Geographical renaming

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Geographical renaming is the changing of the name of a geographical feature or area. This can range from the uncontroversial change of a street name to a highly disputed change to the name of a country. Some names are changed locally but the new names are not recognised by other countries, especially when there is a difference in language. Other names may not be officially recognised but remain in common use. Many places have different names in different languages, and a change of language in official or general use has often resulted in what is arguably a change of name. There are many reasons to undertake renaming, with political motivation being the primary cause; for example many places in the former Soviet Union and its satellites were renamed to honour Stalin. Sometimes a place reverts to its former name (see for example de-Stalinization). One of the most common reasons for a country changing its name is newly acquired independence. When borders are changed, sometimes due to a country splitting or two countries joining together, the names of the relevant areas can change. This, however, is more the creation of a different entity than an act of geographical renaming.

Other more unusual reasons for renaming have included:

A change might see a completely different name being adopted or may only be a slight change in spelling.

In some cases established institutions preserve the old names of the renamed places in their names, such as the Pusan National University in Busan, South Korea; the Peking University in Beijing, People's Republic of China; Bombay Stock Exchange, IIT Bombay and the Bombay High Court in Mumbai, Republic of India; University of Madras, Madras Stock Exchange, the Madras High Court, and IIT Madras in Chennai, Republic of India; the University of Malaya, Keretapi Tanah Melayu, in Federation of Malaysia; and SWAPO (South West Africa People's Organization), the ruling party of Namibia.


Changes in romanisation systems can result in minor or major changes in spelling in the Roman alphabet for geographical entities, even without any change in name or spelling in the local alphabet or other writing system. Names in non-Roman characters can also be spelled very differently when Romanised in different European languages.

Chinese names

China developed and adopted the pinyin romanisation system in February 1958 in place of previous systems such as the postal romanization and Wade–Giles. Many Chinese geographical entities (and associated entities named after geographical names) thus had their English names changed. The changes sometimes appear drastic, since it is sometimes the case that the former romanisations were derived from Cantonese—the common language in British-held Hong Kong—while the newer romanisations are derived entirely from Mandarin. Pinyin was adopted by the International Organization for Standardisation in 1982 and officially adopted in Singapore (resulting in several geographical name changes of its own). However it is usually not applied in the autonomous regions of the PRC (e.g.: Lhasa, Ürümqi, Hohhot, Xigazê, Ili, Altay, Kaxgar, Hulunbuir, Erenhot), and has not resulted in any geographical name change in the SARs of Hong Kong and Macau, and is adopted only in parts of Taiwan, particularly within Taipei and other Kuomintang controlled cities and counties, in a recent push to adopt Pinyin by the Kuomintang government.

Examples of changes:

In the People's Republic of China

In the Republic of China (Taiwan)

In Singapore[1]

Korean names

The introduction of the Revised Romanization of Korean in place of the McCune–Reischauer system in July 2000 by the South Korean government has resulted in a string of changes to geographical names. The system is not adopted by North Korea. Examples of changes include:

Exonyms and endonyms

For geographical entities with multiple pre-existing names in one or more languages, an exonym or endonym may gradually be substituted and used in the English language.

  • Transfer of a city between countries with very different patterns of phonology can result in seeming changes of name. Changes can be so slight as Straßburg (Germany) and Strasbourg (France). Some are less subtle: Selanik in the Ottoman Empire became Salonica in Greece; "Pilsen" in the Austro-Hungarian Empire became Plzeň in Czechoslovakia; Chișinău in the Russian Empire became Kishinev, Romania after World War I reverted to Chișinău but the Soviet Union after World War II change it again in Kishinev and once again Chișinău when Moldova achieved independence from the Soviet Union. Some are translations; Karlsbad became Karlovy Vary.
  • When the formerly-German city of Danzig came under Polish rule, it became known in English by its Polish name of Gdańsk. Note though, that when Winston Churchill gave his Iron Curtain speech he still spoke of a city in Poland by its German name (Stettin) instead of its contemporary Polish name Szczecin even though Churchill fully accepted the transfer of the formerly-German city to Poland, probably because it is German phonology, not Polish, that is closer to English. The pattern is far from uniform, and it takes time.
  • The Soviet Union replaced German city names in the former East Prussia that became the Kaliningrad Oblast and Japanese place names in southern Sakhalin Island with Russian names unrelated to the old German and Japanese place names after annexing them in the aftermath of World War II.
  • The military junta changed the official English name of Burma to Myanmar in 1988, even though both were pre-existing names which originated from the Burmese language and used interchangeably depending on contexts (see Names of Burma).
  • Decolonisation in India saw a trend to change the established English names of cities to the names in the local language. Since then, changes have included Chennai (from Madras in August 1996), Kolkata (from Calcutta in January 2001) and Mumbai (from Bombay in 1995), amongst many others.
  • The People's Republic of China, upon its founding and new nationalities policy, changed the names of cities in ethnic minority regions from sometimes patronising Chinese language names to those of the native language. For example, it changed Dihua to Ürümqi and Zhenxi to Barkol.[2]

Changes resulting from splits and mergers

List of significant name changes

This is a list of internationally important or significant renamings.


Subnational entities

  • Chih-li → Hebei (1928)
New Zealand
Northern Ireland
South Africa

Cities and towns

  • Amadora, Portugal was known as Porcalhota until 1907. The name change was due to the unflattering meaning of the original toponym (something like "Little dirty one").
  • Attock, Pakistan was known as Campbellpur.
  • Bin Qasim, formerly known as Pipri in Pakistan.
  • Beijing – Usually spelt Peking until the 1980s. Named Peiping (Beiping in pinyin) from 1927 to 1949, during which time Nanking (Nanjing) was the national capital.
  • Bangalore, India – set to be changed to Bengaluru with state government approval in 2006 but yet to be ratified by the central government
  • Banjul – formerly Bathurst.
  • Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, between 1926 and 1991 called Frunze
  • Bogotá – Changed to Santa Fé de Bogotá D.C. (Distrito Capital) in 1991 from Bogotá D.E. (Distrito Especial). Changed back to the simplified Bogotá D.C. (Distrito Capital) in 2000.
  • Bratislava, Slovakia, formerly Pozsony or Pressburg
  • Busan – spelt Pusan prior to the official adoption of the Revised Romanization by the South Korean Government in 2000. During the Korean War it was the temporary capital. Named Dongrae (동래/東萊) until 1910.[citation needed] In 1920, renamed to Busan.[citation needed]
  • Châlons-en-Champagne, formerly Châlons-sur-Marne until 1998.
  • Chemnitz in Saxony, Germany – named Karl-Marx-Stadt after Karl Marx (1953–1990).
  • Chennai, called Madras until 1996.
  • Cobh, Ireland – formerly known as Queenstown
  • Constância, Portugal was known as Punhete until 1833. The name change was justified by the resemblance of the old toponym with the word punheta (Portuguese for "hand job").
  • Dhaka, Bangladesh – previously Dacca
  • Daegu – spelt Taegu prior to the official adoption of the Revised Romanization by the South Korean Government in 2000. In ancient times, Dalgubeol (달구벌/達句伐)
  • Dobrich – known as Bazargic between 1913–1940, Tolbuhin between 1945–1990. It was known Hacıoğlu Pazarcık during Ottoman rule
  • Donetsk – founded as Yuzovka (after John Hughes) in 1870, called Stalino 1924-–1961, renamed Donyetsk in Russian (Donetsk in Ukrainian) after the De-Stalinization period in the USSR
  • Dushanbe – known as Stalinabad between 1929–1961 and renamed Dushanbe after the De-Stalinization period in the Soviet Union.
  • Dún Laoghaire, Ireland – formerly known as Kingstown
  • Faisalabad was known as Lyallpur (until the 1970s) in Pakistan
  • Florianópolis was known as Desterro until 1893
  • Gagarin, town in Russia – formerly Gzhatsk, took current name after cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin's death in 1968
  • Gdańsk – in German Danzig, when part of Kingdom of Prussia or Germany (1793-1920 and 1940–5) and as a Free City (1920–39).
  • Harare – named Salisbury until 1982. Other place names in Zimbabwe also changed.
  • Heraklion in Crete, Greece: Its ancient name was Heraklion. After the Arab conquest in 824 it was named "Handaq" (The Moat) from which derived the Greek name "Chandax" in Byzantine times (961–1204) and later the Italian "Candia" during the Venetian period (1212–1669) when Candia eventually became the name of the whole island of Crete. In Turkish times (1669–1898) it was called "Kandiye" by the Ottomans but from the locals "Megalo Kastro" (Great Castle) or simply "Kastro". During the time of the autonomous Cretan State (1898–1913) scholars proposed to reuse the ancient name "Heraklion" which eventually was accepted by the locals.
  • Ho Chi Minh City – formerly Saigon, changed in 1975 after the fall of South Vietnam (see also Names of Ho Chi Minh City)
  • Huambo, formerly Nova Lisboa, changed in 1975 after the independence of Angola
  • Istanbul – since 28 March 1930, formerly Byzantium (under Greek rule) then Constantinople (under Roman and Ottoman rule); the latter name change inspired the popular song "Istanbul (Not Constantinople)" (see also Names of Istanbul)
  • Iqaluit, capital of Nunavut Territory in Canada, known as Frobisher Bay until 1987.
  • Ivano-Frankivsk, founded as polish Stanisławów in 1662, changed to Stanislau in 1772, under Austria. After World War I it returned to its original name. Then it was known as Stalislav (1939–41), Stanislau (1941–45) and again Stanislav, until 1962, when it has been renamed to its current name, to honour Ivan Franko.
  • Jakarta, – formerly Batavia, Jayakarta, and Sunda Kelapa.
  • Jerusalem, – renamed to Aelia Capitolina by the Romans in 135 and was restored back to Jerusalem in 325.
  • João Pessoa – formerly known as Cidade da Parahyba, as Frederikstad and as Filipéia de Nossa Senhora das Neves.[6]
  • Kabwe in Zambia – formerly Broken Hill.
  • Kaliningrad from Königsberg in 1946 (along with other cities in East Prussia)
  • Kanpur, India – formerly known as Cawnpore.
  • Katowice in Silesia, Poland was Stalinogród between 1953 and 1956, and Kattowitz when under German rule
  • Kenora, Ontario, Canada from Rat Portage in 1905.
  • Khujand in Tajikistan from Leninabad between 1939 and 1992. Khodjend before 1939
  • Kimchaek in North Korea, formerly known as Songjin. Renamed during the Korean War after the chief of staff of the North Korean army killed during the war.
  • Kingisepp, Russia, named after an Estonian communist Viktor Kingissepp, formerly named Yamburg, Yam, and Yama (Yamsky Gorodok).
  • Kinshasa – formerly Léopoldville, changed in 1966.
  • Kirov, Russia – formerly Vyatka
  • Kitchener, Ontario was known as Berlin until 1916; it was changed due to hostility toward Germany in World War I. (See Berlin to Kitchener name change)
  • Kisangani, formerly Stanleyville
  • Klaipėda from Memel in 1945
  • Kochi, India – formerly Cochin.
  • Kota Kinabalu from Jesselton.
  • Kollam, India – formerly Quilon.
  • Krasnodar – formerly Yekaterinodar.
  • Kuito formerly Silva Porto, changed in 1975 after the independence of Angola
  • Kuressaare, Estonia – was named Kingissepa after an Estonian communist Viktor Kingissepp during the Soviet occupation, but was renamed Kuressaare again in 1988.
  • Lake Station, Indiana, from East Gary, to disassociate itself from the adjacent city of Gary.
  • Londonderry, Northern Ireland – known as Derry until 1623 when it received a Royal Charter. The previous name still remains in use in certain areas. (See Derry/Londonderry name dispute)
  • Lubumbashi, formerly Élisabethville
  • Lüshun – formerly Port Arthur in English, or Ryojun during the Japanese occupation in the 1930s and 1940s.
  • Lviv, Ukraine – originally Polish Lwów, became Lemberg under Austro-Hungarian rule (1772–1918), reverted to Lwów (1918–1945), then Lvov under Soviet rule (1945–1991); took current name on Ukrainian independence
  • Latina – (Italy, Latium), whose former original fascist name was Littoria
  • Malabo – formerly Santa Isabel
  • Maputo – formerly Lourenço Marques
  • Mbala in Zambia – formerly Abercorn
  • Mexico City – formerly the two altepetls (or polities) of Tlatelolco and Tenochtitlan
  • Montana, Bulgaria - known as Kutlovitsa until 1890, Ferdinand between 1890–1945, Mihaylovgrad between 1945–1993
  • Mumbai, India – formerly known as Bombay.
  • Nawabshah formerly known as Benazirabad in Pakistan.
  • New York – formerly New Amsterdam (see History of New York City)
  • Nizhniy Novgorod was Gorkiy during the Soviet Union from 1932 to 1990.
  • Novohrad-Volynskyi known to 1796 as Zwiahel, or Zvyahel.
  • Nuuk renamed Godthåb in 1979, following the introduction of the Home Rule.
  • Orenburg was renamed Chkalov from 1938–1957, after Valery Chkalov and renamed Orenburg in 1957.
  • Oslo, Norway renamed Christiania when rebuilt after fire in 1624. Spelled Kristiania between 1877-1925 when the name returned to Oslo.
  • Ottawa, Ontario known as Bytown until 1855.
  • Parramatta in New South Wales, Australia was known as Rose Hill from establishment in 1788 until 1791.
  • Perm, known as Molotov from 1945-1957, after Vyacheslav Molotov and renamed to Perm in 1957.
  • Podgorica, known as Titograd 1945-1992
  • Polokwane, changed from Pietersburg in 2003, along with some other towns
  • Port Klang, changed from Port Swettenham, the port of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
  • Portlaoise, Ireland – formerly Maryborough.
  • Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada from Pile O' Bones or Pile-of-bones in 1882 in what was then the North-West Territory.
  • Rijeka from Fiume in 1945
  • Royal Tunbridge Wells, changed from Queen's-Wells to Tunbridge Wells in 1797. Renamed in 1909 to its current name after receiving a Royal Charter.
  • Royal Wootton Bassett – known as Wootton Bassett until 2011 when it received a Royal Charter.
  • Sahiwal – formerly known as Montgomery in Pakistan.
  • Saint Petersburg – originally Saint Petersburg (in 1703), then Petrograd (in 1914), Leningrad (in 1924) and back to Saint Petersburg in 1991
  • Saltcoats, Saskatchewan, Canada from Stirling in what was then the North-West Territories.
  • Samara, Russia – renamed to Kuibyshev from 1935–1991, after Valerian Kuibyshev and renamed Samara in 1991.
  • Santo Domingo, capital of the Dominican Republic was renamed to Ciudad Trujillo between 1936 and 1961 in a drive of personality cult around the dictator Rafael Leónidas Trujillo that also affected Pico Duarte (renamed Pico Trujillo), several provinces, and other Dominican features.
  • Seoul – formerly Hanyang (from 1392), then Hanseong (from 1395), Keijō or Gyeongseong (from 1914) and renamed Seoul in 1946. (See also Names of Seoul)
  • Shenyang – formerly Mukden, Fengtian (奉天) or Shengjing (盛京).
  • Staines-upon-Thames formerly Staines, this town will be officially renamed in May 2012 with the aim of promoting its riverside location and boosting the local economy.
  • Sucre formerly known as La Plata (1539-mid 17th century), Charcas (mid 17th century to early 18th century) and Chuquisaca (until 1831), current name in honour of Antonio José de Sucre.
  • Szczecin – in German Stettin, when part of Germany, until 1945.
  • Tallinn – known as Reval until 1917.
  • Tel Aviv-Yafo – renamed Tel Aviv from Ahuzat Bayit. Renamed to Tel Aviv-Yafo in 1950 after the annexation of Jaffa (Yafo).
  • Thiruvananthapuram, India – formerly Trivandrum.
  • Thunder Bay, Ontario, Canada in 1970 from the merger of twin cities of Fort William and Port Arthur.
  • Tokyo – formerly Edo, until it became the capital of Japan in 1868.
  • Tolyatti – formerly known as Stavropol-on-Volga and Stavropol. In 1964, it was renamed to Tolyatti after Palmiro Togliatti
  • Toronto – known as York at the time of the War of 1812.
  • Tskhinvali, Georgia – also known as Tskhinval or Ch'reba in present time, formerly named Staliniri (1934–1961)
  • Tver – known as Kalinin from 1931 to 1990.
  • Ulyanovsk in Russia, formerly Simbirsk
  • Ürümqi – formerly known as Tihwa (迪化; Dǐhuà in pinyin), which means "to enlighten" in Chinese. In 1954, renamed to Ürümqi, which means "beautiful pasture" in Dzungar Mongolian.
  • Varanasi, India – formerly known as Benares (or Banaras) and Kashi.
  • Veles, known as Titov Veles between 1945 and 1991.
  • Ventura, California, originally San Buenaventura, New Spain and Mexico.
  • Vilnius – the capital of Lithuania was known as Vilna or Wilno when it was under Polish rule (1920–1939).
  • Virden, Manitoba, Canada from Manchester.
  • Volgograd – formerly Tsaritsyn (1589-1925), Stalingrad (1925–1961).
  • Wanganui, New Zealand. Originally called Petre, now known dually as Wanganui and Whanganui.
  • Wrocław – in German Breslau, when part of Germany, until 1945.
  • Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada from Fort Garry in 1873.
  • Xi'an – Usually spelt Sian until the 1980s. Formerly Chang'an (長安), the ancient name for the city when it was the capital of China until the name was changed to Xi'an in the Ming Dynasty.
  • Yangon – renamed Yangon after being known as Rangoon (1852–1988). Still known as Rangoon in many English-speaking countries.
  • Yekaterinburg – known as Sverdlovsk in the Soviet Union.
  • Yonashiro – changed from Okinawan "Yonagusuku" to a Japanese name and elevated to town status in 1994.
  • Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk – named Toyohara under Japanese rule between 1905 and 1946, but before that was Vladimirovka, a Russian settlement before the Russo-Japanese War (1882–1905).
  • Zhob, Pakistan – renamed from Fort Sandeman in 1976.[7]
  • Zlín, Czech Republic – named Gottwaldov after Klement Gottwald (1949–1990), Czechoslovak former president.
  • Zmiiv, Ukraine – named Gottwald after Klement Gottwald (1976–1990), Czechoslovak communist politician.

Unusual name changes

Naming disputes

See also


  1. Similarly, because 'Republic of Ireland' can be interpreted as meaning 'Republic of all Ireland', the British Government usually tends to prefer the expression 'the Irish Republic', as do many of the British media, despite the irony that this was the name of the Republics proclaimed by rebels against Britain in 1916 and 1919. A further irony is that Irish Nationalists now avoid saying 'the Irish Republic', partly because it is not the official term, but also to avoid sounding unpatriotic and pro-British despite the anti-British origins of the expression.
  2. The details of any resulting offence can be complicated: For instance, a substantial minority of Northern Ireland's population (about 23% according to a 2012 survey)[17] regard themselves as 'British not Irish', and are thus unlikely to be offended by the fact that using Ireland to refer to the Republic of Ireland logically implies they are not Irish. But, like the rest of their fellow Unionists, they may still be offended by the fact that this use of the name Ireland still logically implies that the Government of Ireland is entitled to rule over Northern Ireland, despite any explicit claims to that effect in the Republic's Constitution having been dropped by over 94% of those voting in the Republic in the 1998 referendum that endorsed the Good Friday Agreement as part of the Northern Ireland peace process. On the other hand, Northern Irish Nationalists were not offended by such past claims by the Irish Government, but would be offended by any claim that they were not Irish, yet they do not make any major public complaints about that implication of the use of the word 'Ireland' as the official name of the Republic.


  2. "Full text of white paper on history, development of Xinjiang". Chinese Embassy, Ottawa. Xinhua. 2003-10-24. Retrieved 2010-08-23.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. História de Rondônia
  4. Act 1758 of April 13, 1977
  5. The renaming of Londonderry to Derry remains highly controversial. According to the city's Royal Charter of 10 April 1662 the official name is Londonderry. This was reaffirmed in a High Court decision in January 2007 when Derry City Council sought guidance on the procedure for effecting a name change. The name Derry is preferred by nationalists and it is broadly used throughout Northern Ireland's Catholic community, as well as that of the Republic of Ireland, whereas many unionists prefer Londonderry; however in everyday conversation Derry is used by most Protestant residents of the city. Apart from this local government decision, the city is usually known as Londonderry in official use within the United Kingdom. In the Republic of Ireland, the city and county are almost always referred to as Derry, on maps, in the media and in conversation.
  6. "História Nomes". (in Portuguese). Retrieved 13 January 2015.CS1 maint: unrecognized language (link)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  8. [1]
  9. [2]
  11. Deborah L. Madsen (1998). American Exceptionalism. University Press of Mississippi. ISBN 9781578061082. Retrieved 2014-06-03. Moraga questions not only the impact of North American imperialism upon the nations of Latin America, but...<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  12. Gilbert M. Joseph (2001). Reclaiming the Political in Latin American History: Essays from the North. American Encounters/Global Interactions. Duke University Press. ISBN 9780822327899. Retrieved 2014-06-03. ...ideologies and forms of social hierarchy based on racism in the context of North American imperialism,...<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  13. Ben Dupuy (September 21–27, 1994). "The real objectives of the occupation". Translated by Greg Dunkel. Intelligence Action Center. Retrieved 2014-06-03. ...After Panama, where the North American intervention supposedly had as an objective to do away with Noriega,... ... (Aristide) continued, addressing the North American president directly, ... propaganda that the Haitian community is practically 100 per cent in accord with the North American intervention. ...led jointly by the North American troops, their intelligence services and their local employees from the Haitian army and police. ...Patrols comprised of both North American troops and Haitian police... According to a North American intelligence analyst... the North American intelligence official... ...according to a memorandum by the North American ambassador,... ...under the supervision of the North American military ....<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  14. "Heroica defensa de la Cieudad de Monterey contra el Egercito norte americano ...(Heroic defence of the city of Monterey against the North American Army...)". Beinecke Digital Collections, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University Library. ca. 1848-1850. Retrieved 2014-06-04. From: Album pintoresco de la Republica Mexicana Mexico pintoresco - Host Note:First major color plate book produced in Mexico. Place of Origin:Mexico : Hallase en la estamperia de Julio Michaud y Thomas, [ca. 1848-1850] ...Curatorial Area: Yale Collection of Western Americana, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library - Catalog Record: A record for this resource appears in Orbis, the Yale University Library catalog ... Object ID: 2067507 Check date values in: |date= (help)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  15. "All Comments on Perrosky "La Rancherita"". YouTube. 2010. Retrieved 2014-06-04. Neil Young, Norte Americano de Canada, nacio 12 de Nov.- (translation from the Spanish: Neil Young, a North American of Canada, was born on the 12th of November)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  16. Sergei Kiselyov (Jan–Feb 1993). "Perspective: Nothing in Common, no wealth". Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. Educational Foundation for Nuclear Science, Inc.(Chicago, Illinois). 49 (1): 12–13. (article's subtitle): Just as Mikhail Gorbachev predicted, the Commonwealth of Independent States is merely a 'soap bubble in history'. External link in |publisher= (help)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  17. "NILT (Northern Ireland Life & Times) - Year: 2012 - Module: Political Attitudes - Variable: IRBRIT". Northern Ireland Life & Times Surveys, 1998 - present. ARK (Access Research Knowledge) Northern Ireland. 2012. Retrieved 2014-06-04. Irish not British 24%; More Irish than British 14%; Equally Irish and British 17%; More British than Irish 16%; British not Irish 23% (1% of Catholics, 45% of Protestants, 28% of 'No religion'); Other description (please specify) 6%; Don't know 1% External link in |publisher= (help)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>


External links