Name of Toronto

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Town of York (1793–1834)
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Toronto Purchase 1787
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Battle of Montgomery's Tavern 1837
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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, 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 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,[1] in honour of Prince Frederick, Duke of York.[1] Residents petitioned to change the name back to Toronto, and in 1834 the city was incorporated with its original name.[2] The name York lived on through the name of York County (which was later split into 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.


A garrison was established at what would eventually become Fort York, built to protect what would be the new capital of Upper Canada.

Originally, the term "Toronto" referred to Matchedash Bay, and was recorded with various spellings in French and English, including Tarento, Tarontha, Taronto, Toranto, Torento, Toronto, and Toronton.[3] "Taronto" later referred to "The Narrows", a channel of water through which Lake Simcoe discharges into Lake Couchiching. This narrows was styled tkaronto by the Mohawk, meaning "where there are trees standing in the water",[1] and was recorded as early as 1615 by Samuel de Champlain.[4] Today the area is partially surround by trees along the water's edge with the rest with marinas and location of the historic Mnjikaning Fish Weirs.

By 1680, Lake Simcoe 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 1720s a fort to the east of the delta on Lake Ontario was named by the French Fort Toronto.[1] Rivière Taronto was renamed to Humber River by Simcoe.[1]

The change of spelling from Taronto to Toronto is thought to originate on a 1695 map by Italian cartographer Vincenzo Coronelli.[1]

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:[5]

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,[4][6] 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.[6][7]

Incorporation of the City of Toronto[edit]

An early map depicting Teiaiagon and Lac Taronto, which would be renamed Lake Simcoe. Les Piquets refers to the fish weirs consisting of trees standing in the water. The Toronto Carrying-Place Trail is shown, simply marked as Portage, and Lake Ontario was then known as Lac de Frontenac.

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",[8] 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".[9] Berczy noted that "it is the old, original name of the place, and the sound is in every respect much better".[9]

On March 6, 1834, York was officially incorporated as Toronto.


The stress is on the second syllable; with careful enunciation "Toronto" is pronounced /tˈrɒnt/ toh-RON-toh or /təˈrɒnt/ tə-RON-toh. In conversation, locals generally pronounce it /təˈrɒn/[citation needed] tə-RON-oh, /ˈtrɒn/ TRON-oh, /ˈtrɒnt/ TRON-toh, /tˈrɒnə/ toh-RON, or Listeni/təˈrɒnə/ tə-RON, or, in its most abbreviated form, /ˈtrɒnə/ TRON.[citation needed] As with other words beginning with tr, the stressed /tr/ often sounds almost like [tʃʰɹʷ] chr, for pronunciations such as CHRON-oh and CHRON. The same speaker may pronounce "Toronto" differently depending on the subject of the conversation in which it is used.

Canadian francophones say [toʁɔ̃to], with the French nasal on on the second syllable and, if the word is said at the end of a phrase, the stress on the third syllable.


Toronto has garnered 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.[10] A more disparaging nickname used by the early residents was Little York,[1] 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.[8]

A pen of hogs at the William Davies Company, circa 1920. Although the pork processing plants have moved out of town, Toronto's nickname of "Hogtown" remains.

In his book Naming Canada: Stories about Canadian Place Names, Alan Rayburn states that "no place in Canada has as many sobriquets as Toronto."[12] Among them are the nicknames:

  • "Centre of the Universe",[12] as mentioned in the documentary film Let's All Hate Toronto,[13] as the term is used derisively by residents of the rest of Canada in reference to the city. It is also infrequently used by the media.[14][15][16] Outside Toronto, it is sometimes said to be used by residents of the city.[17] The moniker "Centre of the Universe" was originally a popular nickname for New York City, and more specifically Times Square. It has since been used to refer to other municipalities.
  • "TO" or "T.O.", from Toronto, Ontario, or from Toronto; pronounced "Tee-Oh". Sometimes used as T-dot.[18]
  • "The Megacity", referring to the amalgamation of the former Metropolitan Toronto.[19]
  • "The City That Works", first mentioned in a Harper's Magazine article written by Washington Post correspondent Anthony Astrachan in 1975.[12] It refers to the city's reputation for successful urban planning.[20][21][22]
  • "The Big Smoke",[23][24][25] used by Allan Fotheringham, a writer for Maclean's magazine, who had first heard the term applied by Australian Aborigines to Australian cities.[12] The Big Smoke was originally a popular nickname for London, England, and is now used to refer to various cities throughout the world.
  • "Hogtown", said to be related to the livestock that was processed in Toronto, largely by the city's largest pork processor and packer, the William Davies Company.[26][27]
    • Possibly derived from the Anglo-Saxon word for York, Eoforwic, which literally translates to "wild boar village".
    • A by-law which imposed a 10-cent-per-pig fine on anyone allowing pigs to run in the street.[28]
  • "Toronto the Good",[29][30] from its history as a bastion of 19th century Victorian morality and coined by mayor William Holmes Howland.[31][32] An 1898 book by C.S. Clark was titled Of Toronto the Good. A Social Study. The Queen City of Canada As It Is.[33] The book is a facsimile of an 1898 edition. Today sometimes used ironically to imply a less-than-great or less-than-moral status.
  • "Queen City", a reference now most commonly used by French-Canadians ("La Ville-Reine") or speakers of Quebec English,[33][34] other French-language or Franco-Ontarian newsmedia such as Le Droit or in advertising.[35] The second part of the three-part Toronto: City of Dreams documentary about the city was titled The Queen City (1867-1939).[36]
  • "Methodist Rome", an analogy identifying the city as a centre for Canadian methodism.[citation needed]
  • "City of Churches".[37]
  • "Hollywood North", referring to the film industry.[38][39][40]
  • "Broadway North",[12] in reference to the Broadway theatre area in Manhattan. Toronto is home to the world's third largest English-speaking theatre district after London and NYC.[41]
  • "The 416", referring to the original telephone area code for much of the city (the other area codes are 647 and 437); the surrounding GTA suburbs, now using area codes 905, 289, and 365, are similarly "the 905".
  • “The 6ix” or “The Six” is a new nickname that Toronto born artist, Drake, popularized in 2014 with his album "Views from the 6". Drake himself credits Toronto rapper Jimmy Prime with inventing the handle, but it was the usage of the nickname in many of Drake's music that brought it to global attention.[42] The meaning of the term is unclear, with postulations being a derivative of the two telephone area codes 416 and 647, or the 1998 amalgamation of the 6 former boroughs into the current megacity.[43]



  1. ^ a b c d e f g Natural Resources Canada.
  2. ^ Court.
  3. ^ Guillet 1969, p. 49.
  4. ^ a b Natural Resources Canada: Canada, Provinces & Territories: The naming of their capital cities.
  5. ^ a b Guillet 1969, p. 55.
  6. ^ a b McCarthy 1954, p. 3.
  7. ^ Hayes 2002, p. 60.
  8. ^ a b Firth 1966, p. 297–298.
  9. ^ a b c d Firth 1966, p. 297.
  10. ^ Gerard 2004.
  11. ^ Mulvany 1884, p. 10.
  12. ^ a b c d e Rayburn 2001, p. 45–48.
  13. ^ 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.
  14. ^ The Globe and Mail 2007.
  15. ^ Cerny 2009.
  16. ^ Hoang.
  17. ^ Stewart 2004Attitude is something Toronto has lots of. It's not that they actually say they are the "centre of the universe," as that Montreal radio station mentioned. It is just that they "know" it.
  18. ^ Benson.
  19. ^ Perly's.
  20. ^ 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.
  21. ^ 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
  22. ^ 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.
  23. ^ 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.
  24. ^ Tossell 2009.
  25. ^ Filey 2010.
  26. ^ Mendelson 2013.
  27. ^ Hare.
  28. ^ Macor, Kristie (2010). The Hogtown Project. Toronto, ON: The Hogtown Project. p. Inner cover. ISBN 978-0-9866001-0-4.  |first1= missing |last1= in Authors list (help)
  29. ^ 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.
  30. ^ 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.
  31. ^ Maloney 2010.
  32. ^ 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).
  33. ^ a b Clark 1970.
  34. ^ Toronto Life 2003.
  35. ^ 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.
  36. ^ Toronto: City of Dreams.
  37. ^ 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.
  38. ^ Kuitenbrouwer 2010.
  39. ^ 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.
  40. ^ Bly 2009Though it vies with Vancouver for the title of Hollywood North, Toronto's active arts and design scene extends far beyond cinema.
  41. ^ City of Toronto: Toronto facts.
  42. ^ "We The 6: Why the name Drake gave us is here to stay". The Globe and Mail. Retrieved 2015-11-18. 
  43. ^ The Globe and Mail 2015.