how is it decided what names countries, town and cities have in different languages?

like do english counties have a different name in portuguese? what is the smallest town another nation would bother to translate? if its all based on historical stuff would a new town created today be called the same worldwide?

any help appreciated. thanks.


Pretty sure they don’t get translated?

Like - Londres is London in French, but Manchester is Manchester in French


This is a fascinating little rabbit hole to go down on a Sunday morning

In answer to your question, I think that a lot of it has to do with colonisation

1 Like

I find it weird that some of these have ‘translations’. Like Napoli is no harder to say or understand than Naples. It’s a place in Italy why wouldn’t it sound a bit Italian?


Also find it funny when we pick and choose when go use the local pronunciation Vs the foreign pronunciation.

“Welcome to our coverage live from Paris as we watch Par-ee Saint Germain…”

Think Ned Boulting mentioned that on Football Cliches.


Brits saying Bayern Munich is the weirdest one. Bavaria Munich or Bayern Munchen, be consistent.

And they’re just called fc Bayern anyway


The most ridiculous Italian example is calling Livorno “Leghorn”


Neufchâtel sur Tyne


This guy decides it


Driving in Belgium is something else.

Very much the old vs modern that fashion, isn’t it? I think older names seem lodged as the Anglicised while stuff that was adopted/learned more recently gets an attempt to keep the local pronunciation.

As ccb says I tjonk it will be colonisation. Previous generations of Middle Classes wanted to show their superiority by covering up foreigners but now they want to look cultured.


I have a case of the 2016 vintage in my cellar :face_with_monocle:


It also seems to be selective when the native naming is used and when the anglicised one is. For example, it wasn’t until long after I moved to Nijmegen that I learned that in English it’s called Nymegen (from a British bank statement, no less), but I have never once seen it referred to by that spelling in any English media.

Because of the poorly maintained roads?

See also ‘Inter Milan’

Seems like every town has a French and a Flemish name. You can be driving along looking for signs to a specific city but it might be displayed in the other language and throw you off.


Most of these are surely just mis-pronunciations of the local names that have been around so long that they have become the customary way of referring to places in English.

You can see how Livorno>Legorno>Leghorn, especially amongst generations of people who’d not seen it written down. The naming/spelling of places even in England was pretty fluid if you go back a few hundred years.

It’s less likely to happen with places that the English speaking world has come into regular contact with more recently.

1 Like

Some weird ones for countries. Weird that we call Denmark that when they call it Danmark, and we do call the Danish people Danes.

1 Like

See also Cruijff vs Cruyff and Feijenoord vs Feyenoord.

It’s because the British don’t understand the difference between “ij” and “y” in the Dutch language. Wait until they find out about “ei”, it’ll blow their mind.

1 Like