Most of us can rhyme off the capital cities of our nations ten provinces and three territories. But do you know the origin and meanings of the names of these fair cities? Read on and learn.
St. John’s, Newfoundland (Nfld) There is some disagreement regarding the history behind how St. John’s acquired its name. The most widely accepted explanation comes from the Portuguese explorer Gaspar Corte-Real. He recorded the area as Rio de San Johem in 1519. The earliest recording of the modern-day spelling came from an English merchant who travelled to Newfoundland in the 1570s.
Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island (P.E.I.) In 1764, Captain Samuel Holland was appointed as Surveyor-General for the British Empire and was tasked with surveying Britain’s newly acquired land in North America. He arrived on Prince Edward Island, then called Island of St. John, and recommended both the current location of Charlotte town as well as the name Charlotte town to honour Queen Charlotte, wife of George III (Reigning monarch at the time) of England.
Halifax, Nova Scotia The city adopted its name from Lord Halifax, the President of the British Board of Trade, at the time. The name was chosen in 1749, when approximately 2,500 settlers landed on the Chebucto peninsula to establish a permanent settlement.
Fredericton, New Brunswick This city was originally called Ste. Anne’s Point until 1785. Governor Thomas Carleton assigned it the name Frederic’s town after Prince Frederick, Duke of York. Shortly afterward, it was shortened to the name Fredericton.
Quebec, Quebec The origin of the city’s name, Quebec, comes from the Algonquin language, meaning narrow passage or straight. Originally it was used to describe the narrowing of the St. Lawrence river near the current site of the City of Quebec.
Winnipeg, Manitoba The Cree named the lake to the north Win, which means muddy and nipee, which means water. In 1873, Winnipeg was incorporated as a city.
Regina, Saskatchewan Cree hunters stacked buffalo bones in the area of Regina and named it Oskana-ka-asateki or the place where bones are piles. Early explorers, fur traders and settlers called the area Pile of Bones. It was decided in 1882 when the town began to grow, that it required a more regal name. Princess Louise suggested the town be named Regina in honour of her mother and the reigning monarch, Queen Victoria.
Edmonton, Alberta The city was originally named Ford Edmonton by the Hudson Bay Company in 1795 when it was used as a fur-trading post. It became incorporated as the City of Edmonton in 1904.
Victoria, British Columbia (B.C.) Victoria started as a trading post founded by the Hudson Bay Company in March 1843 and was officially named Fort Victoria, after Queen Victoria. In 1852, the name was changed to Victoria, and it was incorporated as a city in 1862.
Whitehorse, Yukon Originally called White Horse, the name came from the foam in the nearby rapids on the Yukon River, which looked similar to the manes on white horses. The city was incorporated in 1950 and replaced Dawson as the capital of the Yukon in 1953. Yellowknife, North West Territories (N.W.T.)
Yellowknife acquired its name from the aboriginal group know as the T’atsacot’ine or Yellowknives. It became the capital of the North West Territories in 1967. Known for its valuable minerals, it has the traditional name of Smbak’e, which means money place.
Iqaluit, Nunavut Iqaluit means place of many fish in Inuktitut. From 1955 to 1987, the settlement was named Frobisher Bay, after the explorer Martin Frobisher, who searched for the Northwest Passage. In 1987, the town officially reverted to its original Inuktitut name, Iqaluit, and was designated as a city in 2001.
Ottawa, Canada The name Ottawa is derived from the Algonquin word adawe, which means to trade. The settlement was originally incorporated as Bytown in 1850. The name was changed to Ottawa in 1855.