Lost Lands: Place names that are off the map

Let’s say you like the basic concept of a place name, but you’re not so thrilled  when it’s tied to the image of a specific locale.  If, for example, you’re thinking Tulsa sounds like a nice, friendly, easygoing,  Western name– but then suddenly the image of Oklahoma oil fields spring to mind, or say you think Trenton might be the perfect boy’s name—if it weren’t for the New Jersey connection.

There is one way around this.  You could consider place names that are no longer on the map, either because of a name change, possibly for political reasons, or because the place itself disappeared—or may have never even existed at all.

Here, some romantic, faraway examples, mostly with non-specific images:

ALBION—old poetic name for England

ANGLIA—Latin name of England

ANNAM—historic name for part of Vietnam

ARABY—old poetic name for Arabia

ATRIA –ancient city in central Italy

ATLANTIS—legendary island supposed to have sunk into the Atlantic

AVALON-another legendary island, this one featured in the Arthurian tales (though one still exists in California)

BRIXIA—the ancient Latin name of the modern Northern Italian city of Brescia

CANDIA –old name of Crete

CANTON—Chinese city now called Guangzhou

CARAL –a Peruvian settlement considered the most ancient city of the Americas

CEYLON—old name of Sri LankaCILICIA – the ancient name of southern Turkey

COBA—large ruined city of the Pre-Columbian Mayan civilization, located in the state of Quintana Roo, Mexico

CORINTH—ancient city in the Peloponnesus (there is a modern city of that name)

DACIA—ancient province in southeast Europe inhabited by the Thracian people

DAHOMEY—old name of Benin

DAMASIA –sank into the Ammersee, Germany

EDO –the original name of Tokyo, changed in 1868

FERDINANDEA- a submerged volcanic island south of Sicily

IZAPA – chief city of the Izapa civilization which once extended through present day Mexico and Guatemala

KANE – a city in Wyoming that was lost when the Yellowtail Dam was built

KRISTIANIA/CRISTIANIA—the name by which Oslo, Norway was known for three centuries

LOULAN – an ancient Chinese city

MADRAS—Indian city now called Chennai

MALAYA — now called Malaysia

NARNIA—C.S. Lewis took the name from an ancient Roman town in Umbria (but how many people would know that?)

NINEVEH-capital of ancient Assyria

NIYA –an important ancient Chinese city now called Minfeng

PARTHIA –an empire of the ancient Near East

PERSIA—old name of Iran

PETRA—ancient city in Jordan

POMPEII – the ancient Roman city that was buried under volcanic ash after the eruption of Vesuvius

PRUSSIA—historic region of north Germany

SARAI—one of the largest cities of the medieval world

SARNIA—old name of Guernsey

SIAM—former name of Thailand

SPARTA—-ancient city in the Peloponnesus

TANIS—ancient Egyptian city

TELJÄ- ancient town of Finland

THRACE—ancient region in the Balkan Peninsula

THULE—ancients considered it the northern most region of the world

TROY—ancient city, destroyed by the Trojan Wars (there’s still a Troy in upstate NY)

VINETA — legendary ancient town on the Baltic coast

XANADU—ruined summer capital of Kublai Khan’s Yuan Dynasty in China

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30 Responses to “Lost Lands: Place names that are off the map”

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Kat Says:

April 9th, 2010 at 1:28 am

Dahomey? Really?

Charlotte Vera Says:

April 9th, 2010 at 3:43 am

It through me for a loop to see Madras there! I lived in Madras when I was little and, since it was known by that name at the time, still have a hard time thinking of it as Chennai.

You could also include Zaire, the former name of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

There’s a city in Ontario, Canada called Sarnia.

Angus Says:

April 9th, 2010 at 7:56 am

Thule was also the name of an occult society that partially inspired and was eventually coopted by the Nazis. Just something to bear in mind.

JNE Says:

April 9th, 2010 at 8:23 am

I like Petra for a name, but as a location, it is still there as a place to tour, just not inhabited.

Avalon also exists in NJ…. it’s a beach town.

I can’t quite picture a child called Xanadu – despite it not existing on the map, it does exist as the skate-tastic, uber-80s Olivia Newton-John musical movie (which is admittedly inspired by Khan’s locale).

Sachiko Says:

April 9th, 2010 at 9:14 am

Gennesaret. It was a place on the shore of Galilee in Jesus’ time, also known as Kinneroth.

Ditto on Petra, JNE, mostly because I liked the Ender’s Shadow series.

Sachiko Says:

April 9th, 2010 at 9:17 am

Oh, and, Xipangu/Cipangu, the old European name for Japan.

Dunno if that counts, as Japan is still there, albiet not the sixteenth-century version.

And, dude, where’s Camelot? Did we decide that one was too mean to suggest? 😀

vikki Says:

April 9th, 2010 at 9:29 am

Canton…I think of Ohio. Ninevah makes me think of Jonah and wild sinners. Not sure I would want to name my child that. I like Malaya and Petra.

Stephanie Says:

April 9th, 2010 at 9:36 am

Yeah, exactly, Ohio. As in “in CAN-TON, you CAN-TON-JOY yourself!”

JustADad Says:

April 9th, 2010 at 10:01 am

I’m sorry, but Dahomey, Araby, and Atlantis are just downright cruel. Madras? For real? And here’s his sister, Linen. I want to be the kid named after summer fabrics.

Nicole Says:

April 9th, 2010 at 10:48 am

Albion is also the name of a town and college in Michigan.

Victoria Says:

April 9th, 2010 at 11:07 am

I’ve always loved the name Ceylon and was very surprised to see it here. Yay! Here’s a list of more former island names. http://www.worldislandinfo.com/FORMER.htm For a boy, I kinda like Aion (listed on that site). Good list!

namer Says:

April 9th, 2010 at 11:23 am

Narnia? For real? You might as well make the kid sleep in a wardrobe and live off of Turkish Delight.

PDXLibrarian Says:

April 9th, 2010 at 12:06 pm

I agree with other posters here. This list seems like a miss. I wouldn’t want to name a child or literary character any of these names and I wouldn’t want to meet someone else’s child with one of these names.

ChristyHeather Says:

April 9th, 2010 at 12:14 pm

I like Avalon – but I was thinking of Frankie rather than Arthur!

maybenames Says:

April 9th, 2010 at 12:20 pm

I like Anglia, and I knew someone named Atria — she wore her name beautifully.

Lauren Says:

April 9th, 2010 at 12:44 pm

I LOVE Petra, I think it’s a gorgeous name and place:) Others I kind of like are Avalon, Corinth, Sarai, and Troy. Brixia is interesting, it could grow on me!

UrbanAngel Says:

April 9th, 2010 at 12:56 pm

I’ve actually come across 1 or 2 Petra’s. I like Alexandria a lot, but I ADORE Troy & have it on my list . It’s been on the list for awhile

UrbanAngel Says:

April 9th, 2010 at 12:58 pm

Oh, I also love Persia & India

Dearest Says:

April 9th, 2010 at 3:15 pm

I actually love this list! While not all of these are usable to me, Albion for example is a long time favourite!

What I want to add though is that Oleanna was the name Norwegian violinist Ole Bull gave to the large piece of land he bought somewhere in the US to start his own ‘nation’ of sorts….
He was more or less the Michael Jackson of his time, and I think Oleanna should have a place on this list if Narnia can 🙂

(Also, Cilicia needs a rearrangement as I see it. She doesn’t have a line of her own!)

Emmy Jo Says:

April 9th, 2010 at 4:15 pm

What a fun list! Not all the names are usable of course, but some of them are just fantastic. I’ve always thought Albion would be a great boys’ name. I’ve heard parents consider Avalon, and some of these do correspond to “normal” people names (like Troy, Kane, Sarai, and Petra). You’ve brought to light a few interesting new possibilities — like Brixia, Vineta, Dacia, and Loulan.

I’d like to suggest another for the list — Illyria. It’s the classical name of the region now known as Albania. I’ve always thought it sound very poetic.

Dearest Says:

April 9th, 2010 at 5:44 pm

Emmy Jo, you made me think of Idumea! It’s been on my list forever but somehow I didn’t remember until you mentioned Illyria (which is wonderful by the way).
Idumea is the Greek name for Edom which means ‘red’. It’s pronounced eye-dew-MAY-uh and I think it’s just fantastic! I just love the sound and the way it looks, as well as the nickname possibilities: Ida, Mae, Mea ^^
An awesome name, and I think since Edom is actually listed on Nameberry, Idumea shouldn’t be left out.

Emmy Jo Says:

April 9th, 2010 at 6:07 pm

Ooh, Idumea is wonderful!

cecily Says:

April 9th, 2010 at 10:58 pm

My favorites from this list would be Petra and Sarai, though I probably wouldn’t use either. I think most of these names would make good middle names.

I also wanted to add that Nineveh reminds me of the infamous Nevaeh.

peach Says:

April 10th, 2010 at 2:13 am

Most of these names are ridiculously far fetched. I would hate to hear of people naming their children after some of these real or imagined places. Like, Ninevah, the city with the most sinful people in the bible’s ancient world before Jonah came. If I came to nameberry and read this post as my first I would not come back.

Charlotte Vera Says:

April 10th, 2010 at 3:23 am

While many of these are far-fetched, they’re still fascinating. Some of them actually could pass off as real names: Tanis, Loulan, Albion, Atria — I would find these believable if I came across them on a character in a book.

Elena Says:

April 10th, 2010 at 5:00 am

For first names I love Albion and Sarai, I also think that Petra, Atria and Troy are pretty cool. I actually quite like Narnia as a middle name, if I thought the future child might not hate me for it, it would have first name potential.

And Dearest, Idumea is beautiful! Definitely going on my list 🙂

-Elena 🙂

Della Says:

April 11th, 2010 at 9:41 pm

I know a Thessaly, a Greek place name, which I think is an interesting name.

Stella Says:

April 12th, 2010 at 1:20 pm

I know a very young Cambria, but she was named after a band.

Sunshinetina Says:

May 24th, 2010 at 4:46 pm

Everytime I see Corinth, I think of the britcom Two Pints of Lager and a Packet of Crisps. Two of the main characters named their son Corinthian.

RoraLon Says:

November 27th, 2011 at 2:43 pm

My oldest daughter’s name is Avalon. 04/12/2009. I love her name!

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