October 16, 2020 3:00:14 PM
A quick glance across a map of America reveals a lot of names that are the same as in Europe – and also the same as each other.
There are at least 23 places called Paris, at least 35 named Lebanon, and at least 11 known as Dublin. In 2011, a biker from Manchester, England, set out to visit all 32 American Manchesters, spanning Manchester-by-the-Sea in Massachusetts to a tiny town on the California coast.
Even some of America’s largest, most influential cities have surprising, and surprisingly humble European origins. Here are 10 US megacities you never knew got their names from Ireland and the UK…
1. Portland: The largest city in Oregon, and 25th largest in the US, Portland is actually two generations away from its English ancestor. The metropolis is named for the city of Portland in Maine, which is itself derived from the Portland peninsula that juts out from the English county of Dorset.
2. Baltimore: An anglicisation of the Irish phrase Baile an Tí Mhóir (literally “town of the big house”), this Maryland megacity was named for Cecilius Calvert, 2nd Baron Baltimore, a peer in the Irish House of Lords. There is still a village called Baltimore on the Co Cork coast, guarded by a stone monolith named the Baltimore Beacon.
3. Pittsburgh: ‘Pitt’ comes courtesy of Scottish general John Forbes, who named the city for British Prime Minister William Pitt in 1758. ‘Burgh’ is a Scottish, Old English, and originally Germanic word for a defensible mound or hill, that appears in place names across Europe and North America.
4. Menlo Park: Best known for ‘the wizard of Menlo Park’ Thomas Edison, this community in New Jersey was named after a city in California, which in turn took its name from the village of Menlo on the outskirts of Galway.
5. Boston: The largest city in New England, Boston enjoys an unusually direct link to its European namesake, founded by Puritan settlers from the Lincolnshire market town of the same name.
6. Charlotte: Named for George III’s consort Queen Charlotte, America’s 15th most populous city is one of several polities named after English queens. The entire state of Maryland is called after Charles I’s wife Henrietta Maria, while Virginia and West Virginia were named for Elizabeth I, then as now nicknamed The Virgin Queen.
7. Charleston: The largest city in South Carolina, it shouldn’t be a surprise that Charleston is named after the English king Charles I. The Latin equivalent of Charles is carolus, and North and South Carolina are named for him too.
8. Newark: First named Pesayak Towne, and later New Milford, Newark was eventually called after local reverend Abraham Pierson’s former East England parish of Newark-on-Trent. The seat of Essex County, in channel island-inspired New Jersey, Newark addresses have European names on three separate lines.
9. New York: It’s obvious when you think about it, but not everybody does. After a brief stint as the Dutch colony of New Amsterdam, New York was renamed by the British in 1664 after the city of York, then as now a county capital in Yorkshire.
10. Richmond: The state capital of Virginia, Richmond was named by colonist William Byrd for the English village of Richmond-upon-Thames, now an affluent suburb of London.