Name of Montreal

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There are some hypotheses concerning the origin of the name of Montreal. The most known is the one that finds it to be a variant of mont Royal.

Hypotheses concerning the origin of the name[edit]

The historian Marcel Trudel asked the following question: "where does the name "Mount Royal" come from? in honor of Cardinal de Medici, Archbishop of Monreale? in honor of Claude de Pontbriand, son of the Seigneur de Montréal? or simply in honor of the king? No explanation has been given".[1]

Claude de Pontbriand, the Seigneur de Montréal (landlord of the Château de Montréal), accompanied Jacques Cartier on his expedition up the Saint Lawrence River, and was with him on October 3, 1535, when he reached Hochelaga, on the site of the present day city of Montreal.

Among the hypotheses concerning the origin of Montreal's name, the most acceptable to Toponymy is the one that finds it to be a variant of mont Royal.[2] Note that in the 16th century réal was a variant of royal, hence the contraction of Mont Royal that gave Mont Réal or Montréal, as we have it today.

The name Montréal referred first to the mountain, then to the island and finally to the city itself.


Main article: Fort Ville-Marie

The original name for the settlement that would later become Montreal was Ville-Marie. When the missionary society, the Société Notre-Dame pour la conversion des Sauvages, sent Paul Chomedey de Maisonneuve to found a city on the island of Montréal in 1642 they named the settlement Ville-Marie, in honour of the Virgin, protectress of the venture. Nonetheless, from the very beginning both the settlement of Ville-Marie and the mountain were known as Montréal to many people, including to some of the map-makers of the period. In the 18th century, for no official reason, the name Montréal supplanted that of Ville-Marie. Up until then, the city was called, sometimes simultaneously, sometimes separately, Montréal and/or Ville-Marie.[3]


Map published in Venice by Ramusio. Based on account of Jacques Cartier
  • In the modern Iroquois language, Montreal is called Tiohtià:ke. Other native languages, such as Algonquin, refer to it as Moniang.[4]
  • 1535 – October 3, Jacques Cartier climbed up the Montreal mountain and name it Mont Royal. He wrote: "Nous nommasmes icelle montaigne le mont Royal." (We named the said mountain mont royal.) The name Montréal is generally thought to be derived from "Mont Royal", the name given to the mountain by Cartier in 1535.
  • 1556 – On his map of Hochelega, Italian geographer Giovanni Battista Ramusio wrote Monte Real to designate Mont Royal.
  • 1575 – In his Cosmographie universelle de tout le monde, historiographer François de Belleforest was the first to use the form Montreal with reference to this area. In translation it would read: "let us now look at Hochelaga, ... in the midst of the countryside is the village, or Cité royale, adjacent to a mountain on which farming is practiced. The Christians call this city Montreal...".
  • 1601 – On his map, Guillaume Le Vasseur wrote Hochelaga for the inhabited area and called the hill mont royal.
  • 1609 – Marc Lescarbot called the settlement: "Hochelaga, ville des Sauvages".
  • 1612 – On Champlain's map the mountain is called Montreal.
  • 1642 – The mission named Ville Marie was built at Place Royal.
  • 1705 – Montreal is now the official name for the city formerly named Ville-Marie.


  • "The City of Saints



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