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Name of Toronto

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 26 August 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 1 January 1998.


  • History 1
    • Incorporation of the City of Toronto 1.1
  • Pronunciation 2
  • Nicknames 3


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.
— Isaac Weld, [5]

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

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 1 March 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 or . In conversation, locals generally pronounce it , , , , or Listen , or, in its most abbreviated form, . As with other words beginning with tr, the stressed often sounds almost like [tʃʰɹʷ] chr, for pronunciations such as and . The same speaker may pronounce "Toronto" differently depending on the subject of the conversation in which it is used.

Canadian francophones say , 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 vast pork processing plants are long gone, 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] More likely derived from the Saxon word for York, Eoforwic, which literally translates to "wild boar village".
  • "Toronto the Good",[28][29] from its history as a bastion of 19th century Victorian morality and coined by mayor William Holmes Howland.[30][31] 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.
  • "Queen City", a reference now most commonly used by
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