the first Star Trek: Titan novel.
- As part of the rich and complex history presented in The Wheel of Time series, many cities and countries have changed over the last Age. For instance, the city of Al'cair'rahienallen, "The Hill of the Golden Dawn," is now known as Cairhien, because it's so much less of a mouthful. Closer to the plot is an ancient city of Aridhol, which became consumed by its own evil and became known as Shadar Logoth, "The Shadow's Waiting."
- In Tigana by Guy Gavriel Kay, the titular city-state is much damaged and renamed Lower Corte years before the opening of the book. Even the memory of that name is magically expunged from virtually everyone who didn't live there. The main plot of the book is about a quest to restore the city and its name. (Since it is a city-state, Air Strip One also applies.)
- Dominion is an Alternate History novel set in the 1950's where Lord Halifax becomes Prime Minister instead of Winston Churchill after Neville Chamberlain's resignation in 1940 and subsequently the UK becomes a satellite of Nazi Germany. Those resistant to Nazi rule, including most of the Royal Family, flee to other parts, many to Canada where the city of Halifax was renamed to Churchill.
- In Riddley Walker, all of the place names in the setting's post-apocalyptic Iron Age society have changed from their present-day equivalents. "Canterbury" has become "Cambry"; "Dargate", "Dog Et"; and "Dover", "Do It Over".
- In Brazilian telenovela Saramandaia (both the Seventies original and the 2013 remake), the ostensible dividing issue between two political factions is a proposal to change the town's name from "Bole-Bole" to "Saramandaia".
- Traveller: The New Era gives us an example involving planets - the Reformation Coalition gave several of its planets new names relating to its philosophy of hope and rebirth, to make the point that the Imperium (the source of the former names) was gone and not coming back.
- The capital of Karameikos, a nation from the Mystara D&D setting, was changed from Specularum to Mirros by royal decree. In-character, this was done because "Specularum" was a name imposed by the Thyatians and raised bad feelings among the Traladaran populace, whom King Stephan wanted to appease; out-of-character, it's because one of TSR's female employees pointed out that "Specularum" sounds unpleasantly like a gynecological implement.
- Side note: the speculum is a general name for any tool that holds a part of the body open, and there are several types, each less auspicious a name for your city than the last. The eye speculum, for instance...
- This tends to happen to Martian city-states in Rocket Age when they are conquered or the previous rulers are overthrown. We currently have Emancipation, New Jerusalem, Neu Berlin and Nuovo Roma to name a few.
- Battletech has a few, but the cake has to be taken by Duenkelwalderduenkelerfluessenschattenwelt. This planet in the Draconis Combine labored under that jawbreaker of a name for centuries before deciding to change the name to something simpler, namely, "Bob". However, they did this right at the beginning of the First Succession War, and the paperwork was lost in the Draconis Combine's bureaucracy amidst the maelstroms of the conflict. With that paperwork missing, requests for urgent supplies going to Bob went unheeded, as the planet didn't officially exist, at least as far as the interstellar government was concerned.
- The Trope Namer is a standard fixture of 4X games like Civilization. In some games, when conquering an enemy city the player is asked to issue a new name.
- In Fallout: New Vegas, Las Vegas has been renamed, as per the title, New Vegas. On the road between Nipton and New Vegas is a town name Novac, after a motel's half-erased 'No Vacancy' sign.
- Half-Life 2: When the Combine took over Earth they renamed cities to things like City 17.
- Strong Bad says that one of the requirements for becoming an officially licensed unlicensed seller of cheap Strong Bad and The Cheat knock-off merchandise is that it has to be made in a country that's changed its name at least five times since Strong Bad was in seventh grade. This is spoken over a visual of a country getting its name crossed off and replaced five times (Gunkistan → East Paunch → Republic of Wad → Double G → West Paunch → Guttenberg).
- The Order of the Stick:
- After almost a year of occupying Azure City, Redcloak renamed it "Gobbotopia" as part of a plan to create a stable monster state.
- The Western Continent's nation-states and cities are constantly changing names around once a year, as that's how long it takes the average tyrant to be overthrown and replaced by another tyrant.
- This xkcd strip starts with a straight example regarding disputed Israel/Palestine territories, then parodies it with Texas and Oklahoma.
- Used in Avatar: The Last Airbender. The city of Omashu was originally named after its founders; the secret lovers Oma and Shu, who united their warring villages to create the city. However, when it gets taken over by the Fire Nation it is renamed as "The City of New Ozai".
- An episode of King of the Hill has Peggy do some digging into Arlen's history and discover, to her horror, that it used to be named Harlotownnote , and the name "Arlen" developed because of people who were in a hurry to get there and didn't have time to say the real name.
- It is revealed that during the 23rd century the Star Trek fandom became a religion so powerful that Germany was briefly renamed "Nazi-Planet Episode Land".
- And of course, after one of the (apparently several) times that New York was destroyed and rebuilt over the past thousand years it was renamed New New York.
- The Simpsons "Treehouse of Horror II" episode includes a parody of one of the stories in Twilight Zone: The Movie in which Bart has the world at his command because he can read minds and manipulate reality.
Edna Krabappel: Well, class, the history of our country has been changed again, to correspond with Bart's answers on yesterday's test. America was now discovered in 1942 by...Some Guy. And our country isn't called America any more. It's Bonerland.
- In "Simpson Safari," in a matter of seconds as the family is about to land in Tanzania (see below), the country is renamed "New Zanzibar" and then "Pepsi Presents New Zanzibar."
Appearances in Real Life
- In general, colonies tend to get rid of their master's name on independence (for reasons that have as much to do with accuracy as with pride).
- South Africa:
- There is an ongoing controversial movement to change Pretoria's name to Tshwane. Pretoria is presently the name of the primary city of the municipality of Tshwane. Some politicians insist on renaming the city, but in a country with 11 official languages (seriously), each with their own name for the city, what would they call it?
- This is not the only city to experience a theoretical name change. Ask someone where 'Bela-bela' is and you'll get a blank look at best, but Warmbad is fairly well known. Many other examples exist in South Africa.
- In Durban, the city management embarked on a politically driven campaign to rename all of the streets in the city. Which all of the citizens promptly ignored. At present the renamed streets have signposts displaying both the new and the old names, and on some the new names have been spray painted over or removed.
- South-West Africa used to be German before World War One, then it was taken over by South Africa for about 70 years. Now it's called Namibia.
- Salisbury in Southern Rhodesia became Harare in Zimbabwe.
- Northern Rhodesia became Zambia, though the major city was already Lusaka.
- Bechuanaland became Botswana. In The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency TV adaptation Grace references this when complaining the office does not have a computer.
- Belgian Congo became the Republic of the Congo after gaining independence, but the name was changed to Democratic Republic of the Congo in 1964, probably because its neighbouring country, the former French Congo also chose the name "Republic of the Congo". The country was then renamed to Zaire between 1965 and 1997 but reverted to "Democratic Republic of the Congo" in 1998.
- The Republic of the Congo itself was the People's Republic of the Congo 1970-1992.
- Ubangi-Shari => Central African Republic => Central African Empire => Central African Republic
- Dahomey => Benin. Confusingly, not the successor to the historical Benin Empire. It was named after the Bight of Benin, which it borders, which was in turn named after the empire. The name was chosen as a compromise between the Dahomey, Atakora, and Burgu ethnic groups which make up the nation.
- Gold Coast => Ghana. Also named after a historical kingdom which was actually somewhere else (its furthest southern reach was a few kilometers north of current Ghana's northern border; any attempt to connect to the historical entity via ethnicity is also spurious, since very few of historical Ghana's dominant Soninke people live in modern Ghana, which is dominated by the unrelated Ashanti, Fanti, Akan, Guan, and Ewe peoples.
- Ivory Coast => Côte d'Ivoire (It means the same thing but has become the preferred form in English)
- Upper Volta => Burkina Faso
- Spanish Sahara => Western Sahara
- Spanish Guinea => Equatorial Guinea (though it bore its current name during the last few years of Spanish rule in the 1960s).
- Portuguese Guinea => Guinea-Bissau
- Abyssinia => Ethiopia
- Tanganyika and Zanzibar => Tanzania (although that one was a portmanteau of two former colonies that united into one independent country)
- British East Africa got the name Kenya as far back as 1920, decades before independence; that was, however, also confusion-related, as the British had just taken Tanganyika—immediately to the south—from the Germans, and "British East Africa" could now refer to that as well, so the Brits decided to take the opportunity to make the old East Africa protectorate a Crown Colony called Kenya.
- After the independence, many major cities of Madagascar changed their names to Malagasy-sounding ones. There were several distinct reasons though:
- The city already had a Malagasy name but the French colonists translated it. Examples: Antananarivo (Tananarive), Mahajanga (Majunga) and Toliary (Tuléar)
- The city already had a Malagasy name but the French colonists created another one from scratch. Example: Toamasina (Tamatave)
- The city was founded by Europeans but gained a Malagasy name with time. Examples: Antseranana (Diego-Suarez), Tolanaro (Fort-Dauphin) and the small city of Mahavelona (Hopeful Point, then frenchified as Foulpointe)
- Aversions: the French administration never bothered to translate or change the names of the major cities of Fianarantsoa and Antsirabe, and on the other side the main city on the island of Nosy Be is still Hell-Ville as of now despite a Malagasy name (Andoany) existing.
Australia / Oceania
- Bendigo in Victoria, Australia was officially named Sandhurst in the 19th century. However, all attempts to use "Sandhurst" failed and the government eventually gave up and let it be known as Bendigo.
- New Hebrides => Vanuatu
- Not a city, but the island/state Tasmania in Australia, was named after the first European to see it, Dutchman Abel Tasman. However, Tasman originally named it Anthony van Diemen's Land after his patron and when it was controlled by the British it was shortened to Van Diemen's Land. 200 years after Tasman named it, it was renamed Tasmania after him.
- German-named places in Australia had their names changed during the war to avoid being associated with 'the enemy'. Some changed back (like Hahndorf, SA, which temporarily became Ambleside), others didn't (Blumburg became Birdwood, SA)
- Bismarck became Collinsvale, TAS.
- The ultimate example: Germanton in New South Wales was renamed Holbrook after Victoria Cross-winning British submarine captain Norman Douglas Holbrook. Despite being 300 kilometres from the nearest coast and having nothing to do with the submariner specifically or nautical things in general. The town is now famous for having the hull of the Cold War era submarine HMAS Otway situated in a park on the main highway.
- Melbourne was originally called Bearbrass, for some reason. Before that, it was Batmania, after its founder John Batman.
- There were a number of places and landmarks given back their Aboriginal names in the 1970s and 1980s, most notably Uluru, formerly Ayers Rock.
- There's apparently a debate going around in New Zealand about whether to rename Wanganui to Whanganui. Usually this would change the pronunciation in Maori, excepting that the local iwi have their 'wha' the same as 'wa' unlike the rest of Maoridom.
- Resolved by using both. Hilariously, this means that the iwi gets the spelling they want at the cost of everyone who doesn't speak the local dialect of Maori now mispronouncing it. For reference, other Te Reo Maori dialects pronounce "wh" as an "f" sound. The correct pronunciation is along the lines of "fa-na-nui"
- Averted with Mount Egmont/Mount Taranaki - both names are used interchangeably with no one batting an eyelid.
- Similar to the Uluru example above, part of many Treaty of Waitangi settlements with Maori iwi in New Zealand involve giving various landmarks an official Maori name in addition to the official English one. One of the most famous examples is Mount Cook, the nation's highest mountain, which is now officially Aoraki/Mount Cook.
- New Zealand's two main islands went through various names before they became known as the North Island and South Island in the early 20th century. In 2009, the Geographic Board discovered that they weren't even their official names - they had none. It is planned to have them gazetted with dual English and Maori names: North Island / Te Ika-a-Maui and South Island / Te Waipounamu.
- In Hawaii, Waimea is the name of two towns, one on Kauaʻi, and one on Big Island. Kamuela is an alternative name (used by the U.S. Postal Service) for the Big Island town to distinguish between the two.
- Hull/Gatineau, Quebec. As with Pretoria/Tshwane, the old central city is still officially Hull, the metropolitan region (or at least that part of it on the Quebec side of the river) once commonly called "Hull", is officially Gatineau.
- A goodly raft of the towns in Nunavut and in Nunavik (northern Quebec), formerly with English or French names, have had their names changed (or changed back) to Inuktitut names. For example, what used to be Frobisher Bay is now Iqaluit, the capital of Nunavut. (The change was made a number of years before the creation of Nunavut.)
- Which amusingly sometimes resulted in the English/French name sounding more native than the translation of the actual native name. An example was the village now known as Kuujjuarapik. It was previously known as "Great Whale River", which sounds very epically native, before the Inuktitut name became official. The word kuujjuarapik means "small big river".
- Nieuw Amsterdam was founded in 1609 on the banks of the Hudson river, in the island of Mannahatta. Later, when the Second Anglo-Dutch War was settled in 1674 by the Treaty of Westminster, the Duke of York from England gained control of New Amsterdam and renamed it New York City; Mannahatta was anglicized as Manhattan. Other name changed include Harlem (Haarlem), Flushing (Vlissingen), Brooklyn (Breukelen) and Stuyvesant Town (after the last governor of Nieuw Nederland, Peter Stuyvesant).
- Before the Dutch colonized it, the area was known as New Angoulême to Italian explorers.
- In a rare case of changing who a place is named after, but not the actual name of the place, the name of the county in which Seattle, Washington State sits in was changed in 2005 from King County (named after William Rufus King, vice president of the United States at the time of the county's inception), to...um...King County (named after Martin Luther King Jr., who visited Seattle in 1961).
- This was probably because William Rufus King's most notable political legacy before his 45-day vice presidency was defending slavery in the Senate.
- Seattle itself was originally named New York-Alki ("New York Someday," in Chinook Jargon)
- Kitchener, Ontario received a new name in 1916 (the middle of World War One), when enough people complained about a Canadian city named "Berlin".
- Three years later, what is now Marne, Michigan (outside of Grand Rapids) went through exactly the same thing—everything around there is still called "Berlin (raceway, fairgrounds, etc.)", though.
- Kitchener was known as (New) Berlin since German American loyalists settled there after the revolution, it wasn't later German immigrants who gave it the name, which was the reasoning for changing it. Kitchener was the head of the British Empire's military at the time of the First World War. Swastika was named way before WWII and the name had a different meaning than the symbol, which was also originally a good luck symbol.
- Parodied with a CBC Sitcom titled The Good Germany, about the town council of the fictional town of Germany, ON. The title is referenced in a World War II-era banner in the council's meeting room.
- Toronto, Ontario was named York. Note that the original name for the area was Toronto and it was renamed to Toronto (a native name) when New York was growing and becoming larger, i.e. they did not want to be a 'second York' in North America. Made funnier ever since Peter Ustinov called the city "New York run by the Swiss." One section of Toronto is still known as "North York"; other sections were formerly known as York and East York before merging with the city. Quite a lot around the city is still named York something-or-other, despite the name change being more than a century ago.
- There used to be an area in Texas called "Dead Nigger Creek," which was eventually changed to the ever-so-slightly less offensive "Dead Negro Draw."
- Similarly, the former "Nigger Bill Canyon" in Utah is now "Negro Bill Canyon". This still embarrasses some local whites, who want as of late 2012 to use the The Namesake's last name instead, making it Grandstaff Canyon, but the NAACP likes the current name just fine, and is again working to keep it.
- As of 2015, Quebec is starting to reconsider about a dozen place names with N-word variants in French and English.
- During the 1890s, the U.S. Postal Service began standardizing spellings by dropping the "h" from town names ending in -burgh; this policy relented in The '50s and many communities have claimed their "h" back. It can take decades for all the signs to change, however.
- Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania refused to let go of its "H". Most other Pittsburghs, however, were OK with letting it go, including Pittsburg, Kansas (Which is probably why most people realize Pittsburg State University is not in Pennsylvania).
- Pittsburg, California was forced to drop the "h" and is actually a double example of this trope; originally it was named "New-York-Of-The-Pacific".
- See Also: Alburgh, Vermont
- Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania refused to let go of its "H". Most other Pittsburghs, however, were OK with letting it go, including Pittsburg, Kansas (Which is probably why most people realize Pittsburg State University is not in Pennsylvania).
- Colonies tend to get rid of their master's name on independence (for reasons that have about as much to do with accuracy as with pride).
- British Honduras => Belize
- British Guiana => Guyana
- Dutch Guiana => Suriname
- Averted by French Guiana - the official name is "Guyane" but the territory remains part of France.note
- When Fort William and Port Arthur, Ontario merged, they changed their name. Everyone just called the area "The Lakehead" anyway, so of course they named it "Thunder Bay". You see, there was a vote, and both "Lakehead" and "The Lakehead" were on the ballot next to Thunder Bay. Oops.
- More of the same when the city of Galt merged with Preston and Hespeler - resulting in the city of Cambridge, Ontario. Also a bit of a subversion; an early name for the town of Preston was Cambridge Mills.
- In Ontario, the colonial settlements of York, Bytown, Johnstown and Scott's Mills are the thriving cities of Toronto, Ottawa, Cornwall and Peterborough, respectively.
- Out West, the settlements of Fort Brisebois, Pile O'Bones, and Fort Camosun are the thriving cities of Calgary, Regina, and Victoria.
- The change from Fort Brisebois to Calgary has a somewhat shameful story behind it; Mr Brisebois' commanding officer didn't like that he had taken a Metis woman as a common-law wife.
- And Granville is now Vancouver.
- And Ville-Marie is now Montreal, and Fort Garry is now Winnipeg (although in both cases there are districts of the city in question with those names).
- Out West, the settlements of Fort Brisebois, Pile O'Bones, and Fort Camosun are the thriving cities of Calgary, Regina, and Victoria.
- There is a city named Buffalo, Texas. When the Dallas Cowboys played the (New York-based) Buffalo Bills in the Super Bowl, the town changed its name to Blue Star for a week to match the Cowboys' logo. When the same cities met for the NHL championship a few years later, they changed the name to Green Star.
- There is also a Pittsburg, Texas, which temporarily changed its name to "Cowboys" the last time Dallas and Pittsburgh met in the Super Bowl.
- Orange County, Florida (after which Orange County, California was named, believe it or not), was originally named Mosquito County. It was renamed Orange County when it became the center of the state's citrus industry. And really, who wants to be named after a disease-carrying vermin?
- In the late 70s, a street in Orange County, Florida, North Nowell Street, was once renamed Lamar Street, for then County Commissioner (and now Florida State's Attorney) Lawson Lamar, for no better reason than Lamar wanted a street named after him. So unpopular was this switch with the locals that they kept knocking over the street signs (in one case, a horde of teenagers descended upon every street sign in the neighborhood with sledgehammers). After replacing the sign for the thirtieth time, the county got the message and restored the street's original name. Lawson Lamar was not amused.
- Lamar tried the same trick with a County Park in Orange county a couple of years later, with similar results. Lawson Lamar is generally seen to be a Jerk Ass by the people of Orange County, Florida.
- Paterson, NJ was once a key global producer of silk. At its height it was a major artistic and cultural center. Two of its largest suburbs incorporated under the names East Paterson and West Paterson in order to identify themselves with Paterson's reputation. Fast forward 90 years: Paterson no longer produces silk, the factories are all broken glass and crumbling facades, and the entire place is considered, fairly or unfairly, a crime-ridden ghetto. Controversially, East & West Paterson became Elmwood Park and Woodland Park to distance themselves from their former namesake. A local joke is that Paterson will rename itself "Park" in revenge.
- North Beach in Burlington, Vermont was renamed "Bernie Sanders Beach" by the city council for about a day and a half before Sanders himself asked that it not be renamed for him.
- Many places in Texas use the last name of prominent historical figures, Houston, Austin and Dallas being the big three examples. After the Civil War, because many of these people were officials or soldiers under the Confederate government, there was pressure from the North to change the namesakes and the fact that some of the place names were after people who sided with the Union and fought aginst Texas regiments. So while some counties and cities have the same names to reduce confusion as much as possible, their historical meaning can be confused at best and a bitter subject for arguments involving both slavery and a corrupt occupation government at worst. For example, Walker County can claim at least three different namesakes, besides the one we're all familiar with.
- Many Chicago neighborhoods started out as suburbs, and got absorbed. Most of the street names were retained in the process. At the time this happened to Bucktown in the 1800s, it was a German enclave, so the streets had German names: Berlin, Hamburg, Frankfurt, Rhine, and so on. Then, World War I happened. Most would (eventually) get changed to the names of English authors.
- The settlement of Frenchtown, Michigan Territory, was incorporated as the Village of Monroe, and the newly-formed surrounding county named Monroe County, following President James Monroe's visit to the territory in 1817. The Frenchtown name remains an important part of the region, however, due to the Battle of Frenchtown in the War of 1812, and the township north of the present City of Monroe is named Frenchtown.
- Also in Michigan: in 1829, Bucklin Township split in half to become Nankin (west) and Pekin (east) Townships. Nankin further split into Livonia (north) and Nankin (south) Townships, while Pekin was split into Redford (north) and Dearborn (south) Townships. Livonia incorporated as a city in 1950, while Redford saw most of its area annexed by Detroit in the 1920s.
- Changing borders and mergers resulted in the present-day City of Dearborn being made up of parts of Bucklin/Redford/Dearborn/Bucklin/Dearborn Township, the Village of Dearbornville, parts of Springwells/Greenfield Township (the ones that didn't become Southwest Detroit), and the Village of Springwells/Fordson, while parts of Dearborn Township were annexed by Detroit, another part by Inkster, and the remainder of the township that didn't join the City of Dearborn becoming Dearborn Heights.
- Nankin split off the cities of Wayne, Garden City, and the west half of Inkster, and still had a burgeoning population of 70,000 (the most populous township in the world at the time) before incorporating as the City of Westland in 1966... all so they could keep Livonia from annexing the northern half of Nankin, which contained the newly-opened Westland Mall. Yes, that's right, the city named itself after its mall. The Nankin name lives on, though, with place names within the city.
- Another Michigan example: in 1837, two brothers settled on the south bank of the Grand River a little downstream of its confluence with the Red Cedar, and called it "Biddle City." They then went back to their home area in Upstate New York, where they sold some of their old neighbors on the settlement by convincing them that it was a real town, with a church and post office and everything. When a surprising number of these New Yorkers showed up and found nothing of the kind, they still stuck it out and named their little settlement "Lansing" after their New York home; the township in which Lansing was situated became known as Lansing Township. A few years later, the state government decided that Lansing Township was a good place to move—scared by the possibility of British attack on Detroit, which was (and is) right across from Canada—and began preparations to move to a new settlement nearby, which was called the "Town of Michigan." However, as Lansing and Michigan grew closer together, the former absorbed the latter, and thus by the mid-1850s they were treated as one unit. In 1859, the City of Lansing was finally incorporated, picking a permanent name for the area that had been capital for nearly ten years.
- Atlanta, Georgia started off as Terminus and then became Marthasville before becoming Atlanta.
- Sort of happened to Guadalajara, Mexico, which was founded four times: the first became a small town called Nochistlán, the second became a neighborhood called Tonalá, the third became another small town called Tlacopán, and the fourth became Guadalajara itself. (And for the record, it's named after the small 80,000-people city of Guadalajara, Spain, and Guadalajara, Mexico is home to almost 5,000,000 people).
- Clark, TX, became DISH, TX, because the DISH Network offered the inhabitants free satellite TV for 10 years.
- In the same vein, the town of Halfway, Oregon temporarily renamed itself "Half.Com" , as a marketing stunt for a website of that name, at the height of the dot-com boom. All parties involved seem to have quietly let the whole affair be forgotten.
- The town of Hot Springs, New Mexico, was renamed "Truth or Consequences" after the quiz show, because the show's host promised to air the show out of the first city to do this. It is commonly referred to as "T or C" to save some effort.
- The city of Topeka, Kansas changed its name to Google, Kansas for the month of March 2010, to try and motivate Google to bring its fiber-optic network experiment to the city. This was not a legal name change, but rather simply a marketing one, as the city's lawyers advised against making the name change legal.
- Averted in the case of the capital of North Dakota, which remained Bismarck throughout two wars with Germany.
- St. Paul, Minnesota was originally called Pig's Eye by locals after the tavern of the same name.
- In 1874, Rancho San Pascual, California changed its name to Indiana Colony...or possibly Orange Grove. There was a post office for each name, and mail sent to either would arrive in the same place, not to mention the neighboring town of Lake Vineyard. Soon, the city became sufficiently large as to need a single name, so they started using a new one: Pasadena.
- The towns of Westminster and Artesia, California are never referred to by their actual names; rather they are "Little Saigon" and "Little India" respectively. There are actual government documents that recognize these names, but the municipalities retain their old titles.
- There are lots of these kinds of Official Name v. Colloquial Name situations in Southern California. In another example, the towns of Canyon Country, Newhall, Saugus and Valencia incorporated together in 1987 as the city of Santa Clarita, but residents and businesses still use the old names.
- This is an exaggeration, unfortunately. Plenty, if not most, people in southern California call Artesia and Westminster by their actual names and the "Little Saigon" or "Little India" sobriquets are by no means the dominant names.
- The area that would become San Diego, CA was first named "San Miguel" by Spanish explorer Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo when he landed there in 1542. When Sebastián Vizcaíno landed there sixty years later in 1602, unaware that the land had already been named and claimed for the Spanish Empire, he named it "San Diego" after his flagship, and the name stuck.
- In Oregon, Dead Indian Road was renamed Dead Indian Memorial Road.
- The Oregon state government has also mandated that all geographical names (roads, streams, mountains, etc.) within the state that include the word "squaw" be renamed.
- Speaking of Oregon, the area was once jointly controlled by the Americans and British, and known as both "Oregon" and "Columbia". When it was split in half along the pre-existing US/British border, the British kept the "Columbia" name for their half (which later joined Canada as, obviously, "British Columbia"), and the US kept the "Oregon" name. When the Americans split their part in half again, the southern part kept the name "Oregon", and the northern part was planned to go back to "Columbia", until a rather last-minute change named it "Washington" instead...out of a desire to avoid confusion with the District of Columbia. Clearly, someone Didn't Think This Through.
- Oregon and Washington are still divided by the Columbia River, as a result.
- Similarly to the Oregon example above, Squaw Peak in Arizona was renamed Piestewa Peak, in honor of Army Spc. Lori Ann Piestewa, the first known Native American woman to die in combat in the U.S. military, and first female soldier to be killed in action in the 2003 Iraq War.
- The city of Longmont, Colorado once had a street named Chivington Drive, named for the hero of the battle of La Glorieta Pass (1862) in the Civil War. Unfortunately, Col. John Chivington also happened to be the man responsible for the Sand Creek Massacre of 1864; the name was changed to Sunrise Drive in 2004.
- The city of Auburn, WA was originally incorporated in 1891 under the name Slaughter. The community had been known by that name since 1884, named after Lieutenant William Slaughter, who was killed in a skirmish in 1855 while leading a military unit in the area. The town name was changed by petition to the legislature in 1893, due to its negative connotations. Apparently train passengers did not like hearing that the next stop would be at Slaughter House (the largest local hotel at the time). The origins of the new name are disputed.
- A fact made more amusing when you consider that the Green River runs through town, which Gary Ridgway (who lived variously between Auburn and the city of Kent on the river's other bank) made famous.
- The town of New Berlin, Wisconsin didn't change its name due to Anti-German sentiment from the two world wars, but they did change how it was pronounced. Instead of calling it New Ber-LIN, with the accent on the last syllable, the emphasis was shifted to the middle, resulting in New BER-lin. Saying it the "correct" German way to a local will usually get you asked where you're from.
- Moscow, Idaho, is MAHS-Coh, not -Cow like its Russian namesake—very probably since its founding, not a change. See also Paris, TX, unlikely to be pronounced Pah-REE, and Versailles, Kentucky, pronouced "Ver-SALES" by the locals.
- San Angelo, Texas, was originally named Santa Ángela in honor of the founder's wife. A few years later it became San Angela, only because that was easier to say. In 1883, the US Postal Service pointed out the name was grammatically incorrect and insisted on the present name as a condition for opening a post office there.
- However ... the proper masculine form of said name in Spanish is "Ángel" - "Angelo" is Italian.
- Three cities and towns within Emanuel County, Georgia were renamed at various points in time:
- The county seat, Swainsboro, was renamed Paris upon its incorporation in 1854; however, the city reverted back to its original name 3 years later.
- The town of Twin City is so named because it is a consolidation of two smaller communities: Graymont and Summit.
- The town of Stillmore allegedly got its name due to its residents having a sense of humor. The town was originally named Kea's Mill; however, the U.S. Postal Service did not approve of the name and sent a memo with suggested town names. The memo advised them that if they did not like any of the names on the list, "still more" could be sent.
- A guy named Thomas Bicknell offered to donate a free library with 1,000 books to any town that would rename itself after him. In 1914, two small Utah towns expressed interest. He decided to give each town 500 books. Thurber became Bicknell and Grayson became Blanding (Bicknell's wife's maiden name).
- Speaking of Utah, another "cities merge and select an entirely new name" incident: the Salt Lake City suburbs of Granger, Hunter, Chesterfield and Redwood joined together and incorporated in 1980, but decided to adopt the vague and slightly awkward name West Valley City. It's now Utah's second-largest city. Granger and Hunter still survive as Artifact Names, even for institutions built after the merger.
- The pueblo (village) that would become the city of San Francisco was originally named Yerba Buena, after a local medicinal plant. When the United States took it over in 1846, it was renamed after the nearby (and much better known) Mission San Francisco de Asis (Mission of St. Francis of Assisi).
- Brazil has a lot of this, most of them are new grammar change (Corytiba to Curitiba) or to keep the name shorter (São Paulo de Piratininga to simply São Paulo)
- Speaking of Brazil, Florianópolis has a long story about name change. It was founded as "Ilha de Santa Catarina" and turned to "Nossa Senhora do Desterro" or only Desterro. In 1894 the city name was changed as an homage to the current president Floriano Peixoto. Problem is he wasn't very popular in Desterro, you can imagine how people react to it. But nowadays people just casually say "Floripa" because Florianóplis is too long.
- After The Great Politics Mess-Up, many street names were changed. There used to be a Lenin street and a Stalin street in every village before, which usually got renamed to a national historical figure.
- Just about everywhere in western Poland (formerly eastern Germany, until the end of WWII), Kaliningrad Oblast (formerly northern East Prussia), and western Ukraine and Belarus (formerly eastern Poland) have had at least one nameswap in English.
- This is less a case of actual renaming and more a convention of which names are used in English. Preferred names in English tend to follow the language of the ruling power in the region (since they're all foreign to English speakers anyway), but in the languages themselves, the name may persist. For example, even though the Polish name for Warsaw is "Warszawa", English speakers call it Warsaw, German speakers call it Warschau et cetera. London is called "Londres" in French and Spanish.
- Actually in many cases it is what is easier to pronounce, for instance for a long time the West German city of Aachen was called Aix-la-Chapelle and Köln still is called Cologne in English, even though the only time these cities belonged to France was from 1796 to 1814, i. e. when Britain was at war with France (to complicate the issue further, said cities are known in Spanish as, respectively, Aquisgrán and Colonia; in both cases, these modern names derive from independent evolution of the original Latin names: "Aquis-granum" and "Colonia Claudia Ara Agrippinensium"; this happens in other languages as well: "Aquisgrana" in Italian, "Akwizgran" in Polish, etc.). München and Venezia, which never were part of France, are also called by their French names Munich and Venice (Venise) in English. And there is the Tuscan port of Livorno which for some reason is called "Leghorn" in English.
- The name "Leghorn" derives from occasional unconventional English pronunciation of "gh" as "f" (as in "laugh"). "Leghorn" was originally pronounced like "Leforn" in English, not too differently from the original.
- The Nazis renamed a few places in occupied parts of Eastern and Eastern Central Europe, sometimes so they would sound German, sometimes as an Egopolis, e. g. Lodz became Litzmannstadt, named after a World War One general and early supporter of Hitler. Some insensitive (West) German officials long insisted that people from such places filled in these names in forms because that was their official name at the time of the birth etc. of the person concerned.
- Conversely, former-German-now-Polish (since 1945) towns and villages for the most part received names that were Polish forms or translations of the German ones (which had often existed earlier, partly due to the fact that many of these places had been Polish or Slavic before they became German).
- Many settlements in Russia and the Soviet Union have been renamed, from villages to major cities. A list of ones in Russia
- St. Petersburg became Petrograd when World War I began (the government thought the name sounded too German, even though it was actually from Dutch owing to Peter the Great's peculiar fondness for the Netherlands), then Leningrad with the rise of the Soviet Union, and reverted to St. Petersburg shortly before its collapse. The surrounding oblast (province) is still called "Leningradskaja", however.
- "Königsberg" (meaning "King's mountain") became "Kaliningrad", i.e. "Kalinin City", named after the Soviet Head of State Mikhail Kalinin, when the Soviets took it from Germany. Many of the locals prefer "Kyonig". Like with most former Commie Land renamings, there is a movement in favor of renaming it back (or rather, to the Russian transliteration "Kyonigsberg", as nearly 90% of the Kaliningrad Oblast's population is Russian and less than 1% are German).
- In the future history of Transhuman Space, the Kaliningrad oblast gains independence - the country so formed is named Königsberg, but the city remains Kaliningrad.
- In the Kaliningrad oblast, i. e. the part of East Prussia that became part of the Russian Federation (then the RSFSR) in 1945, all towns and villages were given entirely new Russian names, even if the original name of the place was of Baltic (Old Prussian or Lithuanian) or West Slavic (i.e. Polish and closely related languages) not German origin (e. g. Tilsit became Sovietsk), not just to match Soviet sensibilities, but also to please Russian patriotism, e. g. by naming them after Tsarist Generals like Kutuzov and Bagration (the latter however was Georgian, like Stalin) and to show the Lithuanians who was the boss. Today there is a Russian law to prevent the post-1945 names from being changed.
- Shortly before the Russians and Poles took over, the Nazis renamed several hundreds of villages in East Prussia and Upper Silesia because their names sounded too Slavic (Mazuric or Polish) or Lithuanian.
- Nizhnyj Novgorod became Gorkij in 1929 (after the novelist), then reverted to the older name and the oblast actually changed name with it. Curiously enough, the auto-maker GAZ (from Gorkij Avtomobilnyj Zavod, "Gorkij automobile factory") was founded in 1922 as NNAZ, and was obviously renamed with the city, but has not reverted to the original name; the likely reason is that GAZ has developed a brand around the Gazelle.
- Similarly, Tsaritsyn became Stalingrad and after de-Stalinization in 1961 became Volgograd, though there is a civic movement to restore the Stalingrad name. This has nothing to do with a liking of Stalin and everything to do with the WWII battle fought there, which the citizens are quite proud of.
- Yekaterinburg was known as Sverdlovsk between 1924 and 1991, the oblast retaining that name. When it featured in Airwolf under the then-current name, Silent Hunter had to reach for his atlas - and go to the index.
- Tsarskoye Selo ("Village of the Tsar") became and remains "Pushkin", after the great Russian poet, who went to school at the local lyceum.
- The main city of western Ukraine: Lemberg (the German form, official under Austria-Hungary)-> Lwów (the Polish form, official when it was part of Poland) -> Львов (L'vov, the Russian form, official under the Soviet Union) or Львів (L'viv, the Ukrainian form, official today) within less than ninety years. And then there was the pre-Austrian official Latin form Leopolis.
- The spelling of the capital of Ukraine (Kiev or Kyiv) is also a Flame War issue.
- Before independence, Ukraine usually was referred to "the Ukraine" in English, but now this is considered non-standard. This is apparently based on a dispute in Russian and Ukrainian over which preposition should be used - Slavic languages have two words that both roughly translate to "in" but have subtly different meanings, and for historical reasons Ukraine tends to be referred to by the one that usually connotes a region within a country rather than a country in its own right — even though the use or non-use of "the" with the name of a country or region in English does not actually show a clear-cut correlation: the Netherlands, the Czech Republic, the Philippines and the Maldives are independent nations, as was the Soviet Union, while e. g. Siberia, Normandy, New England, Kansas, Glamorgan, Wessex, Saxony and Queensland are not.
- Breslau -> Wroclaw
- Danzig -> Gdańsk. This name change has notoriously caused flame wars on The Other Wiki - the talk page contains eleven archives and still had the argument going on, but usage was finally settled by vote, varying by who controlled the city in several historical periods, and using one or the other name first but including the other for biographies.
- Stettin -> Szczecin
- In the fifties Katowice was renamed Stalinogrod after Stalin... Which spawned numerous jokes since "Kat" is Polish for an executioner/torturer/murderer. This may have been why the name change didn't stick - whether the Communist official who proposed the name change did so in order to facilitate these jokes is unknown. note To add to the confusion, in Imperial Germany times, it was also known as Kattowitz.
- And on the subject of Imperial Germany, several cities in former Eastern Germany reverted to their Polish names (or got new ones) in 1918 when Poland regained its independence.
- Oświęcim held that name for most of the history, being in the middle bit of Poland which Stalin and his predecessors only ethnically cleansed a little. Its name in German is far more infamous - Auschwitz.
Czechoslovakia / Czech Republic
- After becoming part of Czechoslovakia following Austria-Hungary's dissolution, the city of Pozsony/Pressburg/Preszporok became the more Slavic-sounding Bratislava. Slavic names were given to many other cities in formerly Hungarian territories that became parts of Slovakia and Romania.
- It should be noted though that there had been Slavic (specifically Slovak) names for the city before; the German name Pressburg is in fact derived from the name of a Slavic ruler. With the other places it generally was a case of the Slovak or Romanian name coming to the fore among the alternatives (Romanian by the way is not a Slavic, but a Romance language). In Transylvania these days they tend to be very proud that the towns there have three names - one Romanian, one German, and one Hungarian.
- Karlovy Vary, also in the Czech Republic, was once Karlsbad under German rule and remained known by that title in English under the Second World War, after which its German population was expelled.
- In Czechoslovakia a politically motivated name change also took place: following the communist takeover of Czechoslovakia, the town of Zlín (best known as the place where Tomáš Baťa founded his shoe factory) was renamed to Gottwaldov (after the first communist - or, using terminology of the day, "worker" - president of Czechoslovakia). It was changed back immediately after the Velvet Revolution.
Other Eastern European countries
- The capital of Montenegro, Podgorica, was known as Titograd in the days of Communism.
- Many, many other examples. Due to his cult-like status, everything had "Tito's" (Titovo) as an adjective in Montenegro and Serbia. Titovo Uzice? Uzice. Titograd is just a shorter version of "Tito's city". Now, almost all of the names are Tito-free.
- In Latvia, city of Daugavpils. Although most of its names were simply translations of the original - Dünaburg (Town on Düna, which is German name for Daugava River), who built a castle in 13th century, around which the town formed, then in 17th it became a part of Russian Empire as Borisoglebsk, only to be taken by Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth and renamed back to Dinaburg... To be given to Russian Empire after partition of said Commonwealth, who renamed the city to Dvinsk ((Town) on Dvina, Dvina is Russian name for Daugava river) in 19th century. After WWI and Russain Revolution Latvia finally became independent, and renamed the city Daugavpils (Town on Daugava). Then WW2 and Soviets' annexation came, so Soviets... Surprisingly, left the city with its Latvian name.
- In Lithuania, city of Marijampolė was called "Pašešupys" in early days, before being changed to "Starapolė" when the village was granted city rights, before being changed to "Marijampolė". However, at a later point the Soviets renamed Marijampolė to "Kapsukas" after Vincas Kapsukas, a local governor, and after the Soviet reign the name was changed back to "Marijampolė".
- An older example from Finland: The city of Vaasa burned down in 1852. Emperor Nicholas I donated a large sum of money for its rebuilding, and after his death, Vaasa was renamed to Nikolainkaupunki ("Nicholas's City") in his honour (a first attempt was made before his death, but he disapproved). Later during the reign of Nicholas II (whom everybody hated) the new name lost popularity, and it was changed back after he abdicated in 1917.
- Constantinople changed to Istanbul.
- Originally it was a small Greek colony called Byzantion. The Roman emperor Constantinus decided to move the capital of the empire from Rome to there, in the process renaming it Nova Roma ("New Rome" in Latin, the official language of the Empire). Everybody just called it Konstantinoupolis ("Constantine's City" in Greek, the language people actually spoke in the eastern part of the Empire), though, and the name stayed mostly the same (only changing to Turkish Kostantiniyye) until 1933, when it was changed to the popular title of İstanbul. The name İstanbul probably derives from a corruption of Greek 'eis tēn Polin' ('to the city' or 'in the city').
- The capital of Estonia is Tallinn. It was called Reval before Estonian independence in 1918 - and it was reverted back to Reval when the Nazis invaded in 1941. It was re-renamed Tallinn when the Soviets regained Estonia in 1944.
- In England most cities that weren't created during the Industrial Revolution have a string of names from successive waves of invaders. York was originally the Roman city of Eboracum, but when the Anglo-Saxons created the Kingdom of Northumbria they called it Eoforwic. Then the Vikings invaded and Eoforwic got Scandinavianised into Jórvik, and finally mutated into York around the 13th century.
- In Wales, all places are given names in both English and Welsh. Since Wales has been invaded about as often as England, usually by the same people, names in both languages are often a weird mishmash of translations, transliterations, and renamings, and which is more accurate or original can be hard to tell. For example, Cardiff (the capital) appears to be an obvious corrupted transliteration of Caerdydd, meaning Castle of the Day. However, Caerdydd is itself a corruption (probably driven by people who thought Castle of the Day was a cool name) of the earlier Caerdyf (itself derived from an earlier Celtic name meaning "Castle on the Taff", but not technically meaning anything in Welsh), which would actually be closer to the modern English pronunciation.
- Other places have entirely disconnected names. Swansea was originally established as a Viking trading post, and is most likely named after the Norse king Sweyn Forkbeard (other etymologies are argued, but all come from Old Norse). The Welsh name, Abertawe, simply means "Mouth of the River Tawe". Both names have been used concurrently for about as long as the city has existed.
- Similarly to Ireland, many place names in Scotland are Anglifications of Gaelic names such as Inbhir Nis (Inverness, "Mouth of the Ness") Obar Dheathain (Aberdeen, "Mouth of Two Rivers") and Dùn Dèagh (Dundee, "Fort of the Tay"). Edinburgh, contrary to popular belief, is not originally a Germanic or Gaelic toponym - being firstly the Brythonic "Din Eidyn" (Fort of Eidyn), which was transliterated as the Gaelic "Dùn Èideann" and only later became known by the Anglo-Saxon name "Edinburgh".
- This also applies to streets. One particular example from Havering, a borough of London - a street had its name changed after the councillor it was named after was convicted for paedophilia.
- Penny Lane in Liverpool was named after a 18th-century slave trader of that name, not the coin. The fact that the area was sung about by The Beatles is likely the only thing causing the name to be kept.
- This is a pretty decisive one.
- There is only one Anita Street in Britain. It's in Manchester. When it was first built in the 19th century, it was the first street in the city where every house was equipped with an indoor flush toilet. The residents didn't like the advertising inherent in the original name, and petitioned for it to be changed from Sanitary Street.
- Streets at the western end of Strand in London were named by the 18th-century landowner who built them so as to spell out his full name and title: George Villiers Duke of Buckingham (George Street now lies underneath Charing Cross Station). Westminster City Council, having no sense of whimsy, renamed Of Alley to York Place sometime in the 1960s.
- Most place names in Ireland are anglicisations of the original Irish names (e.g. Dublin = Dubh Linn or 'Black Pool').note Although still referred to by their English names, towns and villages today have signs at the entrances that give both the Irish and English placenames.
- Around the time of the formation of the Irish Free State, Kingstown and Queenstown were renamed Dún Laoghaire and Cobh. King's County and Queen's County were renamed County Offaly and County Laoghis (pronounced "leash" and later shortened to "County Laois").
- What is now Dún Laoghaire had actually already been anglicised to 'Dunleary' when its name was changed to 'Kingstown' in 1821.
- Similarly, Philipstown became Daingean, Maryborough to Portlaoise.
- Other placenames only partially caught on, meaning that either name is used — Bagenalstown/Muine Bheag, Charleville/Ráth Luirc. And no-one beyond cartographers and government offices call Newbridge "Droichead Nua."
- This can lead to some somewhat strange circumstances where the English name is an anglicisation of an Irish one—but the Irish name is something completely different (e.g. the aforementioned Dublin—its Irish name is Baile Átha Cliath, meaning "Town of the Hurdled Ford" on account of an old fording place on the Liffey near what is now Father Matthew Bridge).
- Ireland is one of the few countries in Europe to have captions on the license plates. This was done because when the current numbering system was introduced, it included a one or two-letter county code, and people complained because these were abbreviations of the English county names. The solution? Keep them in the number itself, with the Gaelic county name spelled out in full across the top of the plate.
- One city in Ireland has been recorded in the annals of history as Daire Calgaigh, Daire Coluimb Coille, Doire (its current name in the Irish language), Derrie and eventually Londonderry. The city council brought a case to the High Court in 2006 that the city's legal name should be changed to Derry - the council legally changed its name from Londonderry City Council to Derry City Council in 1984 - but were ruled against by the presiding judge because the city's Royal Charter was drawn up in 1662 under then name Londonderry. Most locals use "The Maiden City" or "Stroke City" (popularised by another native of the city, radio broadcaster Gerry Anderson, whose show is broadcast from the place and is referred to on-air as "Derry stroke Londonderry") to avoid alienating the other side of the political divide - but, to be honest, nearly everyone, Catholic, Protestant, atheist or Jedi, still calls it Derry.
- If that's not enough, Londonderry and Derry, New Hampshire are separate but adjacent towns, and share an exit off I-93 that is posted Derry/Londonderry to the great befuddlement of Irish visitors.
- The local BBC service is "Radio Foyle" after the river.
- Wolfsburg, Germany was originally officially named Stadt des KdF-Wagens ("City of the Strength-through-Joy Car"); most non-officials of the era just called it die Autostadt, which became the name of a large auto museum downtown. Also, in 2003 it was temporarily renamed "Golfsburg" (after the car not the game, just in case you hadn't guessed...)
- However, that "Golfsburg" thing wasn't an official name-change, just a marketing stunt.
- In a similar move to revolutionary France, the German Democratic Republic, which until 1952 consisted of five Länder (Mecklenburg, Brandenburg, Sachsen, Sachsen-Anhalt and Thuringia), was redivided into 14 districts (Bezirke) named after the seat of its administration (from Rostock in the north to Suhl in the south). In this reorganisation it was made sure that the borders between two districts never coincided with an old border between two Länder.
- Chemnitz, Germany was called Karl-Marx-Stadt from 1952 to 1990. No prizes for guessing what part of Germany it's in.
- Similar, Stalinstadt, founded in 1950, renamed in 1961 to Eisenhüttenstadt (City of the Ironworks).
- This town had been contemplating a name change, at least in part because Anglophone tourists keep stealing the town sign. The residents refused a name change though, and so they decided to just have theft-resistant town signs.
- They also make a light beer.
- The country itself was renamed "Ostmark" after the Anschluss to erase its national identity. It did not last long, as you have already guessed.
- Up until The French Revolution France consisted of a number of historic provinces (such as Brittany, the Champagne, Lorraine, the Touraine etc.) which had their own laws, traditions, regional identities etc. The Revolution abolished this diversity in favour of national laws, systems of weights and measures etc. and in general tried to promote a sense of national identity over the old provincial ones. As part of this effort the old provinces were broken up into smaller administrative districts, the départements, whose names were taken from geographical features rather than the historic names of the regions, e. g. Seine, Vosges, Bas-Rhin, Vendée, Morbihan, and Marne.
- In France, the geometrically-shaped city of La Roche-sur-Yon became known as Napoléon upon being made capital of Vendée prefecture on imperial decree in 1804. Upon the Bourbon Restauration it was renamed to Bourbon-Vendée, then back to Napoléon during the Hundred Days, then back to Bourbon-Vendée after Napoleon's defeat, then back to Napoléon during the Second Republic under President Louis-Napoleon Bonaparte, who after becoming Emperor Napoleon III, ended up going with Napoléon-Vendée. Until 1870 where the Third Republic eventually renamed the city La Roche-sur-Yon.
- Further north, the city/province of Gwenedd, in southern Brittany, named after Gwynedd in Wales, eventually became the more Romance-sounding Vannes. Similarly, the old province of Kernev became Cornouaille, although unhelpfully it's named after Kernow (Cornwall), which is known as Cornouailles (note the final "s") in French. Similarly to the Guadalajara example, a number of older place-names in Brittany date back to the Brythonic settlers from Wales and Cornwall who just renamed their new settlements on the continent after existing settlements and traditional saints on the mainland.
- In fact, Brittany itself has the same issue, as the French language uses the same words for Brittany as for Roman Britain (Bretagne), while Great Britain is rendered as Grande Bretagne ; the Breton language does the same by calling the continental peninsula Breizh and the island Breizh-Veur ("veur" means "great").
- Benevento, Italy was long ago called (roughly) "Maloenton" by the Oscan-speaking Samnites who inhabited it, meaning probably 'fruit market' in Oscan. To the Romans who conquered them, however, it sounded an awful lot like "Maleventum", a place of "bad events". So they changed it to something with a more positive meaning by switching out "male" (bad) with "bene" (well).
- According to the legend, the name was changed after a battle between the Romans and Pyrrhus (of Pyrrhic Victory fame), which they had won, hence the transition from "place of ill omens" to "good omens".
- Norway have got a few examples. Bergen used to be Bjørgvin, Trondheim was Nidaros (Name history: Nidaros, Trondhjem, Nidaros, Trondheim, Drontheim, Trondheim) and Oslo was Christiania from 1624 to 1877 and Kristiania from 1877 to 1924. Funnily enough, the church provinces around the two first still carries the same name and there is a discussion in Oslo about renaming the center back to Kristiania.
- The case of Trondheim is of particular interest in this case, as the name "Trondheim" came out as a compromise. At this point (1930), there was a boost of renaming in Norway, getting the country rid of Danish names. The most logical choice was to rename Trondheim with the original name: Nidaros. But the citizens protested against it, preferring to have the name "Trondhjem" ("Hjem" is more "danish" than "heim"). The city went by "Nidaros" for a year, but when the locals resorted to Torches and Pitchforks, the ruling body quickly succumbed and renamed the city "Trondheim" - which actually made sense, because the area had gone by that name even before any town was founded there.
- An ongoing example is what to call the land that was (indisputably) called Palestine from 135 CE up until 1948 (leaving aside that for a lot of that time "Palestine" also included territories east of the Jordan river and — briefly — on the Sinai peninsula). Most Palestinians (and indeed most Arabs and even most Muslims, if they're politically inclined) will refer to the whole thing (including what's now Israel and in some cases Jordan) as Palestine; certain Israelis will refer to the whole thing (including the areas under dispute—and sometimes even Jordan) as "the Land of Israel" (Eretz Yisrael in Hebrew), and no matter what you call it, it has political overtones. The region currently governed by Israelnote which borders the Dead Sea is known as the "West Bank"note by the Palestinian authorities and the international press, while in Israel it is known as "Judea and Samaria"—unless you want to strike a moderate, conciliatory tone towards the Palestinians, in which case it's "the Territories" or the "West Bank" again.
- To add to the confusion, up until 1948 Jews living in Palestine were called Palestinians (for instance up until then the "Jerusalem Post" was called the "Palestine Post") while Arabs living in Palestine were called (Palestinian) Arabs.
- This argument goes way back. When the Roman Empire crushed the Jewish uprising under Bar Kochba (in 135 CE), they merged the province Judea into a larger one which they called "Palaestina", after the name used for the (long since gone) Philistine realm. note
- Local names for settlements and terrain features have also radically changed in the past 100 years. Many places that had up to that point had Arabic names have been renamed with Hebrew names - mostly after Biblical locales described as being in the same general areas 2000+ years ago.
- Jerusalem was said to have "70 names", and rightly so. Its name has been changed many times over the past few millennia, whether through conquest, mistranslations, or various local pronunciations. It was originally called "Salem" or "Ur Salem", then "Jebus", then several variations of "Yerushalem" during ancient Hebrew times. During the Jewish exile in Babylonia, it was also called "Zion". Then "Aelia Capitolina" by the Romans who destroyed and rebuilt it, "Hierosolyma" by the Greek translations, later "Jerusalem" by the Christians, "Al-Quds" by the Arabs—which is itself a shortening of the old term "Urshalīm al-Quds" ("Jerusalem the Holy")—and now finally "Yerushalayim" by the Israelis. The last three (as well as "Zion") are used concurrently today depending on one's language and/or political outlook, and many other languages still write or pronounce their own variations as well.
- Trucial Coast used to be named the Pirate Coast. After a major pirate hunting operation by the Royal Navy, involving a series of truces and alliances with local rulers, it became known under the name "Trucial."
- Its name now? United Arab Emirates.
- Levant States => Syria + Lebanon
- Iraq: Revolution City, a suburb of Baghdad constructed in 1959, was later renamed Saddam City after the Baathist revolution, and since the 2003 overthrow of Saddam has become known as Sadr City (after well-respected Shia jurist/cleric/activist Mohammed al-Sadr, not his hothead son Muqtada).
- Saudi Arabia is named after the ruling Saud dynasty; should they lose power, the country would probably be renamed (most likely to "Hejaz and Najd," the traditional names of the lands that make up most of its territory). The Other Wiki, for example, describes the country as "Rashidi Arabia" during the 1890's when the Al Rashid dynasty was in power.
- Persia => Iran (in this case reflecting local usage). Persia is a Greek exonym, the Persians/Iranians have been calling themselves some version of 'Irani' as long as they've been a distinct group. (The term derives ultimately from "Aryan," as the ancient Iranians and ancient Indo-Aryans were closely related and were probably two branches of one people, one that went west and the other east.)
- Tehran used to have streets with names like "Eisenhower Boulevard" and "Kennedy Avenue," as did many other Iranian cities. Nowadays...Not so much...
- In 1981, Iran also renamed a street after Northern Irish hunger striker Bobby Sands. The street itself? Just happened to be the one where the British Embassy was located. This would have forced the Embassy to put the name of its country's most famous dead dissident in its mailing address had the embassy not responded by moving the building's entrance to another street, thus using that street in its address instead.
- The city of Iskenderun in Turkey was originally known as Alexandria near Issos (’Αλεξάνδρεια κατὰ ’Ισσόν Alexándreia katà Issón). This was corrupted into Alexandria Scabiosa, which later turned into Alexandroukambousou. It was referred to by western pilgrims as Alexandretta, and after the Muslim conquest of Syria, it was rendered in Arabic as al-ʼIskandarūn. This became a plot point in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.
- This is more the case of changing the name to its equivalent in the dominant language (like Chinese city names being referred by the Mandarin pronunciation rather than the local dialect). Iskanderun means virtually same thing as Alexandretta, as Iskander is simply how the name Alexander is rendered in Arabic. (Same with other cities named after Alexander the Great. Alexandria in Egypt is called Iskandariyah in Arabic (although hardly anyone outside the Arab world calls it by its Arabic name. Alexandria in Afghanistan is called Kandahar in Pashtun (although no one calls it by its original Greek name.))
- Mumbai: Formerly Bombay. Somewhat controversial, as Bombay is not an Indian city colonised by Europeans, but rather a city built by the Portuguese from scratch - and anyway, everyone still calls the associated film studios "Bollywood", not "Mollywood".
- Even the change itself has not been uniformly applied to government institutions. There is still a university in Mumbai called IIT Bombay.
- This caused some confusion in Indian restaurants in the UK with many dishes such as Bombay potatoes and Bombay duck being renamed, though often some would be Mumbai and others Bombay. Thankfully this has largely been undone and they are back to the original Bombay name.
- Since 2001, Calcutta is once again Kolkata.
- Chennai: Until 1996 used to be called Madras.
- In fact Madras and Chennai were the names of two neighbouring villages that were the core of the large city that has grown up around them; it's just that post-independence India preferred to use the name of the other one that the Raj had used.
- Kozhikode: Formerly Calicut. Varanasi: Former Benares. The list goes on and on and on...
- Mumbai: Formerly Bombay. Somewhat controversial, as Bombay is not an Indian city colonised by Europeans, but rather a city built by the Portuguese from scratch - and anyway, everyone still calls the associated film studios "Bollywood", not "Mollywood".
- Ceylon => Sri Lanka. Another example of the international spelling changing to reflect the actual name of the place instead of what Europeans heardnote .
- Formerly formerly Serendip. note Formerly formerly formerly Lanka (in the Ramayana epos), so we went full circle.
- The French overseas department La Réunion in the Indian Ocean. First an uninhabited Island called Dina Maghrabin ("West Island") by the Arabs and Santa Apolonia by the Portuguese, it was claimed for France in 1640, named Île Bourbon after the royal house, and colonized. Once the Bourbons were ousted from the throne and France became a republic, the isle was renamed La Réunion in 1793 to commemorate the reunion of the volunteers from Marseille and the Parisian National Guard for the storming of the Tuileries on August 10, 1792. The local slave-owners were incensed when the French Republic tried to abolish slavery in 1794note and consequently they were so grateful to Napoleon Bonaparte for restoring it throughout The French Colonial Empire that they renamed the island Île Bonaparte in 1806. After the British took the island in 1810 they called it Île Bourbon again. That name stuck after it was returned to France, even after the Revolution of 1830, which once again deposed the Bourbons (the new reigning House of Orléans being a younger branch of the House of Bourbon). Finally, the February Revolution of 1848 brought back the republican name La Réunion.
- China has lots of cases that look like name changes, although in fact, most of the names have stayed the same in Chinese. The apparent change is due to either the new transliteration system, or due to the government mandating the use of standard Mandarin for placenames rather than local languages/dialects. For further details, see Why Mao Changed His Name.
- Beijing (formerly Peking) is the most obvious example of the new transliteration system coming into effect.
- After the fall of the Qing Dynasty, Peking ("Northern Capital") became Peiping ("Northern Peace", "Beiping" in modern Pinyin), since the Chinese capital was moved to Nanjing/Nanking ("Southern Capital"), until the PRC was declared in 1949, with Beijing/Peking as the capital again.
- But Peking University still keeps that spelling officially.
- Guangzhou: Formerly Canton, which is derived from the Portuguese rendition of the local name for the province (Guangdong) in which the city sitsnote .
- Xiamen: Formerly Amoy, a local name which got displaced by its quite different-sounding (although still related) Mandarin equivalent.
- Other examples of the "different attempt at writing the same basic name" type are Xi'an, Tianjin, and Qingdao (formerly Sian, Tientsin, and Tsingtao, respectively). Xinjiang Province (formerly Sinkiang), and Sichuan Province (formerly Szechuan) are just a few more examples. There are countless others.
- Xi'an actually does have a name change: It was known as Chang'an ("long tranquility") while it was the capital, only becoming "Xi'an" ("western tranquility") from the Ming Dynasty onwards, after the capital had become well established in Beijing.
- Kaifeng was founded as Daliang in 364 BC, rebuilt as Bian in AD 781 and also went by Bianjing, Bianzhou and Dongjing.
- Beijing (formerly Peking) is the most obvious example of the new transliteration system coming into effect.
- Transliteration is an occasional problem in other Asian languages also. While elongated "o" sound in Japanese is, in most cases, simply transliterated as plain "o" in English (thus, Tokyo), some insist on writing out the "correct" pronunciation as "ou"—thus "Tokyo" would be "Toukyou." While this is nice, it is also highly confusing; thus some have compromised and come up with macrons for long vowels—thus the capital city is spelled "Tōkyō".
- Make that triple in Russian. Not only Cyrillic similarly lacks the easy method of indicating the long vowels, but the official transcription is also phonemic, not phonetic, and if read by the Russian orthography rules, sounds entirely wrong. Nevertheless, there are a lot of know-it-alls who insist on "correct" reading of the Japanese words, making it an ample Flame Bait. Not to mention that the official Russian name of the city is an artifact of an another, long obsoleted system of transcription, and back in the time when it was still called Edo there were at least four Cyrillic transcriptions of its name.
- While on the matter of Japan, in 19th century, Tōkyō was also known as Tokei, based on now obsolete pronunciation.
- It used to be called Edo (roughly "estuary", being built on one), renamed when the official capital moved there from Kyōto in 1868. Of course, the move of the "official capital" merely meant that the Emperor moved there; the city had been the seat of government since the 17th century, with the Emperor as a ceremonial figurehead. The period during which Edo was the most powerful city in Japan despite not being the official capital is therefore called the "Edo-jidai" ("Edo Period").
- The former capital of Japan, Kyōto, was originally called Heian-kyō ("The Capital of Tranquility and Peace"), giving the golden era of the Imperial Court, the Heian-jidai, its name. It was renamed to Kyōto ("Capital City") when that era came to a close. According to The Other Wiki, it was also briefly renamed Saikyō ("western capital") when Edo was renamed. Before it was the capital, it was named Uda.
- One more example from Japan and one more former capital (or at least one more side of an emperor palace - Japan has lots of those): Nara, formerly Heijō-kyō.
- Formosa (from "Ilha Formosa" (the beautiful island) by early Portuguese explorers) => Taiwan. Of course, that's just the beginning...
- The state that controls the island of Taiwan is the Republic of China (ROC). Contrast the People's Republic of China (PRC), which rules the Chinese mainland (what most people mean by just "China"). Taiwan and mainland China essentially regard each other as rebellious provinces. The ROC lost a civil war on the mainland and was left in control of only Taiwan; decades later, the de facto situation is that Taiwan and mainland China are separate countries. But both the ROC and PRC consider Taiwan to be an inseparable part of China, so anyone who proposes making the de facto situation on the ground official — or who uses terminology that implies that — will attract the ire of both sides.
- In international sports, to allow people from Taiwan to compete without implying (a) support for either the PRC or ROC over the other or (b) acceptance of the status quo, they need a team name that both sides can accept. "Chinese Taipei"note is the name in the Olympics and many other major competitions;
- Naturally Taiwan has independence movements, people who would like to renounce the claims to the mainland and make the de facto situation official. But even if they ever gained a supportive majority in the ROC government, the PRC would respond forcibly to any assertion of independence.
- Another example is the disputed islands in the East China Sea that China, Taiwan, and Japan all claim as their territory. Japan, which currently controls the islands, calls them the Senkaku Islands. Though China and Taiwan are allied in this dispute, they too have different names for the islands. China calls them the Diaoyu Islands while Taiwan calls them the Tiaoyutai Islands.
- The capital city of South Korea was originally Hanseong (City [by] the Han [River]). When Korea was annexed by the Japanese in 1910, it was renamed Keijou or "the Capital City" in Japanese. Korean independence caused it to be renamed Seoul, meaning simply "capital city".
- Ho Chi Minh City: Formerly Saigon, a name still used by a lot of the locals, the name was changed after The Vietnam War, although its three-letter airport code is still SGN.
- Myanmar and Thailand, entire countries whose names changed from Burma and Siam, respectively. The former change is highly controversial, with several governments and the opposition not accepting it. This is because the name was changed by a military junta which overthrew the democratically elected Burmese government.
- Burma/Myanmar also changed the name of the city of Rangoon to Yangon.
- Burma/Myanmar is a bit of a confusing case, since both names are effectively the same word in Burmese. Myanmar (pronounced Myama) is simply a more formal version of Burma (pronounced Bama). (Blame the British for the "r"s.)
- The city of Bangkok had its name changed back in the late 1700s. Nobody outside of Thailand uses the new name, which happens to be "Krung Thep Mahanakhon Amon Rattanakosin Mahinthara Yuthaya Mahadilok Phop Noppharat Ratchathani Burirom Udomratchaniwet Mahasathan Amon Piman Awatan Sathit Sakkathattiya Witsanukam Prasit", which translates to "The city of angels, the great city, the eternal jewel city, the impregnable city of God Indra, the grand capital of the world endowed with nine precious gems, the happy city, abounding in an enormous Royal Palace that resembles the heavenly abode where reigns the reincarnated god, a city given by Indra and built by Vishnukam". No wonder most people stick to "Bangkok" (if they're foreigners) or abbreviate it to its first two or three words (if they're Thai).
- Singapore — formerly Temasek.
- An interesting example in that it was permanently changed by a colonist, Sang Nila Utama, who named the place after an animal he reckoned had to be a lion — hence Singa(lion)-pura(city).
- The Philippines, curiously enough, is the exception to the rule, as it's retained its Spanish colonial name, although it was originally lumped with other islands into a group collectively called the Spanish East Indies. Most likely this is attributable to the majority of Filipinos' sheer Foreign Culture Fetish for their colonisers, Spain and the United States, not to mention the fact that the country didn't exist as a political unit before Spanish occupation.
- Although during the Martial Law era in the 1970s there were plans to rename the Philippines to "Maharlika", after the precolonial warrior class (but only of Tagalog kingdoms).
- And, finally, the entire Philippines is this—having been named for the Spanish King Philip II. Prior to Spanish colonisation the archipelago was ruled by a number of largely independent but interconnected royal city-states, such as the Kingdoms of Tondo and Maynila, the Rajahnate of Cebu, the Kingdom of Butuan, the Sulu Sultanate, and others.
- The term "Manila," the name of the current Philippine capital, is a sort of inversion; its meaning has evolved over the centuries. Originally it referred to the precolonial Kingdom of Maynila south of the Pasig River (which itself used to be named "Selurong" or "Seludong"); after the conquistadores arrived, "Manila" became Intramuros, the Citadel City the Spanish built over the ruins of the Kingdom of Maynila. Much later, during the American occupation, Manila's jurisdiction expanded beyond Intramuros and grew to encompass surrounding districts. Today "Manila" has come to refer to both the country's capital and the conglomeration of sixteen cities (and the single municipality of Pateros) situated in the region—which is more accurately called "Metro Manila", but visiting foreigners and out-of-towners don't make the distinction.
- In the Philippines, there's a joke that street names tend to change with every new administration, largely out of a need to satisfy political egos.
- In the most recent case, several Filipino politicians, in a bid to ingratiate themselves to the (second) Aquino administration, even filed a bill to change the name of EDSA, Metro Manila's main highwaynote , to Corazon Aquino Expressway (after the mother of the previous President, Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III, who was also a former President). In their defence, the Aquinos are intimately associated with the highway, the site of popular protests that threw the Marcos dictatorship out in 1986 and installed Cory Aquino in power. Quite a number of Filipinos continue to believe, however, and not without good reason, that the politicians pushing the name change have a slight case of Skewed Priorities, given much more urgent issues like disaster management, poverty, and of course their own corruption.
- The bill never passed, however, and there are no plans so far to refile it in the 17th Congress (that is, the Congress that assumed office after the May 2016 elections).
- A few major streets may or may not have changed names for ostensibly nationalist reasons. For instance, Dewey Boulevard, which borders Manila Bay, was later renamed Roxas Boulevard, after the Philippine President Manuel Roxas. Ironically the said President was extremely subservient towards American interests—when the Americans granted the Philippines its formal "independence" in 1946, Roxas was promptly installed as the Republic's first chief executive, and in order to finance the rebuilding of the country after the devastation of World War II, he had to play nice with the U.S. government. (The American legacy associated with Dewey/Roxas Boulevard is still evident in the fact that the U.S. Embassy is still headquartered there.)
- The country itself, known before 1945 as Dutch East Indies.
- Sunda Kelapa was renamed to Jaya Karta (City of Glory) when Fatahillah, the general of the Sultanate of Demak, defeated the Portuguese in the 16th century. When the Dutch took over a century later, they gave it the name Batavia. Lastly, after gaining independence in the aftermath of World War II, the new authorities renamed it to Jakarta.
- Papua Barat to Irian Barat to Irian Jaya then changed back to the local preferred name Papua.
- Portuguese Timor: Timor Leste since 1976.
- Batang Berjuntai, a town in Malaysia was renamed to Bestari Jaya.
- Lots of other examples in Malaysia too, where English city/town/road names were replaced with Malay ones. One entire state in one case: as mentioned above, British North Borneo became Sabah. Its state capital as well: Jesselton became Kota Kinabalu. Averted in some cases: George Town, the capital of Penang, though there is a common Malay name (Tanjung).
- Malaysia as a whole country counts as well. It was the Federation of Malaya when independence was gained in 1957. The country name was change to Malaysia in 1963 when British North Borneo, Sarawak and Singapore joined the federation.
- Cambodia was (briefly) renamed to Democartic Kampuchea during the reign of Khmer Rouge. This didn't last long.