Want some easy cocktail conversation starters? Learn the origin stories behind the world’s biggest cities. Trust us, your etymological erudition will definitely wow the crowds.
You will be surprised at the odd and sometimes mysterious origins behind the names of America’s iconic cities. Let’s take a quick look at five fabulous origin stories.
1. Chicago, Illinois
When you think of Chicago, raw garlic probably isn’t the first thing that springs to mind. Interestingly, this pungent plant was all this area was known for before Europeans arrived.
That’s right, “Chicago” is an Algonquian word that translates to, well, “raw garlic.” Apparently the Chicago area was full of wild garlic in those early days. When colonists reached this area, they immediately took down the name and, obviously, the term stuck.
2. Jacksonville, Florida
If you paid any attention in US History class, then you might’ve already guessed the influence behind this southern city’s name. Yes, Jacksonville was named after General (and later the seventh US President) Andrew Jackson after his victory in the First Seminole War. What’s more interesting, however, is what the occupying British initially called this region.
Believe it or not, Jacksonville was once known by the cooky name of Cowford. Colonists gave the city this name because there were a lot of cows that liked to stroll around the fords in the St. John’s River.
In modern times, Jacksonville has become Florida’s most populated city with roughly 900,000 residents. Anyone thinking about making the move to “The River City” should definitely give the local moving company Suddath a call. Suddath’s expert employees promise to make moving to this sunny city as stress-free as possible.
3. Orlando, Florida
Sticking with the Florida theme, what’s the deal with the name Orlando? Despite the fame of this tourism mecca, historians still fiercely debate the origins of Orlando’s name.
First off, there’s the theory that attorney J. G. Speer, one Central Florida’s early leaders, named the city after the character in Shakespeare’s comedy As You Like It. Apparently Speer was a real Bard buff.
But that’s not the only theory behind Orlando’s name. Another well-known conjecture is that locals named this city after a man named Orlando Reeves who supposedly died in the First Seminole War. The only problem with this theory, however, is that we have no official evidence an Orlando Reeves ever served in the US Army.
4. Dallas, Texas
Just like Orlando, the origin behind the Dallas, TX name isn’t all that clear. Although we know John Neely Bryan gave the city its name in the mid-1800s, we don’t know why.
The popular theory is that Mr. Bryan named the city after President Polk’s VP, George Mifflin Dallas, but there are plenty of other potential contenders for the coveted title. For instance, Bryan might’ve named Dallas after a soldier Walter Dallas, VP Dallas’s brother Alexander Dallas, or an early ranger by the name of James Dallas.
Honestly, it’s still anybody’s guess!
5. Minneapolis, Minnesota
This half of the “Twin Cities” actually has a “twin name.” Yes, the word Minneapolis is a fusion of two languages: Sioux and Greek.
The “Minne-” part of the name is taken from the local Sioux dialect for the word “waters.” This prefix was then tacked on to the popular Greek suffix “-polis” which, as you might already know, means “city-state.”
Who would’ve thought that these common US cities would have such interesting backstories! Now that you know, try out some of these fun trivia facts at your next gathering.