How Portland's Neighborhoods Got Their Names

davecito, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

There are 95 officially recognized neighborhoods in Portland, plus several more areas that people think are neighborhoods but aren't (hello, Hawthorne!). Many of these started out as separate communities that were later consolidated into Portland, and many of them have their roots in the great land rush of the 1850s, when the Donation Land Claim Act brought thousands of new settlers to Oregon.

We didn't bother with some neighborhoods whose names are based on topology (Hillside, Hillsdale, Southwest Hills, Sylvan-Highlands), geography (Northwest Industrial, Downtown, Far Southwest, North Tabor, South Tabor), or other obvious things (Old Town, Chinatown). We also omitted some that aren't commonly used.

Here they are, arranged according to quadrant. Yes, Portland defies the laws of math and language by having five quadrants. It's a special place.



In August 1875, this area just west of downtown was the site of an amusing neighborhood argument. As reported by The Oregonian, some 75 geese owned by local residents were being permitted to roam free, wreaking havoc on gardens and generally creating a nuisance. When a police officer tried to drive them away, he was set upon by several local women, all claiming ownership of the birds—the geese had intermingled for so long that no one knew which ones belonged to whom. A judge ordered that the geese be split up evenly among the interested women, and said he'd incarcerate anyone who started another goose-related ruckus. The nickname Goose Hollow emerged a few years later, first as a pejorative (this was a "seedy" part of town, and the incident made the locals seem like rubes), but residents came to embrace it.


This neighborhood at the western edge of Portland was named after its Hayhurst Elementary School. When the school was planned in the 1950s, it was called David Douglas, in honor of the famed Scottish botanist (and namesake of the Pacific Northwest's Douglas fir trees). When the school opened in 1954, it was changed to honor Elizabeth Hayhurst, the first president of the Oregon Parent-Teacher Association.


Merzperson, Wikimedia Commons

Established in 1912, Maplewood took its name from a station on the Oregon Electric Railway, which connected Portland to Salem.


Named after Charles Edward Anson Markham, who was poet laureate of Oregon (1923-1931) despite only having lived in the state for the first four years of his life. As a poet, he went by Edwin Markham, and his most famous work was "The Man with the Hoe." Markham is not to be confused with Philip A. Marquam, an Oregon legislator and real estate developer for whom the Marquam Bridge (a.k.a. the I-5 bridge) is named.


Named because it's at the lower end of Burlingame Avenue, of course. Burlingame's origin is murky, but it may have been inspired by the town of that name in California. (The neighborhood that one might expect to be called North Burlingame is called Hillsdale.)



Raul, Flickr // CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

The unimaginatively named Northwest District is more commonly known as the Alphabet District because the neighborhood features 22 east-west streets that go alphabetically (starting at the south) from Burnside up to Wilson. They're all named for prominent Portlanders of yesteryear. Another prominent Portlander, Matt Groening, repurposed a few of these street names for Simpsons characters: Flanders, Kearney, Lovejoy, and Quimby.


So named because the neighborhood is next to Forest Park, which is so named because it's a forest that's also a park.


Running along the west side of the Willamette River, Linnton was incorporated as its own town in 1910, then merged with Portland in 1915. It was named after Lewis F. Linn, a U.S. senator from Missouri who strongly advocated for what would eventually be known as the Donation Land Claim Act of 1850, which encouraged settlement of Oregon by giving land away for free. Many of the people for whom Portland streets, schools, and buildings are named came here because of the DLC.


Portland's newest and most fashionable neighborhood was nothing but warehouses and industrial buildings until the mid-1980s, when it started to get the urban renewal (and gentrification) treatment. Formerly known as the Northwest Industrial Triangle, it was given its new name in 1985 by a gallery owner named Thomas Augustine, who told a magazine writer that the neighborhood's artists, toiling away in old, crusty buildings, were like pearls inside oysters. But it had a double meaning: Augustine had already taken to calling it "Pearl's district," after his friend Pearl Marie Amhara, an Ethiopian Christian polyglot who traveled the world raising money for the poor.



Some parts of Portland stole their names from other places, but Brooklyn wasn't one of them. It was Brookland at first, so named in 1851 by Giddeon Tibbets, the first white settler in the area, because of its many rivers and creeks. It evolved into Brooklyn a few decades later. The neighborhood was crime and poverty-stricken in the 1960s, but by the 1980s had been turned into a pleasant residential area, taking advantage of its adjacency to the east side of the Willamette River.


Named for two of the parks in it. The Creston part, like many local names, comes from a land developer. But the Kenilworth part comes from Sir Walter Scott's 1821 novel of that name. Scott's books are also referenced in Portland's Woodstock neighborhood and in Waverly and Ivanhoe. It was trendy in America in the late 1800s to name stuff after Scott books. Watch for land being developed now to have names like "Bella," "Edward," and "Twilight."


Named for two of the three streets that form its triangular boundaries (the other is 82nd Avenue). It's the only hyphenated neighborhood named that way. Foster Road comes from early resident Philip Foster, a prominent farmer and the brother-in-law of F.W. Pettygrove, one of Portland's founders. Powells Valley Road, named after the family of Jackson Powell who homesteaded land in the Gresham area in 1853, became Powell Boulevard.


This mouthful of a neighborhood, home to the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (OMSI), was named for two 1800s fellows: Rev. Chauncey O. Hosford, a Methodist minister and schoolteacher (and at one time the owner of the property at the top of Mt. Tabor), and George Abernethy, Oregon's first governor. Why those two? Because the neighborhood is actually named after two of its schools, Hosford Middle and Abernethy Elementary.


Oliver P. Lent was an Ohio stone mason who came to the Portland area with his wife in 1852, settling in what is now Lents in 1866. He became a prominent farmer and rancher, and he won the right to name the settlement in a coin toss with fellow settler William Johnson (who got to immortalize himself in Johnson's Creek as a consolation prize).


In 1853, some Methodists in this area were starting a church and wanted to use an area name, only the area didn't have a name yet. So they gave it one: Mt. Tabor, after the mountain in Biblical Palestine. Rev. Clinton Kelly's son Plympton suggested it. The mountain at the center of this neighborhood is actually a volcano! (Not the fun kind, though—it's what's called a volcanic cinder cone. And it's not much of a mountain either, being only about 425 feet higher than the land around it.)


Simeon G. Reed worked in the liquor and grocery business for wealthy entrepreneur William S. Ladd, became an investor in various river-based concerns, and soon came to be involved in land development. He got rich. The neighborhood named for him is home to the liberal arts college that's also named for him.


The neighborhood is named after Dr. Richmond Kelly, son of Rev. Clinton Kelly and brother of the Kelly boy who suggested calling it Mt. Tabor back in 1853.


Sellwood, technically known as Sellwood-Moreland, contains Westmoreland and is adjacent to Eastmoreland. Those were named after real estate developer, lawyer, and judge Julius Caesar Moreland. Sellwood was named after Rev. John Sellwood, and started as its own city, incorporated in 1887. Portland annexed it in 1893.


Most people call this funky area Belmont, after the main street that goes through it. How it got its official name of Sunnyside is unknown, though considering the climate in Portland, it may have been sarcastic.


The title of a novel by Sir Walter Scott. See also: Creston-Kenilworth.



The word is Spanish for a grove of poplar or cottonwood trees ("alamo"). None of these trees ever lined Alameda Street or its namesake neighborhood, but it came in thanks to its secondary meaning of a “tree lined avenue.”


Actually Beaumont-Wilshire, but nobody calls it that. From the French for "beautiful mountain"—a stretch, since the subdivision is only slightly elevated, but developers wanted to emphasize it.


Derek, Flickr // CC BY-SA 2.0

Named for Concordia University, which has been the center of the neighborhood since 1905. The university gets its name from the 16th-century collection of Lutheran doctrinal teachings, and is one of 10 colleges and universities in the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod’s Concordia University System.


Gets its name from Tom Cully, one of the many settlers in the early 1850s who took advantage of the Donation Land Claim Act.


That'd be Ulysses S. Grant. As an army lieutenant, he spent a year stationed at Fort Vancouver (in Washington, across the Columbia River from Portland) and made local friends, one of whom (attorney general George H. Williams) he appointed to his cabinet when he later became president. After his presidency, he visited Portland in 1879 and in 1883. The Grant Park neighborhood includes U.S. Grant Place, Grant Street, and Grant High School.


This is one of Portland's smallest neighborhoods (about 0.18 square miles), and it's centered around the Hollywood Theatre, a 1926 movie palace that is now a lovingly restored three-screen art-house. Before the theater came along, this neighborhood was part of the adjacent Rose City Park district. So impressed were the locals by the ornate cinema that they broke off a chunk of Rose City Park and renamed it Hollywood. As it happens, the area was already informally named Hollyrood, after the Scottish Holyrood, so it wasn't much of a change.


The subdivision was platted in 1887 by descendants of Capt. William Irving, an important figure in the early maritime history of Portland. The neighborhood includes some of the land that Irving settled in the 1850s as part of the Donation Land Claim Act.


Historically the part of Portland with the highest concentration of African American residents, this neighborhood was called Highland until 1989, when Union Avenue (which runs down the middle of it) was renamed Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard. A name change for the neighborhood quickly ensued.


Like many Portland neighborhoods, Sabin is named after one of its public schools. The Sabin School was named after Ella C. Sabin, who was the city superintendent and a high school principal in the late 1800s.


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Named for Timothy Sullivan, an Irishman who came to Oregon with his Tasmanian wife in 1851 and settled on this land. Sullivan's Gulch is wedged between the Lloyd District and Irvington, and often gets lumped in with them. But in olden times, it was a lush, beautiful area filled with running water. (During the Great Depression, it was also full of shantytowns.) Its southern border is I-84, the Banfield Freeway, which residents considered renaming Sullivan's Gulch Pike in 1955 before thinking better of it.



In 1909, 462 acres of farmland were sold to a development company founded by two Portlanders and two Seattleites. The company had just finished a Seattle project called Laurelhurst, named for the local laurel shrubbery ("hurst" is an old Anglo-Saxon word meaning a wood or grove), and they reused the name for Portland. They apparently liked it a lot: they named their own firm, formally organized in May 1909, The Laurelhurst Company.


Streetcars running through Mount Tabor Village, as it was known in the 1890s, abbreviated it "Mt. Ta. Villa" on their destination signs. Later that became "Monta.Villa," which evidently had a nice ring to it because residents adopted it as the official name.



The park is under the St. Johns Bridge, on the east side of the Willamette River. The bridge has a gothic look to it, hence the name.


An actual island in the Columbia River, which separates Portland, Ore., from Vancouver, Wash. Oregon claims Hayden Island, but the man it's named after, Gay Hayden, mostly owned property in Vancouver, not Portland. He owned most of Hayden Island, too, and lived in a fancy house there.


In the early 20th century, Kenton went from being a small farming community to a company town built by a meat-packing company. Developers had Kenwood in mind for its name, but another settlement in Oregon was already using it, so they went with Kenton. Both names were probably inspired by Francis McKenna, one of the prominent real estate developers of the day. There's a big Paul Bunyan statue here.


This subdivision, platted in 1906, is on a bluff with a view of the Willamette River. You might say it "overlooks" it.


There was an attempt to form a city of Portsmouth around Portsmouth Avenue and Lombard Street in the 1880s, but plans fell through. The area is near the mouth of Portland's harbor, which may have inspired the name. There are also old cities by that name in New Hampshire and Virginia, both namesakes of the seaport and naval base in England.


megan, Flickr // CC BY-NC 2.0

A settler named James John (or Johns—he signed it both ways on documents) came to the area in the 1840s. A widower and something of a hermit, he was also known for his compassion and service. He operated a general store and a ferry service on the Willamette. The locals liked him, calling him "Old Jimmy Johns" and "St. Johns." St. Johns was a separate incorporated city from 1902-1915, when residents voted to join Portland.


Methodists established Portland University in 1891, but it lasted less than a decade before financial problems forced its sale to the Catholics, who reopened it in 1901 as Columbia University. It was renamed University of Portland in 1935, and it remains the focus of the University Park neighborhood to this day.



Most of the many American places called Humboldt are ultimately named after the German naturalist Baron Friedrich Alexander von Humboldt. Portland's Humboldt neighborhood may have also been more directly inspired by Humboldt County and Humboldt Bay in California, or by a tavern called Humboldt House (owned by the Kroetz family) in East Portland in the 1880s.


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The Boise subdivision, formed in 1892, may have been named for Reuben Boise, a prominent citizen of the 1850s for whom Boise Elementary School was named. But there's no record of any official connection between him and the Boise plat; moreover, he pronounced his name "Boyce," while folks in the Boise neighborhood say "Boisy." There was also W.L. Boise, a notary public around the turn of the century whose name appears on real estate documents. And of course there's Boise, Idaho, which the developers may have been thinking of. No one knows for sure.


This was the center of the city of Albina before Albina was folded into Portland. It was named after Rev. Thomas Lamb Eliot, a Unitarian minister who came to Oregon in 1867 and quickly became one of the area's most influential religious figures. He was also president of the Portland Children's Home, the Oregon Humane Society, and the Portland Associated Charities, with additional work in the art association and library association.


The word comes from the Italian for "foot of a mountain," thus "foothill." It was officially platted in 1889 and may have been Portland's first planned community.


Ralph B. Lloyd moved from California to Portland in 1905, returned to L.A. in 1911, struck oil, got rich, moved back to Portland, and bought a ton of land. The area named for him is also home to the Lloyd Center mall.



This hip artsy area, centered around Alberta Street, is mostly in the Humboldt and King neighborhoods. The street got its name in 1891, when the English royal family—including Princess Alberta, fourth daughter of Queen Victoria—was all the rage.


A separate town consolidated into Portland in 1891, named for Mrs. Albina Page, wife of one of the founders.


There is no Hawthorne neighborhood. In fact, the hipster-y section of Hawthorne Boulevard that people think of as "Hawthorne" doesn't belong to ANY neighborhood: running east-west, it's the dividing line between the Buckman and Sunnyside neighborhoods to the north and Hosford-Abernethy and Richmond to the south. At any rate, it was named after Dr. J.C. Hawthorne, cofounder of Oregon's first mental hospital.


Found in the disappointingly named South Portland neighborhood, John's Landing isn't named after the same person as St. Johns, but after the B.P. John Furniture Company, a major manufacturer back when it was an industrial area.


Portland's oldest planned residential neighborhood (now part of the Hosford-Abernethy hood) was named for the man who developed it, William S. Ladd, a New Englander who came to Portland in 1851 and subsequently became very, very wealthy. Ladd's Addition, notable for its X-shaped grid of streets, was never home to Mr. Ladd, whose mansion was in the fancier part of town.


The increasingly popular dining, music, and arts center, situated on Mississippi Avenue, is mostly in the Boise neighborhood. Why'd they call it Mississippi Avenue? We'll give you a hint: its part of a cluster of parallel avenues that also include Michigan, Missouri, Minnesota, Montana, and Maryland. Sometimes the obvious explanation is the right one.

Mike Nelson, AFP/Getty Images
How 9 Honolulu Neighborhoods Got Their Names
Mike Nelson, AFP/Getty Images
Mike Nelson, AFP/Getty Images

The Aloha State’s largest city, Honolulu, is one of the most distinctive capitals in the United States, thanks to its colorful Polynesian history, World War II sites and museums, and melting-pot ethnic diversity. It’s also one of the few U.S. cities with a volcano looming over it—the iconic Diamond Head, known in Hawaiian as Lēʻahi. Honolulu is also unusual for a state capital in that most of its neighborhood names aren’t in English. Instead, almost every single district’s name comes from the Hawaiian language—one of the state’s two official languages—and they almost all have interesting backstories. (Honolulu itself means “calm harbor.”) Here are a few more.


Nicholas Kamm, AFP/Getty Images

Once a seat of governmental power for the island of Oahu (likely due in no small part to the excellent surfing conditions), Waikiki became a popular tourist destination with the explosion of surf culture in Hollywood films in the late 1950s and early ’60s. The village itself, though, dates back to at least the 13th century, when it was mostly swampland—the word Waikiki means spouting water, after the springs and rivers that abounded in the area.


Located mauka (on the mountain side) of Diamond Head, Kaimuki is more down-to-earth than its glitzy neighbor Waikiki, with a reputation for eclectic boutiques, book stores, and affordable restaurants, but it has a legendary past. The word ka-imu-ki likely translates to “the oven,” referring to the (also known as ki, or Cordyline fruticosa) plant, a member of the asparagus family. It’s said that the mythical Menehune people steamed the plants in underground ovens on the hillside in the Kaimuki area.


A community east of Waikiki, ʻĀina Haina was for centuries called Wailupe, which means “kite water,” for the kite flying that was popular in the area. It was also the last outpost of the city, where the residential blocks turned into pig and dairy farms. It was one such dairy farm, in fact, that brought about its name change—the Hind-Clarke Dairy was once a leading local dairy best known for its ice cream parlor on Kalanianaole Highway, which runs through the area. When owner Robert Hind sold the dairy in 1946, the neighborhood was named after him: ʻĀina Haina means “Hind’s Land” in Hawaiian.


Kaka'ako Street Art
jj-walsh, Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Kakaʻako has seen a lot of change throughout the years. The neighborhood was originally home to agricultural terraces, fishponds, and salt ponds, which were considered highly valuable. In the 1880s, immigrant camps were built in Kakaʻako, which later became quarantine zones as smallpox, bubonic plague, and Hansen’s disease (more commonly known as leprosy) hit the island. By the ’40s, there were around 5000 working class people living in the area who came from as far away as Portugal and China. Around the same time, the area was becoming increasingly industrialized, with many of those people working at the Honolulu Iron Works. Today, Kakaʻako is known as a hip commercial area with craft cocktail bars and expensive condo buildings. But the word kakaʻako harkens back to its humble roots: It has been translated to mean a place to "chop, beat or prepare thatching," a reference to the local salt marshes where Hawaiians once gathered the grass for their roofs.


Connecting downtown Honolulu and the Mānoa neighborhood, Makiki is a mix of blue-collar and well-to-do Honolulans, partially stemming from its past as a plantation district—both rich plantation owners and workers once lived there. It will probably always best be known as the childhood home of Barack Obama, however, who spent most of his youth living in his maternal grandparents’ apartment on Beretania Street. But long before the future president lived there, the valley was home to a basalt quarry, where the stone was specifically used to fashion octopus lures. This explains the name makiki—it’s the Hawaiian word for the weights in the lures.


Just inland from downtown Honolulu, the neighborhood of Mānoa consists of an entire valley, stretching roughly between the Koʻolau Mountain Range and Lunalilo Freeway. Many Hawaiian myths are set in Mānoa; it’s said to be the home of the Menehune [PDF], who controlled the valley from a fort on Rocky Hill, near where Punahou School now sits. As for the name itself, mānoa is a Hawaiian word that translates to “thick,” “depth,” or “vast,” which certainly describes the valley itself.


The neighborhood of Mōʻiliʻili lies just across the freeway from the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa, sandwiched between it and Waikiki. King William Lunalilo owned the land in the mid-19th century, and before that, Queen Kamamalu's summer cottages stood on the site where The Willows restaurant now stands. Mōʻiliʻili’s name comes from an old Hawaiian myth wherein three characters are teased by a moʻo, a mischievous lizard totem god, who then gets zapped by a lightning bolt and transformed into a pile of rocks, now a specific hill in the neighborhood of the old Hawaiian Church. Kamo'ili'ili means “pebble lizard” or “place of the pebble lizards,” and the name was later abbreviated to Mō’ili’ili. The neighborhood is also known as McCully-Mōʻiliʻili, after Lawrence McCully (1831-1892) of the Hawaiian Supreme Court.


The phrase “ka pā lama” translates to “the enclosure of lama wood,” and lama is the word for the Hawaiian ebony tree, which once heavily forested the area. Also called the Hawaiian persimmon for its astringent persimmon-like fruit, the lama tree is found on every Hawaiian island except Ni‘ihau and and Kaho'olawe. It was used by native Hawaiians for food, medicine, frames for fishing nets, and religious purposes, such as the construction of temples. The tree itself represented Laka, the goddess of hula dance, and the trees are used in the hula performances. While lama usually refers to the tree, the word itself literally translates as “light” in Hawaiian, and by extension enlightenment—because that’s what you attain when you learn the hula. These days, Kāpalama is often combined with the adjacent Liliha neighborhood and referred to as a conglomerate district, Liliha-Kāpalama.


View of Palolo Valley from Mu-Rang-Sa Buddhist Temple
Patricia Barden, Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Like nearby Mānoa, Pālolo takes up an entire, very picturesque valley. Snuggled between Kaimuki and the mountains, the valley’s mauka (mountain side) is mostly agricultural land, home to orchid nurseries and grass farms, while the makai (ocean side) is densely residential, populated mostly by simple plantation-style cottages. Although it’s only four miles from downtown Honolulu and well within the city limits, Pālolo maintains a small-town, rural aesthetic, and as such, its name is appropriate: The word pālolo means “clay” and pertains to the type of the soil in the valley.

How 10 Edinburgh Neighborhoods Got Their Names

There’s evidence of people living in the Edinburgh area for 10,000 years, beginning with Mesolithic camps from around 8500 BCE. Since then, the area of Scotland’s modern capital has been ruled by the Romans, Celtic tribes, and, frequently, the British Empire. Yet throughout the centuries, Edinburgh has managed to maintain its own distinct personality, with a hodgepodge of diverse little neighborhoods. Here, we’ll spotlight a handful of them and tell the stories of how their names came to be.


Located in the southern part of the city, Inch Park is the area that surrounds Inch House. The name has nothing to do with the unit of measurement—it stems from the Gaelic word innis, which originally meant island, the theory being that the area was a dry, raised “island” within a damp, forested area. According to the Edinburgh City Council, in 1617 an L-shaped tower was built on the property; the building was added to many, many times over the years and changed hands multiple times. It was last sold to the city of Edinburgh in 1946, which turned it into a primary school and later a community center, although it’s no longer used for either today. The neighborhood is also known as “The King’s Inch” or usually just “The Inch.”


First known as Bonnytoun, this milling village situated on the Water of Leith river helped comprise the Barony of Broughton, as documented in King David’s confirmation charter of the Holyrood Abbey in 1143—along with the region that’s now known as Broughton. The village’s name had become Bonnington by the late 18th century. Bonnytoun may mean “bonny town,” with the Scottish word bonny meaning good or attractive. This word also evolved into the Scottish surnames Bonynton and Boynton.


Princes Street pictured from Calton Hill in the center of Edinburgh, Scotland
Oli Scarff, AFP/Getty Images

Princes Street is the main drag in Edinburgh’s New Town, where both locals and tourists go in search of name-brand shopping and swanky nightlife, and the road loans its name to the surrounding area. With almost no buildings on its south border, the area offers spectacular views of Edinburgh Castle and the medieval Old Town surrounding it; Princes Street Gardens and its fabulous floral clock are a centerpiece of the city. The street itself was first known as St. Giles Street, for the town’s patron saint, who has a spectacular cathedral named for him just a few blocks away. But King George III was turned off by the aesthetic of St. Giles, who was also the patron saint of lepers, and rechristened the thoroughfare after not just one but two of his sons, Prince George (later King George IV) and Prince Frederick, Duke of York and Albany. Hence, it’s not "Prince Street,” and neither is it Prince’s Street, but Princes Street—plural. (Fun fact: The New Zealand city of Dunedin also has a Princes Street that’s named after Edinburgh’s, as Dunedin itself is named after the city—the Gaelic version of Edinburgh is Dùn Èideann.)


Cow sculpture at Cowgate in Edinburgh

Jessica Spengler, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

This one seems obvious—it’s a gate for cows, right? Almost. The gritty Cowgate district is in the medieval Old Town, where you’ll find one of the oldest buildings in Edinburgh, the subtle Magdalen Chapel from 1544, with its pre-Reformation stained glass windows. The Cowgate itself is the low street to the parallel Royal Mile, which is the high street, and it’s got a reputation for being dark and gloomy. That's nothing new: Back in the 1400s, the street was used to herd cattle and other livestock to the nearby Grassmarket, and it was an overcrowded slum by the mid-18th century. But it wasn’t a gate, and it never had one. The word gate is Scots for “way” or “road,” which it shares with several Germanic languages—possibly influenced by Scotland’s close proximity to Scandinavia and an early Viking presence in the city.


Kids pass away the time during the summer school holidays on the beach at Portobello on July 29, 2004 in Edinburgh, Scotland
Chris Furlong, Getty Images

No, it's not connected to the mushroom (at least not directly). Today it’s a cute seaside community on the Firth of Forth, east of the city, but in the 13th century Portobello was a stretch of moorland called Figgate Muir (or moor), with figgate thought to be a Saxon word for “cow’s ditch” or “cow’s road.” It became a haven for smugglers and sailors by the early 1700s, and in 1742, a Scottish seaman named George Hamilton built himself a cottage there. Hamilton had recently served during the British capture of Porto Bello, Panama, in 1739, and he borrowed the exotic-sounding name for his little house: porto meaning harbor or port, and bello meaning beautiful. Portbello Hut stood until 1851, and as a village built up around it—thanks to a deposit of clay leading to a boom in earthenware production—the name stuck.


On the southeastern slope of Edinburgh’s imposing extinct volcano known as Arthur’s Seat, the neighborhood of Duddingston is best known for lovely Duddingston Kirk (kirk being Scots for church), a prime example of Scoto-Norman architecture dating back to the 12th century. There’s a reason it was built in the Norman style: It was commissioned by Dodin, a Norman knight who received a large amount of property from King David I. He named the surrounding area in his own honor and began calling himself “Dodin de Dodinestun,” then named the church after the region. A town of the same name sprang up around the church, and the nearby loch (lake) was given the name too. The word later polymorphed into Doudinstoun, in the Scots spelling, and finally into Duddingston, in the English spelling. The town has long been a favorite hangout of Edinburgh’s artists and writers, such as novelist Sir Walter Scott, and the theme continues: The kirk's gardens are used today as a venue during the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, the world’s largest arts festival.


Busy, urban Dalry is right in the middle of the action, between Haymarket and Gorgie in the center of Edinburgh. Its main street, Dalry Road, is packed with shops and restaurants, and is the beginning of the A70 road, but it wasn’t always so urban: The neighborhood originally lay outside of the walls of the Old Town, as a part of the agricultural estate of Dalry House. As for the word Dalry, the jury’s out on its meaning: It could be from dail rig, which is Scottish Gaelic for the "place of the fields (or dales)," or dail ruigh, meaning "king's field." Dail fhraoich, meaning "heathery field," is a possible etymology as well.


Technically an Edinburgh suburb, Kingsknowe is mostly known for its large golf course, appropriately named Kingsknowe Golf Course. The town’s name has nothing to do with any smartypants Scottish monarchs: Knowe is just another word for knoll, a small rounded hill, one that’s often grassy and is sometimes associated with faeries.


Stockbridge Market
gnomonic, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

With its twee cafés and boutiques, the very Instagrammable neighborhood of Stockbridge seems to explain itself: It does have a notable bridge, built in 1801, which is indeed called Stock Bridge. It’s a stone bridge, though, and the name Stockbridge refers not to livestock but to the Scots word stock, meaning timber. It’s not clear what happened to the wooden bridge, but you can recognize the etymology in the English word stocks, as in the wooden frame used to lock criminals’ hands and feet and display them publicly.


Dean Village is known as a tranquil oasis in the center of the city, famous for its picturesque cobblestone lanes, colorful gardens, and quaint fairy-tale architecture, and it has a history reaching back at least 800 years. It was first a mill town called Water of Leith Village, after the Water of Leith river that snakes through the area, with about a dozen working mills simultaneously in operation at one point. But in his 12th century Holyrood Abbey charter, King David I referred to the village as Dene, which ultimately became Dean Village. The name change doesn't have anything to do with a university or a guy named Dean; in Scots, a dene is a ravine or a valley. The English equivalent of this word is den, which still crops up today in place names such as in Camden or Hampden.


Right next door to Duddingston is—or shortly will be—the fresh new district of Treverlen, a developing area of Edinburgh that shares its name with the still-in-the-works Treverlen Park, which kicked off in 2016. The name of the new park was carefully chosen by the Duddingston and Craigentinny Neighbourhood Partnership after consulting the public. They picked an old name for a medieval settlement that was included in Dodin of Dodinestun’s massive land grant from King David: Treverlen or Traverlin, dating back to at least the 11th century, No one’s quite sure what this word means, but it was likely based on a Celtic Brythionic tongue, since the village of Treverlen predated the use of Gaelic or Saxon languages in greater Edinburgh. Based on this clue, there are a few theories: It could be from tref + gwr + lên, meaning “place of the learned man” or possibly tref + y + glyn, meaning “place of the learned women.” It might also be from tre + war + lyn, meaning “the farm at or on the loch,” or similarly traefor llyn, meaning “settlement by the lake (or loch) of reeds (or rushes).” Trevelen Park is set to be completed in 2019.


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