Trace: » alternate_geographic_names
You are currently not logged in! Enter your authentication credentials below to log in. You need to have cookies enabled to log in.
A very common aspect of creating alternate history worlds is to give different names to newly discovered landmasses and geographic locations. It's often an almost inevitable part of timelines with earlier major PODs (especially ones that occurred 200, 500, 1000 years ago - you get the idea). Geographic names are typically very common terms one reads, hears or thinks of every day. Changes in geographic terminology can be used as a rather thought-provoking shock method to the casual reader.
Entries here should be listed alphabetically: The name of the OTL geographic features as subsections, followed by an description of their OTL etymology and then by an alphabetical list of timelines and the alternative names and terms they use for said geographic features. The entries on this page come from various published AH literature and non-published AH works either from AH.com or other AH sites. If they have their own entry on this wiki, a link is added to their name.
Fun fact: You can notice in these lists, that there are many instances of certain alternate terms being highly popular (or obvious), which leads to them cropping up in several otherwise completely unrelated TLs.
OTL: “Afri” was a Latin name used to refer by the Romans to the Carthaginians. Later, it meant the whole continent instead of the small Roman province.
GURPS Alternate Earths I, Ezcalli: “Tlitictlán” (Nahuatl for “land of the blacks”). Confusingly, also used for the Aztec province, which is roughly at the place of South Africa.
GURPS Alternate Earths II, Ming-3: “Sijeu”. And the southern part is “Nansijeu”.
GURPS Alternate Earths II, Midgard: “Svertingaland”, also meaning “land of the blacks”. Originally only referred to the kingdom of Mali.
OTL: Derived from Aleut alaxsxaq, meaning “the mainland” or, more literally, “the object towards which the action of the sea is directed”.
GURPS Alternate Earths I, Reich-5: “Arasaka”, after being annexed by the Japanese.
Too many TLs with a Russian Alaska: “Alyeska”, meaning “great land”, although the Russians also used “Alyaska” (Аляска).
OTL: Known under many different names during the first century of their exploration and colonization by Europeans (including the timeless “New World”), the two great western landmasses were eventually named after Amerigo Vespucci, an early explorer of Central and Southern America.
Aesop Timeline: “Vespuccia”. Self-explanatory.
Empty America: “Ultima Thule” for North America (after a quote by Seneca describing that new lands would be discovered beyond “Thule” [Britain]) and “Whitsunland” for South America (White Sun Land, apparently a reference to the tropical nature the first explorers would have noticed).
GURPS Alternate Earths I, Roma Aeterna scenario: “Hesperia”. Named after the mythical Hesperides.
Map Continuation III: “Jarnassia” for North America, after the mythical Norse giantess Jarnsaxa. “Medicia” for South America, after the Italian Medici family.
The Fox and the Lillies: “Occidentia” (archaically also “Occidentalia”), meaning 'Westia'/'Westernland'. The naming conventions are rather similar to OTL, with a North, Central and South Occidentia.
GURPS Alternate Earths II, Ming-3: “Dungjeu”
GURPS Alternate Earths II, Midgard: “Mikilyrland”, meaning “greater Ireland”. South America is also known as “Skógarey” ITTL.
OTL: Literally “the anti-Arctic” or “the counter-Arctic”.
Cliveless World: Antarctica is not mentioned by any specific name (it's probably called the same as in OTL), but it is divided into several territories owned by the various great powers of the TL. These are more colonial in nature than the national Antarctic zones of OTL. The three most notable are “Oranjeland” (Dutch), “Williamsland” (Anglo-Prussian Union) and “Shakaland” (Zulu).
Gurkani Alam (Mughal World): No information given about a specific name for the continent, but, as in Cliveless World, Antarctica is divived into colonial territories by the various powers : “Queensland” (Anglo-Danish Kingdom), “France plus du Sud” (France), “Nova Tiree” (Scotland), “Terra do Maria” (Braseal/Brazil), “Yakharazi” (Mughal empire) “Thañnîr Nad” ('Land of Cold Water', Dakshina Nad).
The Fox and the Lillies: “Australia”. The reason for this is that both OTL Australia and the OTL Arctic already had alternate names by the time people started thoroughly exploring OTL Antarctica (and naming its geographic features). Therefore, the geographers naming the Antarctic continent found it quite logical to simply name it after the mythical Terra Australis landmass (since OTL Antarctica actually covers most of the area where this mythical southern continent was supposed to be located).
OTL: The Arctic is a polar region located at the northern-most part of the Earth. The Arctic consists of the Arctic Ocean and parts of Canada, Russia, Greenland, Norway, United States, Sweden, Finland, and Iceland. The Arctic region consists of a vast, ice-covered ocean, surrounded by treeless permafrost. The word Arctic comes from the Greek ἀρκτικός (arktikos), “near the Bear, arctic, northern” and that from the word ἄρκτος (arktos), meaning bear. The name refers either to the constellation Ursa Major, the “Great Bear”, which is prominent in the northern portion of the celestial sphere, or to the constellation Ursa Minor, the “Little Bear”, which contains Polaris, the Pole Star, also known as the North Star.
The Fox and the Lillies: “Hyperborea”. In Greek mythology the Hyperboreans (Ancient Greek: Ὑπερβόρε(ι)οι, pronounced [hyperbóre(ː)ɔi̯]; Latin: Hyperborei) were a mythical people who lived far to the north of Thrace. The Greeks thought that Boreas, the North Wind, lived in Thrace, and that therefore Hyperborea was an unspecified region in the northern lands that lay beyond the north wind. Their land, called Hyperborea or Hyperboria — “beyond the Boreas” — was perfect, with the sun shining twenty-four hours a day, which - if true - suggests a possible location within the Arctic Circle. When interest in the exploration of the OTL Arctic started growing in this timeline during the late early modern era, the ATL cartographers eventually decided to use this mythical Greek term for the then unexplored northern landmasses.
OTL: The continent was known under various names in the early years of European colonization, “New Holland” being one of the most favourite (in fact, the term “Australia” didn't catch on in the Netherlands until the end of the 19th century). The name Australia was coined by British cartographer Matthew Flinders in 1804, based on the legendary great southern continent of Terra Australis ('Southern Land' / 'Land of the South') from ancient Greek myths. The new term caught on in everyday use by the middle of the 19th century.
Cliveless World: Australia probably has no specific name and is divided into the Dutch colony of “Nova Holland” in the northern half of the continent, the French “L'Australis” colony in the south, and the tiny Anglo-Prussian colony of “Sophiasland” in the southwestern tip (where OTL Perth and its surrounding region would be).
Gurkani Alam (Mughal World): As is in Cliveless World, Australia is divided by several different colonial powers, and particularly fiercely at that. Most of the central parts of the continent are controlled by the South Indian (Tamil) empire of Dakshina Nad and known simply as “Pudhiya Dakshina Nad”. In the northwest of the continent, the Mughal Empire controls a territory called “Khoshki”, sharing borders with the smaller “Marege” colony of the indochinese Ayutthaya empire. “Nova Holland” is a Dutch colony in the north of OTL Northern Territory. The Anglo-Danish Kingdom owns about a half of OTL Queensland, called “Nova Hibernia” ('New Ireland', since Ireland isn't independent in this TL). France has a colony covering OTL Victoria and southeastern New South Wales, dubbed “France Australis”. The Scots have a tiny colony in OTL southeastern NSW, known as “New Argyll”.
GURPS Alternate Earths, Centrum scenario: It's called “Terraustralis”.
Lands of Red and Gold: “Aururia”. Latin for 'Land of Gold'. Also, Tasmania is known as “Thijszenia” or, more colloquially, as “Cider Island”.
Puritan World: “Terra Australis”. Self-explanatory. The eastern half of the continent is an overseas colony of the New Commonwealth theocratic empire, and is known (along with OTL New Guinea) as “New Eden”.
Tellus: “Lemuria”, after the OTL term for a legendary continent in the region, as dubbed by Roman naval explorers of the TL. The eastern half of the Australian continent is a Chinese colony called “Do-Anjiao Bianyuan Bumaozhidi” ('Reef-Fringed Desert'), the western is an Indian colony, known as “The Land of the Aditayas”.
The Two Unlucky Soldiers: “Meridonia”. Simply put, the Latin word for South-land, just as Australia is the Greek word.
The Course of Human Events: “Aurenesica”. From the Roman feminine name Aurelia or from the Latin word aureus ('golden').
The Fox and the Lillies: “Antichtonia”
GURPS Alternate Earths I, Reich-5: “Goshu”, after becoming a Japanese colony.
GURPS Alternate Earths I, Shikaku-Mon: “Nieuw Holland”. Other than in our world, the name stuck.
GURPS Alternate Earths II, Ming-3: “Nanhai”. For additional hilarity, the defeated Mongols were settled there with their herds.
GURPS Alternate Earths II, Caliph: “Djiba”, called this way by the Arabs.
GURPS Alternate Earths II, Aeolus: “Nouvelle Bretagne”, being a French colony.
OTL: Named Santa María del Buen Aire (“Holy Mary of the Fair Winds”) by Pedro de Mendoza (or rather, his chaplain, who was a devotee of the Virgin of Buen Ayre).
Chaos: Founded by the British as “Fort Humphrey” (named after the then current king), later renamed by the Germans to “Neu-Hamburg”.
OTL: Named after the tribe of the Caribes.
Map Continuation III: “Lucaia”. Named after a different indigenous tribe than in OTL. Another possibility in this vein would be “Arawaka”, “Arakia”, etc., after the Arawak tribes of the western Caribbean.
OTL: Once again, named after the tribe of the Caribes.
The Course of Human Events: “Antilles Sea”
GURPS Alternate Earths II, Midgard: “Ketilsea”
OTL: Central America is an isthmus and is the central geographic region of the Americas (the landmasses of the North and South American Continents). It is the southernmost subcontinantal region of the North American continent. North America connects with South America at its southeast end. Central America consists of the nations of Belize, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Panama.
The Course of Human Events: “Isthmian America”
The Fox and the Lillies: “Central/Middle Occidentia” or “Bridging Occidentia”
OTL: Derived from Checagou, which is a name in Potawatomi. Or possibly from shikaakwa, which is Miami.
Chaos: “Wildenhartburg”. Founded in 1750, after the defeat of the Menominee tribe. Named after Ernst von Wildenhart who became governor of the new land Männermenland.
OTL: The word “China” is derived from Cin (چین), a Persian name for China popularized in medieval Europe by the account of the 13th-century Venetian explorer Marco Polo. The first recorded use in English dates from 1555. The Persian word is, in turn, derived from the Sanskrit word Cīna (चीन), which was used as a name for China as early as AD 150. In China, common names for the country include Zhōngguó (Chinese: 中国; literally “the Central State(s)”) and Zhōnghuá (Chinese: 中华), although the country's official name has been changed numerous times by successive dynasties and modern governments. The term Zhongguo appeared in various ancient texts, such as the Classic of History of the 6th century BC, and in pre-imperial times it was often used as a cultural concept to distinguish the Huaxia from the barbarians. The term, which can be either singular or plural, referred to the group of states in the central plain. It was only in the nineteenth century that the term emerged as the formal name of the country. The Chinese were not unique in regarding their country as “central”, since several other civilizations in human history shared the same view.
Chaos: “Chunkvo” (the Russian transliteration) or “Tschunkwo” (the German transliteration of the latter).
GURPS Alternate Earths I, Roma Aeterna: “Serica”, the land of silk.
GURPS Alternate Earths II, Midgard: “Kinland”
OTL: Founded by French captain Antoine de la Mothe Cadillac on July 24th 1701 as “Ville d'Etroit” and later renamed.
Chaos: “Wolfsburg” (just like the OTL city where the Volkswagen is produced).
OTL: Named for one of the four Germanic peoples to colonise her - the Angles, the others being the Saxons, Jutes and Frisians. This is somewhat surprising considering the Saxons were by far the most numerous of the four. A contraction of 'Englaland' (Engla being the Old English plural of Angle).
Agent of Byzantium: “Angleland”
GURPS Alternate Earths II, Ming-3: “Tsinghau” (Mandarin for “green and pleasant”)
OTL: The name comes from the fact that: 1.) the biggest (and probably the most iconic) of the larger islands is Hawaii 2.) Kamehameha, the native unificator and first ruler of the archipelago, was from Hawaii. An older name coined by James Cook and used by the British colonial government was “Sandwich Islands” (after Lord Sandwich, the alleged inventor of a certain popular meal).
An Alternate History of The Kingdom of Hawaii: “The Kauai Islands”. In this TL, there was more political and economic competition over the islands by both native tribes and Europeans colonists, so the history of the islands and their unification is quite different here. Kamehameha and his relatives were not as successful as in OTL and several unfortunate events in the first half of the 19th century led to the decline of their power in favour of the rival native dynasty from the island of Kauai. The members of said Kauai dynasty gradually outcompeted all native rivals and (with British backing) formed an alternate native Hawaiian kingdom, the Kingdom of Kauai. At the turn of the 19th and 20th century, people from abroad started increasingly referring to the Sandwich Islands as the Kauai Islands and the name stuck. A lot of the local geographic features are named differently as well (e.g. OTL Pearl Harbor is known as “King's Harbour”).
Chaos: “Rainbow Islands”.
OTL: Called either “Nippon” or “Nihon” by the Japanese most of the time, the English term is a corruption of Marco Polo's “Cipangu”, which comes from a Chinese word of uncertain meaning. The same goes for other European languages as well, where it's also quite interesting that the term for Japan usualy starts with a “J” (with varying pronunciation, of course).
Gurkani Alam (Mughal World): “Yapon”. The Russian name for Japan.
Look to the West: The names Japan and Japanese are still recognised, but are considered archaic, like Siam/Siamese vs. Thailand/Thai in OTL. The more usual modern terms are Yapon and Yapontsi, the Russian names for Japan and Japanese respectively, as Japan became a Russian colony in TTL. The island of Hokkaido is still known by its old name of Ezo / Yezo but in the Russified form “Edzo”.
Puritan World: “Chipangu”.
The Fox and the Lillies: “Nihon” and “Niponia”
OTL: In 1771, Franciscan friar Junípero Serra directed the building of the Mission San Gabriel Arcangel, the first mission in the area. On September 4, 1781, a group of forty-four settlers known as “Los Pobladores” founded the town named El Pueblo de Nuestra Señora la Reina de los Ángeles del Río de Porciúncula (“The Town of Our Lady the Queen of the Angels of the Porciúncula River”). The shorter form “Los Angeles” stuck colloquialy and later officially.
The Two Georges: “New Liverpool”. Since the United States and Canada of this timeline are still self-governing British colonies and form the more culturally British North American Union (NAU), the names of many American cities are also more influenced by the naming conventions of the British monarchy.
GURPS Alternate Earths II, Aeolus: “Les Anges”, the literal translation to French (who own it).
Other AH: The Deadlands RPG has the city “Lost Angels”, following a supernatural catastrophe which shatters southern California into a maze.
OTL: Originally named “New Amsterdam” by the Dutch who founded it, it was renamed by the English who conquered it in the 2nd Dutch-English war after the duke James of York.
Chaos: “Haraldsborg”, after Danish prince Harald, the discoverer of Atlantis.
GURPS Alternate Earths I, Ezcalli scenario: “Manannan”, named by Irish settlers after the Celtic god of the sea. If this sounds similar to Manhattan, it's probably no coincidence.
GURPS Alternate Earths II, Midgard: “Leifsholm”, after Leif Eriksson.
OTL: Named after one of the historical coastal regions/provinces of the Netherlands - Zeeland (“Sealand”). The term originated thanks to the increasing presence of Dutch explorers and colonists in the area of Australia, Papua and the local archipelagos during the 17.-19. century. This era also gave us other Dutch-related geographic terms in this part of the world, including “New Holland” for Australia and “Van Diemen's Land” for what would later be known as Tasmania. To this day, only “New Zealand” survives as a memento of the past colonial exploits of the Dutch in Oceania. The term of the native Maoris for the archipelago is “Aotearoa”, which means “The Land of the Long White Cloud”.
Cliveless World: “Neues Preussen” for the South Island and “Neuer Hannover” for the North Island, since both belong to the Anglo-Prussian Union.
Gurkani Alam (Mughal World): Not one, but two alternate names ! “Terre Henri” ('Henri's Land'), a French colony covering the North Island, and the Scottish colony of “Scotia Australis” ('Southern Scotland') on the South Island.
Chaos: “New Albion”
Look to the West: “Autiaroux”, a Frenchified form of Aotearoa.
Puritan World: “England-in-the-South”, one of the overseas lands of the New Commonwealth theocratic empire.
Tellus: “Xuduo Lian Tudi” ('The Land of Many Faces'). A breakaway country from the Chinese empire, of which it was a former colony. Settled and populated mostly by Chinese. There were no natives around at the time of colonization, since the POD is long before the OTL arrival of the Maoris to the islands (13.-14. century AD).
The Course of Human Events: In September 1769, English explorer James Cook made his first visit to the the islands, called “Nieu Zeeland” (or alternatively “Nova Zeelandia”) by the Dutch. Presuming these islands to be near the hypothesized “southern continent”, Terra Australis, Cook renamed the archipelago the “Austral Islands”. During his 2nd voyage to the Austral Islands, in July 1773, Cook named the two main islands of the archipelago. The northern one he called St. Andrew (the patron saint of Scotland) and the southern one he called St. George (the patron saint of England). During his 3rd trip to the islands, in December 1777, Cook discovered that land he thought to be a southern peninsula of St. George Island was in fact a separate island. Appropriately he named this island, the 3rd largest in the archipelago, St. Patrick (the patron saint of Ireland). In 1892, each of Great Britain's 5 Austral Islands colonies voted to establish a shared central government and in 1893 the Federation of Australia was established.
GURPS Alternate Earths I, Shikaku-mon: “Aotearoa”
OTL: The world's second largest island lies to the west of the Malayan and Indonesian archipelagos, the furthest extensions of the Indochinan geographic and cultural region. The name apparently originated as a reference to the “Guineas” of western Africa - a historical region lying on the coast of the Gulf of Guinea, and one of the first more distant regions of the world into which European explorers ventured in the early years of the Age of Discovery. Modern day New Guinea is still a mostly untouched place of natural beauty and has a uniquely high number of distinctive local native lanugages (at least 750). Due to its colonial past and the events of the 20th century, the island is today separated almost exactly in half by two states - the western half are provinces of modern Indonesia and the eastern half belongs to the sparsely inhabited republic of Papua New Guinea (a former German, British and Australian colony that gained independence in 1975).
Cliveless World: The Anglo-Prussian Union has a colony in the western parts of the island, called “Georgsland”.
Gurkani Alam (Mughal World): “Papua”, plain and simple.
Chaos: “New Caribbea”. Apparently a similar “reference the already known exotic country/colony” approach was used in its naming as in OTL. This name actually fits better, since both the Caribbean and the Indies are island chains.
Monarchy World: Not a completely alternate name per se, but New Guinea is known as “Chinese Guinea”, since the Chinese empire controls most of it in this TL.
Puritan World: “New Eden”, sharing the same name with the eastern Australian colony of the New Commonwealth.
Tellus: Known along with the OTL Philippines as “Fanmaode Daoya” ('The Luxuriant Islands'). A Chinese colony.
OTL: Named by William Penn after a biblical city. The name is derived from “brotherly love” in Greek.
Chaos: “Martinsburg”, because the settlers arrived there at St Martin's day. In an earlier version of the TL, it's named after Martin Luther himself (said version lacked butterflies).
OTL: They got their name after their only fully habitable island, which was named after Midshipman Robert Pitcairn, a fifteen year old crew member of the British sloop HMS Swallow, commanded by Captain Philip Carteret. The sighting by young Pitcairn was made on the 3rd July 1767, though Spanish sailors had sailed along other islands in the group (Henderson, Ducie) during the early 17th century. Pitcairn Island was inhabited by native Polynesians in the more distant past, but it's most famous/infamous history of settlement began when it was colonized by mutineers from the HMS Bounty, led by Fletcher Christian and John Adams.
An Alternate History of The Kingdom of Hawaii: At first, the islands were actually named the same as in OTL. But one of the butterfly effects of the TL's PODs prevented a successful mutiny on the Bounty, leaving the islands unsettled for most of the 19th century. After the French signed the Treaty of Hilo with the British in May 1875, they received the island group as one of their new colonies. Soon after, they funded settlement efforts on Pitcairn, renaming it to “Isle de Bonne Chance” (“Island of Good Luck/Fortune”) - a move made in order to lure new colonists. Eventually, the island group also got renamed to “The Bonchance Islands”.
OTL: Portuguese for “river of January”, because the captain mistakenly thought its site was the mouth of a river.
Chaos: Founded by the British and named “Paradise”, which became “Paradies” after the Germans conquered it, and would later became the equivalent of Hollywood.
OTL: Founded after 1776 and initially called “Nuestra Señora de los Dolores”, later renamed to honor St Francis of Assisi.
Chaos: Founded as “Novorossiysk” by the Russians and renamed “Franzensburg” after the German take-over.
OTL: In 1832, Henry Schoolcraft identified a lake called Omashkoozo-zaaga'igan by the Ojibwe, in present day Clearwater County, Minnesota as being the source of the Mississippi River. Schoolcraft renamed the lake Lake Itasca, a “pseudo-Indian place name” he created by combining parts of the Latin words veritas (true) and caput (head) together.
The Course of Human Events: In 1806, Aaron Burr, along with his partner Meriwether Lewis, identified a lake called Omashkoozo-zaaga'igan by the Ojibwe, in present day Lewis County, Mississippi as being the source of the Mississippi River. Burr renamed the lake “Lake Natalia”, a name he derived from the Latin word natal ('birth').
OTL: In 1801 the Kingdom of Great Britain and the Kingdom of Ireland were merged into the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland (now just Northern Ireland). Another name suggested by the government of the time was Empire of the Britons, with George III becoming Emperor - thus equalling Napoleon's title. George rejected it because it had no tradition behind it and he thought Napoleon awarding himself titles was beneath his notice.
Fight and Be Right: “The Federation of Worker's Republics”. It becomes the country's new name after the British monarchy is toppled by a radical socialist revolution in the late 1930s. Note that the title is also used as a successor to the former British Empire as a whole, not just for the former UK.
OTL: The country was originally called the United States of North America, and 'United Colonies' was also considered. 'America' as the name of the country was originally unpopular due to its vagueness and the fact that 'American' at the time usually meant 'native'. Other names considered around the time of the Constitutional Convention included “Freedonia/Fredonia” (whose inhabitants would be called “Fredes”, rhymes with Swedes); “Alleghenia” or “Appalachia”, after the mountain range that dominated the original 13 states; and most popularly “Columbia”, after Christopher Columbus.
Cliveless World: “Columbia”. A pretty obvious alternate name. See above.
OTL: The purpose-built capital of the United States was named in honour of the country's first president, George Washington. The DC acronym (denoting “District of Columbia”) was added later, after the establishment of the US state Washington in the northwest of the country.
The Two Georges: “Victoria”. Since the United States and Canada of this timeline are still self-governing British colonies and form the more culturally British North American Union (NAU), the names of many American cities are also more influenced by the naming conventions of the British monarchy. The name of the city in the novel's timeline could refer to either OTL queen Victoria, her alternate analogue, or it could be just a more Latin-sounding/fancy-sounding version of “Victory”.
Useful Resources about Alternate Etymology - A collection of links to sites dealing with etymology. Useful if you're trying to create your own plausible alternate terms.
Alternate Placenames - A thread discussing this topic.
Official Alternate Terminology Advice Thread - Master advice thread for anyone having problems coming up with alternate terminology for his timeline. Feel free to ask for advice in this thread.