York / New York
The name York is from the Celtic Ebórakon, meaning area of yew trees. The name altered in form and meaning over the centuries as it was conquered by various peoples. It was called Eboracum by the Romans and Eoforwíc, or wild boar town, by the Anglo-Saxons.1 The Vikings conquered it in 866 and folk-etymologized it as Jorvik, or horse bay after a town in Norway. Jorvik was retaken by the Anglo-Saxons in 954, but retained a degree of independence until William the Conqueror fully subjugated the city and region. In the years following, Jorvik was reduced to York.
New York takes its name from James, Duke of York and Albany, who would eventually become King James II of England (and VII of Scotland). The British conquered the Dutch colony of New Amsterdam in 1664 and the territory was granted to James by his brother King Charles II. The city of New Amsterdam and the surrounding territory were renamed New York.2
2Illustrated Dictionary of Place Names: United States and Canada, edited by Kelsie B. Harder (New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold Company, 1976), 621.
Copyright 1997-2015, by David Wilton