An excellent List of European cities with alternative names [Margaret of Transblawg has brought it to my attention that it’s also a Wikipedia entry, which is probably the original]:

Most cities in Europe have alternative names in different languages. Some cities have also undergone name changes for political or other reasons. This article attempts to give all known alternative names for all major European cities. It also includes some smaller towns that are important because of their location or history.
For the purposes of this article, Europe includes Turkey, Cyprus and all the republics of the former Soviet Union. A number of important Mediterranean Basin cities are also included.

I absolutely love such lists, and this one seems thorough and accurate. Some interesting entries:

Chişinău: Chişinău (Moldovan/Romanian), Kešenev (Yiddish), Kischinew (German), Kishinjov – Кишинёв (Russian), Kīšīnāw (Arabic), Kišineu (Bulgarian), Kišiněv (Czech), Kišinjev (Serbian), Kišiňov (Slovak), Kisinyov (Hungarian), Kiszyniów (Polish), Kyšyniv (Ukrainian)
Cologne: Colonia (Italian, Spanish), Colónia (Portuguese), Keln (Serbian), Kelnas (Lithianian), Keulen (Dutch), Kjol’n (Russian, Ukrainian), Kolín nad Rýnem (Czech), Kolín nad Rýnom (Slovak), Kölle (Kölsch [local dialect]), Köln (Finnish, German, Turkish), Kolonía (Greek), Kolonia (Polish)
Geneva: Cenevre (Turkish), Ginebra (Catalan, Romanian, Spanish), Geneve (Finnish), Genève (French), Genf (German), Ginevra (Italian), Genevra (Romansh), Genewa (Polish), Genebra (Portuguese), Geneve / Genève (Dutch), Jinīf (Arabic), Yenévi (Greek), Ženeva (Bulgarian, Croatian, Czech, Lithuanian, Russian, Serbian, Slovak, Ukrainian)
Mainz: Mohuč (Czech, Slovak), Mayence (French), Magonza (Italian), Moguncja (Polish), Mogúncia (Portuguese), Majnc (Serbian), Määnz (local dialect), Meenz (former local dialect)
Venice: al-Bunduqīya (Arabic), Venecija (Bulgarian, Croatian, Serbian, Russian, Ukrainian), Venècia (Catalan), Benetke (Slovene), Benátky (Czech, Slovak), Venedig (Danish, German, Swedish), Venetië (Dutch), Venetsia (Finnish), Venise (French), Venetía (Greek), Velence (Hungarian), Venezia (Italian), Wenecja (Polish), Veneza (Portuguese), Veneţia (Romanian), Venecia (Spanish), Venedik (Turkish), Vinitsia (Yiddish)
Vienna: Beč (Croatian, Serbian), Bécs (Hungarian), Dunaj (Slovene), Fienna (Welsh), Vena (Russian, Ukrainian), Vīne (Latvian), Vídeň (Czech), Viedeň (Slovak), Viena (Catalan, Portuguese, Spanish, Romanian), Vienna (Italian), Vienne (French), Viénni (Greek), Vin (Yiddish), Viyana (Turkish), Wenen (Dutch), Wiedeń (Polish), Wien (Finnish, German)
(Via vicente at Pepys’ Diary.)


  1. dungbeattle says

    Does any one know which city has been able to keep it’s name pure, for the longest period of time without interference or change including Language drift, from any source? Just curious.

  2. I wonder whether al-Bunduqiya for venice is derives from the word “funduq” for “merchant hostellry”.

  3. Very useful list. I’d like to see one for non-European countries..
    In the Philippines, the capital is Manila (Spanish & English) or Maynila (Tagalog & other Philippine languages). The two names are used side-by-side.

  4. aldiboronti says

    Great find, lh! It’s a fascinating list.
    As to dungbeattle’s question, isn’t Damascus a strong contender? Or maybe Jericho?

  5. I think most of those examples can’t really be said to be different names, just different pronounciations (that goes especially for the Manila example). It’s more interesting, I think, with cities that actually have different names given by different cultures within them, or even actual translations of the names, like
    Helsinki – Helsingfors
    Ljubljana – Laibach

  6. An excellent list.
    Do you still call Braunschweig Brunswick and Hannover Hanover in the USA?
    Auschwitz is a bit different. The Germans would use the German name only for the concentration camp, and the Polish for the town, and I think we would too. However, these are quibbles.

  7. Regarding dungbeattle’s question, I’m not sure about Damascus, since I do not know whether the modern Arabic name is equal to the Aramaic name and I’m completely ignorant about earlier versions. In continental Europe, I believe the record goes to Rome, whose local name Roma has not changed since its foundation some 27 centuries ago. This is unlike most greek cities, whose names underwent some small changes (e.g. modern Αθήνα vs. classic Αθήναι).

  8. What Bjorn said — I know on the German-Slav border I know that there are several cities with unrelated names in the two languages, though I can’t remember which ones they are.

  9. Saint Petersburg and Santiago de Compostela have interesting differences.
    The list seems to be weak on deliberate political renamings as opposed to phonetic/spelling variants, except in the Baltic area where they get Trondheim, Oslo, and Sankt Peterburg (which is still called Petrograd in “Russian Turkestan” accoridng to a recent report.) I’d be willing to guess that the compiler lives near the Baltic.
    Chinese names of places in the Chinese sphere of influence are often entirely different than the local names. The Chinese also frequently changed the names of verious cities for good luck: Beijing = Beiping = Yenjing. (Peking was a western barbarism).

  10. My favourite Dutch place-name is Zevenbergen, wich is Transsylvania. Seven Mountains, it means, since Transsylvania is supposed to have seven mountains, and it is so far from the original that I grin every time I think about it.. ( This name was mostly in use in the 17th century.)

  11. What a lovely list. Too bad it only has a single Icelandic entry. While we mostly use the local or English names, there are a few fairly ancient names that still remain in use (some of these are hardly ever used today, others alot):
    Bremen – Brimarborg
    Canterbury – Kantaraborg
    Dublin – Dyflinni
    Istanbul – Mikligarður
    Kiev – Kænugarður
    London – Lundúnir
    Roskilde – Hróarskelda
    Rouen – Rúðuborg*
    Stuttgart – Stóðgarður*
    Tórshavn – Þórshöfn
    Trondheim – Þrándheimur
    Venice – Feneyjar
    York – Jórvík
    (* Those are very very rare indeed, so rare that most people don’t even know these exist, but I thought I’d include them anyway, because, well, I like ’em :))

  12. Oh and New York is, of course, Nýja Jórvík.

  13. Björn: You can go to the Wikipedia and add those yourself — just click on [Edit]. I like them myself now that you’ve introduced me to them!

  14. Sara: in German Transylvannia is also sometimes the Siebenburgen, for the seven Saxon colonies. Supposedly when the children of medieval Hamelin were led underground by the pied piper, they reemerged in Transylvania. Part of my family is from Hermannstadt (= Romanian Sibui)

  15. Lovely!!!

  16. Just wanted to say that Hanover is being used in English:

  17. Zizka wrote: Beijing = Beiping = Yenjing. (Peking was a western barbarism).
    Oddly enough, the anglicized form “Peking” is pretty close to the Cantonese reading for “the Northern Capital” 北京, Peg ging.
    China’s example is quite illustrative, indeed, since every city has a minimum of two names (even if we stay inside nationwide accepted Mandarin use and do not take in account local/dialectal variants) corresponding to different uses: there is the official administrative name and the “poetic” alternative name, which is used in local paper titles, shop names, and every text with some literary pretention, e.g. Yangcheng (“Goats City”) for Guangzhou, Chuncheng (“Spring City”) for Kunming, Rongcheng (“Banyan City”) for Fuzhou, and so on.

  18. I’d love to find a list of such alternate names. I tried googling the ones you provided and came up blank. (I presume any books on the subject would be in Chinese.) But thanks for the info!

  19. Language Hat, I just googled it quickly. There is a short list here (GB simplified), but there a few problems with it. I’m in a hurry now; I’ll try to come back later with some more detailed explanations.

  20. Here, on the site of the “Primary School Students Paper”, is an other list; shorter, but with an English translation (scroll to “Zhongguo chengshi biecheng” 中国城市别称). I’m surprised none of those lists mentions Yangcheng for Guangzhou, since this is the most common alternative name for the provincial capital of Guangdong (used for instance, in the name of the respected newspaper “Yangcheng wanbao” 羊城晚报 – Goat City Evening Paper).
    I’d decided not to put Jinan/Quancheng in my previous examples because of the misleading confusion between its translated name and that of Kunming/Chuncheng (both are “Spring” cities), but they found a clever way to solve the problem.

  21. Thanks!

  22. scarabaeus stercus says

    Another Question on city name. Which city[town of substance] has had the most name changes yet the city has been located on the same spot for eons, but the local ‘in charge mob’ have made the inhabitants of same suffer by use a differing name to reflect the new thinking? Just curious.

  23. Christophe says

    I think most cities that ever have been on a frontline have different names. For New York, you can add Nueva York and Nieuw Amsterdam.
    For my hometown Antwerpen, it has been or still is called Antwerp, Anvers, Amberes, and probably more names have been given to it 🙂

  24. Christophe says

    I think most cities that ever have been on a frontline have different names. For New York, you can add Nueva York and Nieuw Amsterdam.
    For my hometown Antwerpen, it has been or still is called Antwerp, Anvers, Amberes, and probably more names have been given to it 🙂

  25. Marie-Louise says

    For those of you curious about your home town/country name in French, check
    Enter the name of the city/country/geographical entity in the “nom local” field, click on Rechercher, et voilà! The result page will show you the name(s) in French.
    You can also search on the French name(s) and get the names in the original language.
    Click on Rechercher without filling any field to reach the whole database.

Speak Your Mind