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Anglotopia Magazine: What’s in a Name? The Various Names of London Throughout History

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Editor’s Note: This article originally appeared in the first issue of the Anglotopia magazine. Subscribe today to receive the next issue of our magazine and read about British History, Culture and Travel all in one place. Pre-order the next issue now before it sells out! Over the next few weeks we will be sharing many of the great features that premiered in the magazine first.

LONDON – the very name strikes such a cord with people who love that fair city. It conjures up an image of beautiful buildings, long history, the Thames, black taxis, red buses, red phone boxes, charming locals, and so much more.

London has been known by several names throughout its history and it also has different names all over the world based on the language spoken.

Here’s a fun list of a few.

Londinium – This was the original Roman name for the city they founded on the banks of the Thames and the root of all the future iterations. It varied based on language and translation – here are some examples: c. 115; Londinion c. 150; Londinio, Lundinio 4th century; Lundinium late 4th century; and Londini early 2nd century and c. 105.

Lundenwic – The port on the Thames founded by the Anglo-Saxons in the 7th or 8th century about a mile away from the original Londinium settlement. It means literally ‘London settlement or trading town.’

Londontown – A colloquial and affectionate nickname for London. Not quite accurate as London has never been a town – it’s always been a city from its founding. The phrase was made famous by the song A Nightingale Sang in Berkley Square and later in an album called London Town by Sir Paul McCartney.

Londres – This is the the French, Catalan, Portuguese, Spanish, and Filipino language name for London. The ‘r’ is silent and is pronounced as you would in Italian (see below).

Londra – Italian name for London.

The Big Smoke – London was given this label in the 19th century due to its choking smog and pollution caused by coal burning fires. It’s a name that stuck as another name for London. It’s also been known as The Old Smoke. London’s legendary fog became a relic of history thanks to air pollution laws in the 1950s and 1960s.

City of London – The Square Mile – This is the original settlement that forms the core of London. It’s about 1 square mile in size on the banks of the Thames and it has its own government structure separate from the rest of London. The outline of the City is still made up of the outlines of the original Roman Wall (and you can still see bits of it in random places around the City).

Greater London Authority – The current overall government for all the various boroughs that make up London. It has a mayor (currently Boris Johnson) and an elected assembly with 25 members. It’s only been around since the year 2000 when it was created by the Labour government. It is made up of the 32 boroughs in the historical London area along with the City of London (which has its own government).

London County Council – The former authority that governed London but it was abolished by Margaret Thatcher in 1986 (it was political, she hated its leader Ken Livingstone – later London’s first elected mayor). Its grand building is now home to some of London’s most popular tourist attractions such as the London Aquarium and the London Dungeon.

Metroland – An informal name for a suburban area northwest of London, England, served by the Metropolitan Line on the London Underground. It now has come to represent the golden age idea of London suburban life in the pre-World War II era as London spread out into suburbia via the Tube and other rail lines.

LHR – The airport abbreviation for London Heathrow airport.

LGW – The airport abbreviation for London Gatwick airport.

London City – The small airport located in the Docklands that has short haul flights to the rest of Europe.

LDN – The new shortened version of London often used in marketing but also used by people sending text messages.

Author: jonathan

Jonathan is a consummate Anglophile who launched Anglotopia.net in 2007 to channel his passion for Britain. Londontopia is its sister publication dedicated to everything London.

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  1. The London County Council (created 1889) was abolished 1965, upon the creation of the Greater London Council. It was the Greater London Council which ceased to exist from 1986.

  2. The R in Londres is not silent. IT is the French name for London and only the s is silent.

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