Monday, October 18, 2021

Why the Street Has That Name

Over the last few years I have become more and more interested in toponymy, in the history of the names given to geographical localities. In particular I have been fascinated by the many interactive maps which have now been released to explore and explain the etymology of street names.

Back in 2013 Noah Veltman released the History of San Francisco Place Names, an interactive map which explains the meaning behind then names given to streets in San Francisco. I was so inspired by Noah's map that I ended up creating my own Streets of London interactive map, which takes a look at the etymological history of road names in the City of London.

Over the last few years Geochicas has developed this etymological interest to explore and reveal the under-representation of women in street names. Their Las Calles de las Mujeres is an interactive map which reveals all the streets named for men and women in a large number of cities in Spain, Argentina, Mexico, Bolivia, Cuba, Paraguay, Peru, Italy and Uruguay. The inequality in the number of streets named for women compared to men has also been mapped in many cities around the world by the EqualStreetNames project. 

If you are interested in knowing the meanings behind the street names in your town or city then you could start by exploring the Open Etymology Map. The Open Etymology Map explains the origins of individual street names based on information taken from OpenStreetMap and Wikidata.

Using data from OpenStreetMap and Wikidata has both advantages and disadvantages. One of the disadvantages in that Open Etymology Map has far more information about the origins of street names in some cities (e.g. San Francisco) than it does in other cities (e.g. London). The advantage is that you can improve the map in your town or city by adding etymological data to Wikidata. Open Etymology Map uses the OpenStreetMap tag "name:etymology:wikidata=*". This means that if you add etymological information for an individual street in Wikidata then I assume that information should then appear on Open Etymology Map.

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