Many cities have changed their name throughout history for one reason or another. Sometimes there was controversy around the change. Sometimes it was a natural evolution. Here’s a look at seven well-known cities that were originally called something else.


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The city of Bombay, India, became Mumbai in 1996, but its earliest names include Mombayn, Bombaim, Mombaim and Bombeye. There is some confusion as to how Bombay came to be, with some people pointing to the English corruption of the word Mumbai. The name Mumbai is actually a combination of several words — Mumba (Maha Amba) for Goddess Mumbadevi and Aayi, which is the word for mother in Marathi.

Los Angeles

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The history of Los Angeles’s name is confusing and disputed. One thing is certain – Los Angeles had a different name in its early days, one that would’ve been incredibly hard to market on sports team memorabilia. Some of the original names for Los Angeles include El Pueblo de Nuestra Señora de los Angeles de la Porciúncula and El Pueblo de Nuestra Señora la Reina de los Angeles del Río Porciúncula, which eventually evolved into Los Angeles.


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It may surprise you to learn that Tokyo was not always called Tokyo. The city’s roots can be traced back to its humble beginnings as a small fishing village known as Edo. During the Edo period, the city experienced incredible growth, both culturally and economically. With a population of over 1.1 million, it was already one of the largest cities in the world by the 1720s. In 1868, when the 700-year shogunate period ended, the name was changed to Tokyo, which means "eastern capital."


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Istanbul is one of the multiple cities in Turkey that underwent a name change. Istanbul was previously known as Constantinople until the collapse of the Ottoman Empire. Turkey officially changed its name in 1923, but it initially didn’t take. People were still sending legal documents and paychecks with Constantinople addresses on them. That was until 1930 when anything that said Constantinople stopped being delivered.


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Beijing has been known by a variety of names throughout its existence, including Dadu, Youzhou, Peiping, Shuntian, Yanjing and Peking. The change from Peking to Beijing really is just due to pronunciation. This is because of the formal adoption of the Pinyin method of writing Mandarin in the Roman alphabet. Depending on whether you speak Mandarin or Cantonese, the pronunciation will vary between Beijing or Peking.

New York

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When the Dutch settled what we now call New York City back in 1624, they called it New Amsterdam. By 1664, the Dutch surrendered the area to the British and the city was renamed for the Duke of York who was the one organizing the mission.

Ho Chi Minh City

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Saigon’s name was changed following the Vietnam War. The following year, the North decided to change Saigon to Ho Chi Minh City, in honor of the Communist Party prime minister. While its name was officially changed from Saigon to Ho Chi Minh City, you can expect to hear it called by either name depending on where you are traveling. Some residents still refer to the city as Saigon due to painful memories, while others use it more to define the outer suburbs of the city or for convenience.

The airport code is still for Saigon, which isn’t a big surprise given the difficulty of changing them. With some buses still referring to Saigon, as well as hotel developments, you can pretty much get away with saying either. Just don’t refer to it as Ho Chi Minh, leaving off the “City,” otherwise people will assume you are referring to the person.