Geographical renaming

Northern Ireland Republic of Ireland Names of the Irish state

Geographical renaming is the changing of the name of a geographical feature or area. This can range from the change of a street name to a 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 getting rid of an inappropriate or embarrassing name and as part of a sponsorship deal or publicity stunt[1]

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; Bombay Stock Exchange, IIT Bombay and the Bombay High Court in Mumbai; University of Madras, Madras Stock Exchange, the Madras High Court, and IIT Madras in Chennai; the University of Malaya, Keretapi Tanah Melayu, in Malaysia; and SWAPO (South West Africa People's Organization), the ruling party of Namibia.

Often the older name will persist in colloquial expressions. For example, the dish known in English as "Peking duck" retained that name even when the Chinese capital changed its transliteration to "Beijing".


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 pronunciation 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. However, the pronunciation in Mandarin has mostly stayed the same both before and after the change. 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, with a notable exception being place names in Ningxia, whose native Hui people speak Mandarin as their native language) 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[2]

Korean names

The introduction of the Revised Romanization of Korean in place of the McCune–Reischauer system in 7 July 2000 by the South Korean government has resulted in a string of changes to geographical names. The system is not used 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.

Changes resulting from splits and mergers

List of significant name changes

This is a list of internationally important or significant renamings.


Unrecognized states

Subnational entities

South Africa
United Kingdom

Cities and towns

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)[22] 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.


  1. ^ Sutter, John D. "Topeka 'renames' itself 'Google, Kansas'". CNN.
  2. ^ "yax-491 Road names as markers of history". Retrieved 2 April 2017.
  3. ^ "Full text of white paper on history, development of Xinjiang". Chinese Embassy, Ottawa. Xinhua. 2003-10-24. Retrieved 2010-08-23.
  4. ^ "Which Name to Use for Vietnam's Largest City". TripSavvy. Retrieved 2018-10-27.
  5. ^ Mahadi Al Hasnat (2 April 2018). "Mixed reactions as govt changes English spellings of 5 district names". Dhaka Tribune. Retrieved 8 April 2018.
  6. ^ Mahadi Al Hasnat (2 April 2018). "Mixed reactions as govt changes English spellings of 5 district names". Dhaka Tribune. Retrieved 8 April 2018.
  7. ^ História de Rondônia
  8. ^ "Newfoundland's name change now official". Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. 6 December 2001. Retrieved 10 March 2012.
  9. ^ Haida Nation; Her Majesty the Queen in Her Right of the Province of British Columbia (Autumn 2015). "Amending Agreement of the Kunst'aa guu - Kunst'aayah Reconciliation Protocol" (PDF). Retrieved 19 February 2018.
  10. ^ 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.
  11. ^ "História Nomes". (in Portuguese). Archived from the original on 13 August 2017. Retrieved 13 January 2015.
  12. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on March 4, 2010. Retrieved December 18, 2009.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  13. ^ Bryant, Nick (18 February 2011). "Australian town becomes SpeedKills in safety campaign". Retrieved 2 April 2017 – via
  14. ^ 09:43, 24 Nov 2005 at; tweet_btn(), Lester Haines. "Idaho town becomes". Retrieved 2 April 2017.CS1 maint: numeric names: authors list (link)
  15. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2006-05-07. Retrieved 2006-06-26.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  16. ^ "Chatological Humor (Updated 11.16.07)". Retrieved 2 April 2017.
  17. ^ 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...
  18. ^ 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,...
  19. ^ 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 ....
  20. ^ "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)
  21. ^ "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)
  22. ^ "NILT (Northern Ireland Life & Times) - Year: 2012 - Module: Political Attitudes - Variable: IRBRIT". Northern Ireland Life & Times Surveys, 1998 - present. Northern Ireland: ARK (Access Research Knowledge). 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%