How Each New York City Borough Was Named

In a captivating and insightful video, Patrick Foote from Name Explain delved into the fascinating history behind the names of the boroughs in New York City. Known as the melting pot of America, New York City’s borough names reflect the diverse cultures that have converged within its vibrant streets.

Foote began by highlighting the Dutch origins of some of the borough names. The Bronx, for instance, was named after Jonas Bronck, a Swedish settler who purchased the land in 1639. Brooklyn, derived from the Dutch word “Brueckelen,” meaning marshland, was once a village settled by the Dutch. Staten Island, on the other hand, was named after the Dutch parliament, known as the “States General.” Moving on to Queens, Foote revealed that it was named after Queen Catherine of Braganza, the wife of King Charles II of England. The area of Brooklyn is situated in Kings County, which was named after King Charles II himself. These regal connections add a touch of historical grandeur to the borough names.

The story behind Manhattan, however, takes us back to the Indigenous Lenape people. The name “Manhattan” originated from the Lenape word “Mannahatta,” meaning “island of many hills.” It’s fascinating to think that this borough, with its iconic skyline, derives its name from the Native American heritage that once thrived there.

Foote also delved into the origins of the nickname “The Big Apple.” Contrary to popular belief, it did not originate from the city’s abundance of apple orchards. Instead, it dates back to the 1920s horse racing scene. The nickname was first heard by New York City newspaper sports journalist John Fitzgerald, who overheard stable hands in New Orleans referring to New York as the “Big Apple.” Intrigued by this catchy moniker, Fitzgerald popularized it in his columns, and it eventually found its way into the vibrant jazz clubs of the 1930s.

What truly makes New York City’s history captivating is the numerous name changes it has undergone over the centuries. In 1624, when the Dutch West India Company sent around 30 families to settle on an island in the northeastern part of the country, they named it New Amsterdam, as a nod to their homeland. Interestingly, before that, the land was known as New Angoulême, a name given by Italian explorer Giovanni da Verrazano in honor of the French King Francis I. However, in 1664, the British seized control of New Amsterdam and renamed it New York, in tribute to the Duke of York. This significant shift in power marked another chapter in the city’s rich and complex history.

As we delve into the origins of New York City’s borough names and its ever-evolving identity, we begin to appreciate the cultural tapestry that makes this city so unique. From Dutch settlers and British influence to Native American heritage, each borough name reflects a different chapter in the city’s vibrant story.

Foote also explained how some of the most notable streets in New York City were named.

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