Name of Toronto

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The name of Toronto has a history distinct from that of the city itself. Originally, the term "Taronto" referred to a channel of water between Lake Simcoe and Lake Couchiching on maps as early as 1675[1] but in time the name passed southward, and was eventually applied to a new fort at the mouth of the Humber River. Fort Toronto was the first European settlement in the area, and lent its name to what became the city of Toronto.

John Graves Simcoe identified the area as a strategic location to base a new capital for Upper Canada, believing Newark to be susceptible to American invasion. A garrison was established at Garrison Creek, on the western entrance to the docks of Toronto Harbour, in 1793; this later became Fort York. The settlement it defended was renamed York on August 26, 1793, as Simcoe favoured English names over those of First Nations languages,[2] in honour of Prince Frederick, Duke of York.[2] Residents petitioned to change the name back to Toronto, and in 1834 the city was incorporated with its original name.[3] The name York lived on through the name of York County (which was later split into Metropolitan Toronto and York Region), and continues to live on through the names of several districts within the city, including Yorkville, East York, and North York, the latter two suburbs that were formally amalgamated into the "megacity" of Toronto on January 1, 1998.


An early map depicting Teiaiagon and Lac Taronto, which would be renamed Lake Simcoe. The Toronto Carrying-Place Trail is shown, simply marked as Portage, and Lake Ontario was then known as Lac de Frontenac.

The word Toronto was recorded with various spellings in French and English, including Tarento, Tarontha, Taronto, Toranto, Torento, Toronto, and Toronton.[4] Taronto referred to "The Narrows", a channel of water through which Lake Simcoe discharges into Lake Couchiching. This narrows was called tkaronto by the Mohawk, meaning "where there are trees standing in the water,"[2] and was recorded as early as 1615 by Samuel de Champlain.[5] Today, the area is partially surrounded by trees along the water's edge with the rest with marinas and location of the historic Mnjikaning Fish Weirs.

Prior to the Iroquois inhabitation of the Toronto region, the Wyandot (Huron) people inhabited the region, later moving north to the area around Lake Huron and Georgian Bay. The word toronto, meaning 'plenty', appeared in a French lexicon of the Wyandot language in 1632.[6] Toronto, however, did not appear on any map of the region before 1650.[6] After 1650, and the destruction of Fort Sainte Marie, the Hurons left the region.[7]

A 1675 map in French, by Pierre Raffeix, referred to Lake Simcoe as Lac Taronto,[8] and the name Tarontos Lac appeared on a 1678 map of New France by cartographer Jean-Baptiste-Louis Franquelin.[9] In 1680, it appeared as Lac de Taronto on a map created by French court official Abbé Claude Bernou.

By 1686, Passage de Taronto referred to a canoe route tracking what is now the Humber River. The river became known as Rivière Taronto as the canoe route became more popular with French explorers, and by the 1750s, a fort to the east of the delta on Lake Ontario was named Fort Toronto by the French.[2] Rivière Taronto was renamed to Humber River by Simcoe.[2] The change of spelling from Taronto to Toronto is thought to originate on a 1695 map by Italian cartographer Vincenzo Coronelli.[2]

During his travels in Upper Canada in 1796, Isaac Weld wrote about Simcoe's policy of assigning English names to locations in Upper Canada. He opposed the renaming scheme, stating:[10]

It is to be lamented that the Indian names, so grand and sonorous, should ever have been changed for others. Newark, Kingston, York are poor substitutes for the original names of the respective places Niagara, Cataraqui, Toronto.

The name has also sometimes been identified with Tarantou,[5][11] a village marked on a 1656 map of New France by Nicolas Sanson. However, the location on this map is east of Lake Nipissing and northwest of Montreal in what is now Quebec.[11][12]

The use of the name Tkaronto has reemerged as an alternate name for the city in 2020. The reemergence of the name has been attributed to an "Indigenous awakening", that aims to honour the city's Indigenous history and to decolonize the city's name.[13]

Town of York[edit]

Signage for Fort York in Toronto. York is a historic name of the city used from 1793 to 1834.

In 1786, Lord Dorchester arrived in Quebec City as Governor-in-Chief of British North America. His mission was to solve the problems of the newly landed Loyalists. At first, Dorchester suggested opening the new Canada West as districts under the Quebec government, but the British Government made known its intention to split Canada into Upper and Lower Canada. Dorchester began organizing for the new province of Upper Canada, including a capital. Dorchester's first choice was Kingston, but he was aware of the number of Loyalists in the Bay of Quinte and Niagara areas, and he chose instead the location north of the Bay of Toronto, midway between the settlements and 30 miles (48 km) from the US. Under the policy of the time, the British recognized aboriginal title to the land and Dorchester arranged to purchase the land from the Mississaugas.[14]

Dorchester intended for the location of the new capital to be named Toronto. Instead, Lieutenant Governor Simcoe ordered the name of the new settlement to be called York, after the Duke of York, who had guided a recent British victory in Holland. Simcoe is recorded as both disliking aboriginal names and disliking Dorchester. The new capital was named York on August 27, 1793.[9] In 1804, settler Angus MacDonald petitioned the Upper Canada Legislature to restore the name Toronto, but this was rejected.[15] To differentiate it from York in England and New York City, the town was known as Little York.[7]

Adoption of the name Toronto[edit]

In 1834, the Legislative Council sought to incorporate the city, then still known as York. By this time, it was already the largest city in Upper Canada, growing greatly in the late 1820s and early 1830s following the slow growth from its founding in the 1790s. The Council was petitioned to rename the city Toronto during its incorporation, and on March 1, 1834, debated the issue. In Debate on Name Toronto in Incorporation Act, March 1, 1834, records indicate various council members noting their support for or opposition to the measure. The most vocal opponents were John Willson, and Mr. Jarvis and Mr. Bidwell. Proponents were William Chisholm, William Bent Berczy, and Mr. Clark. The Speaker noted that "this city will be the only City of Toronto in the world",[16] to cheers from council.

The name was chosen in part to avoid the negative connotations that York had engendered in the city's residents, especially that of dirty Little York. Toronto was also considered more pleasing, as the speaker noted during the debate, "He hoped Honourable Members had the same taste for musical sounds as he had".[17] Berczy noted that "it is the old, original name of the place, and the sound is in every respect much better".[17] Some sources also indicate that the name Taronto and its variants was so common on maps, that it made sense to use this word.[9] The City of Toronto was incorporated on March 6, 1834.


Depiction of York, Upper Canada in 1803. During this period the settlement was referred to as Little York, in comparison to York in England and New York City in the US

Toronto has had various nicknames throughout its history. Among the earliest of these was the disparaging Muddy York, used during the settlement's early growth. At the time, there were no sewers or storm drains, and the streets were unpaved. During rainfall, water would accumulate on the dirt roads, transforming them into often impassable muddy avenues.[18] A more disparaging nickname used by the early residents was Little York,[2] referring to its establishment as a collection of twelve log homes at the mouth of the Don River surrounded by wilderness, and used in comparison to New York City in the United States and York in England. This changed as new settlements and roads were established, extending from the newly established capital. Adjectives were sometimes attached to Little York; records from the Legislative Council of the time indicate that "dirty Little York" and "nasty Little York" were used by residents.[17]

In his book Naming Canada: Stories about Canadian Place Names, Alan Rayburn states that "no place in Canada has as many sobriquets as Toronto".[19] Among them are the nicknames:

A hog pen at the William Davies Company facilities in Toronto, c. 1920s. The city may have earned the Hogtown moniker due to the amount of pork processed in the city in the early 20th century.
The seal of the former Metropolitan Toronto, containing six loops representing the six municipalities that formed it; a partial inspiration for the moniker The 6ix
  • "The Six" (also written as "The 6" or "The 6ix") and popularized in 2015 by Toronto-born musician Drake with his mixtape If You're Reading This It's Too Late and 2016 album Views. Drake himself credits Toronto rapper Jimmy Prime with inventing the term[43] but it was used by other Toronto rappers in the early 2000s, in songs such as Baby Blue Soundcrew's "Love 'Em All". The usage of the nickname in many of Drake's songs has since brought it to global attention. While the meaning of the term was initially unclear,[44] Drake clarified in a 2016 interview by Jimmy Fallon on The Tonight Show that it derived from the shared digits of the 416 and 647 telephone area codes and the six municipalities that amalgamated into the current Toronto city proper in 1998.[45][46] It has since influenced numerous works within the Canadian Hip Hop community, including the formation of 6ixBuzz and the release of the documentary 6IX RISING. The name has also been noted for having transcended the hip hop community, crossing into mainstream usage by March 2016; having been adopted by the media at a level unseen by Toronto's other hip hop-based nicknames like T-dot.[47] The adoption of the nickname by some media outlets has been named as a contributing factor for its entry into the public's consciousness.[47] Culture critics note the nomenclature is an example of a organically grown "city brand", having originated from the hip hop community as opposed to Toronto City Hall, or an advertising agency.[47] In 2020, the moniker was adopted as the name for the Toronto-based Premier Hockey Federation team, the Toronto Six, after it received more votes than any other name on an online poll.[48]
  • "TO" or "T.O.", from Toronto, Ontario, or from Toronto; pronounced "Tee-Oh". The variation of the moniker, "T-dot", is a hip hop-based nickname,[47] used in music by local artists like Kardinal Offishall. [49]
  • "Toronto the Good",[50][51] from its history as a bastion of 19th century Victorian morality and coined by mayor William Holmes Howland.[52][53] An 1898 book by C.S. Clark was titled Of Toronto the Good. A Social Study. The Queen City of Canada As It Is.[32] The book is a facsimile of an 1898 edition. Today sometimes used ironically to imply a less-than-great or less-than-moral status.
  • "YYZ", the IATA airport code for Toronto Pearson International Airport (the primary international airport serving Toronto) that inspired the name of an instrumental song by Canadian rock band Rush.


  1. ^ Timothy B. Leduc (May 2016). Canadian Climate of Mind: Passages from Fur to Energy and BeyondII. McGill-Queens. p. 53. ISBN 9780773547629. Retrieved October 15, 2018.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g Natural Resources Canada.
  3. ^ Court.
  4. ^ Guillet 1969, p. 49.
  5. ^ a b Natural Resources Canada: Canada, Provinces & Territories: The naming of their capital cities.
  6. ^ a b Hounsom 1970, p. 26.
  7. ^ a b Hounsom 1970, p. 27.
  8. ^ Timothy B. Leduc (May 2016). Canadian Climate of Mind: Passages from Fur to Energy and BeyondII. McGill-Queens. p. 53. ISBN 9780773547629. Retrieved October 15, 2018.
  9. ^ a b c Seputis 2018.
  10. ^ a b Guillet 1969, p. 55.
  11. ^ a b McCarthy 1954, p. 3.
  12. ^ Hayes 2002, p. 60.
  13. ^ Misha Gajewski, "This is why more people are now referring to Toronto as Tkaronto". BlogTO, August 2020.
  14. ^ Hounsom 1970, pp. xiv–xv.
  15. ^ Hounsom 1970, pp. 26–27.
  16. ^ Firth 1966, p. 297–298.
  17. ^ a b c Firth 1966, p. 297.
  18. ^ Gerard 2004.
  19. ^ a b c d e Rayburn 2001, p. 45–48.
  20. ^ City of Toronto: Toronto facts.
  21. ^ The LensMister Toronto hurdles through the divide to discover more than he could imagine about the "Centre of the Universe" and the crazy country around it.
  22. ^ The Globe and Mail 2007.
  23. ^ Cerny 2009.
  24. ^ Hoang.
  25. ^ Hume 2009That landmark heap was built in 1881 by William McMaster as a Baptist college for women, a fitting monument of 19th-century Toronto, then known as the City of Churches.
  26. ^ Mendelson 2013.
  27. ^ Hare.
  28. ^ Dolly, Nadine; Macor, Kristie (2010). The Hogtown Project. Toronto, ON: The Hogtown Project. p. Inner cover. ISBN 978-0-9866001-0-4.
  29. ^ Kuitenbrouwer 2010.
  30. ^ Frommer'sChances are that even if you've never set foot here, you've seen the city a hundred times over. Known for the past several years as "Hollywood North," Toronto has been a stand-in for international centres from European capitals to New York -- but rarely does it play itself.
  31. ^ Bly 2009Though it vies with Vancouver for the title of Hollywood North, Toronto's active arts and design scene extends far beyond cinema.
  32. ^ a b Clark 1970.
  33. ^ Toronto Life 2003.
  34. ^ Via RailWith more than 2.5 million residents, Toronto is Canada’s largest city and the capital of Ontario. The Queen's City is located on the north shore of Lake Ontario and is considered the financial hub of Canada.
  35. ^ Toronto: City of Dreams.
  36. ^ CBC News 2009The Big Smoke dusted off its party coat on Friday to kick off festivities celebrating Toronto's 175th birthday amid double-digit temperatures.
  37. ^ Tossell 2009.
  38. ^ Filey 2010.
  39. ^ City of Toronto: Toronto competesGood infrastructure including transit, roads, airports, piped services, public buildings is still a prerequisite to retaining our well earned reputation as the 'city that works' and making our businesses internationally competitive.
  40. ^ Lonely PlanetAlthough Toronto is still 'The City That Works', a geeky nickname acquired for its urban planning successes, the new millennium has delivered a lot of headaches so far
  41. ^ Donald 2002..key elements of the mode of regulation operating at the urban scale in Toronto's postwar period to learn what it was that inspired an entire generation of scholars to call Toronto the 'city that works' in this period.
  42. ^ Perly's.
  43. ^ "Jay Whiss Pops Some Bubbly to Discuss His Major Label Debut". Complex Networks.
  44. ^ "We The 6: Why the name Drake gave us is here to stay". The Globe and Mail. Retrieved November 18, 2015.
  45. ^ Daniell, Mark (May 13, 2016). "Drake finally explains 'The Six'". Toronto Sun. Postmedia Network. Retrieved February 8, 2017.
  46. ^ "We The 6: Why the name Drake gave us is here to stay". The Globe and Mail. July 10, 2015.
  47. ^ a b c d Warren, Giannina; Dinnie, Keith (2017). "Exploring the dimensions of place branding: An applicationof the ICON model to the branding of Toronto" (PDF). International Journal of Tourism Cities. 3 (1): 69–70. doi:10.1108/IJTC-10-2016-0035. ISSN 2056-5607. Retrieved May 3, 2020.
  48. ^ "NWHL's 6th team gets its name: Toronto Six". Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. May 19, 2020. Retrieved January 4, 2023.
  49. ^ Benson.
  50. ^ Davidson 2007, p. 261It was still a city of churches worthy of the name "Toronto the Good," with a population of staunch religious conservatives, who barely voted for Sunday streetcar service in 1897, and, in 1912, banned tobogganing on Sunday.
  51. ^ Low 1948Known to Canadians as 'Toronto the Good," the Ontario metropolis is a thriving city of three-quarters of a million population, of whom four or five thousand are colored.
  52. ^ Maloney 2010.
  53. ^ Ruppert 2006'Toronto the Good' is one of many popular nicknames used to represent the moral conduct of its citizens. This term was first associated with one of the early examples of reform politics in Toronto: the mayoralty of William Holmes Howland from 1886 to 1888 and his campaign for moral purification (Morton 1973).

Works Cited[edit]