Words index  Vivian Cook

English names for foreign parts

Often the English name of a foreign places bears slight resemblance to the one its inhabitants would recognise. Sometimes this due simply to differences in pronunciation or spelling, for example ‘Brussels’ and ‘Bruxelles’. Sometimes places have been respelled in recent years to to bring the English pronunciation more in line with that of the inhabitants, for instance ‘Peking’ and ‘Beijing’. Sometimes the English name draws on an earlier name ‘Germany’ for ‘Deutschland’ based on the Latin name ‘Germania’ or on another language, ‘Padua’ for Italian ‘Padova’ seems closer to the Venetian name ‘Padoa’.

English   Language of inhabitants
Athens    Athini
Austria  Österreich
Bavaria      Bayern
Belgium    Belgique
Benares       Varanasi (renamed)
Bombay         Mumbai (renamed)
Brussels   Bruxelles (French),  Brussel (Dutch)
Burma Myanmar (renamed)
Calcutta          Kolkata (renamed)    
China         Zhōnghuá (English form based on ‘Qin’, a particular dynasty)
Cologne  Koln
Copenhagen København (English form from low German version)
Florence      Firenze (Florence was the Roman name)
Geneva      Genf (German), Geneve (French), Ginevra (Italian)
Genoa Genova
Germany      Deutschland (Germania was the Roman name)
Greece     Hellas
Elsinore     Helsinger
Holland  Nederland (the Netherlands) (Holland is in fact only a region of the country)
Hungary        Magyarország
Japan             Nippon
Lake Geneva  Lac Leman (Lacus Lemannus was the Roman name)
Madras   Chennai (renamed)
Milan               Milano
Munich    Munchen (the English name is often pronounced with a fricative ‘ch’ as if it were a German word)
Padua        Padova (Italian), Padoa (Venetian )
Prague        Praha
Rome         Roma
Switzerland     Schweiz  (German), Suisse (French),  Svizzera (Italian), Svizra (Romansh), Confœderatio Helvetica (Latin on stamps)
The Hague Den Haag
Turin    Torino
Venice  Venezia (Italian),  Venezsia (Venetian)
Vienna    Wien
Wales      Cymru (Welsh)
Other pages: placenames French words English words in Japanese