List of Philadelphia placename etymologies

Jump to navigation Jump to search
Philadelphia Skyline

Source of the place names in the city of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.


Street Name Source
Aramingo Avenue Named for Aramingo Borough whose name was a corruption of the Lenni Lenapi stream name Tumanaraming, meaning "Wolf Walk."[1]
Baltimore Avenue Originally Baltimore Pike, named for the destination city of Baltimore, Maryland
Blair Street Named for John Blair.[1]
Broad Street As with "Broad Street" in various other towns and cities, it was named for its breadth, and laid out and developed as a central thoroughfare.
Cecil B. Moore Avenue Named in honor of the late Philadelphia civil rights attorney Cecil B. Moore, who led the fight to integrate Girard College, president of the local NAACP, and member of Philadelphia's City Council. Was formerly called Columbia Avenue.
Callowhill Street Named for Hannah Callowhill Penn, William Penn's second wife and acting proprietor of the colony of Pennsylvania from 1712 to 1726.
Cheltenham Avenue Follows the border between Cheltenham Township, Montgomery County and Philadelphia County.
Cherry Street One of William Penn's streets named for trees, this one was named for the cherry tree.
Chestnut Street One of William Penn's streets named for trees, this one was named for the chestnut tree.
Chew Avenue Named after Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Province of Pennsylvania, Benjamin Chew
City Avenue The street is also U.S. 1, and its name refers to its role as both the Philadelphia city line and the Montgomery County line.
Columbus Boulevard Formerly Delaware Avenue because it ran along the Delaware River. Renamed in honor of explorer Christopher Columbus upon the 500th anniversary of his famous 1492 voyage, as requested by various Italian Americans of South Philadelphia.
Dickinson Street Named for John Dickinson, Continental Congressman and one of the signers of the Constitution.
Elfreth's Alley Named after Jeremiah Elfreth, an 18th-century blacksmith and property owner. It is one of the oldest continuously inhabited residential streets in the United States of America, dating to 1702.
Federal Street The road between two Federal properties, the Philadelphia Navy Yard and the Schuylkill Arsenal[2]
Benjamin Franklin Parkway Named for Benjamin Franklin.
Front Street Like "Front Street" in various other towns and cities, it was named after a riverfront, in this case the Delaware riverfront, which for several centuries was the economic and social heart of the city.
Germantown Avenue It was the road to Germantown back when Germantown was a separate town, several miles outside Philadelphia.
Girard Avenue, Girard Point, and Girard Point Bridge Named for financier Stephen Girard.
Independence Mall East, Independence Mall West Named for Independence Mall, the district whose heart is Independence Hall.
Kelly Drive Formerly East River Drive, because it runs along the east bank of the Schuylkill River, it was renamed in honor of Olympic athlete John B. Kelly Jr..[3]
John F. Kennedy Boulevard Built in the 1950s as part of the large redevelopment of the Pennsylvania Railroad "Chinese Wall" and former Broad Street Station that created Penn Center; it was for several years called Pennsylvania Boulevard before being renamed for John F. Kennedy after his assassination. It serves as part of Pennsylvania Route 3.
Lancaster Avenue Originally Lancaster Pike, named for the destination city of Lancaster, Pennsylvania.
Locust Street One of William Penn's streets named for trees, this one was named for the locust tree.
Market Street As with "Market Street" in many other towns and cities, it was for several centuries the main market site.
Manayunk The neighborhood's name comes from the word "manaiung," place where we go to drink, in the language of the Lenape[4]
Martin Luther King Jr. Drive[5] Formerly called West River Drive because it runs along the west bank of the Schuylkill River, it was renamed in honor of slain civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr.
Mount Pleasant Drive Named for the historic mansion Mount Pleasant, built in what was then the countryside outside of the city by a privateer.[6] It is now an off-premises gallery of the Philadelphia Museum of Art in Fairmount Park.[7]
Moyamensing Avenue Named for Lenni Lenape word meaning "pigeon droppings."[8]
Old York Road, York Road, King's Highway The old road to New York City was named, as was that city and its province, for James, Duke of York (later James II & VII.)
Passyunk Avenue Named for the Lenape word meaning "in the valley; in the Valleys."[9]
Philmont Ave Named for the county line between Philadelphia and Montgomery counties, which it runs along for part of its route (Phil + Mont).
Pine Street One of William Penn's streets named for trees, this one was named for the pine tree.
Race Street Race Street was originally called Sassafras Street and until the mid-19th century was often used as a horse race track—the era's equivalent of today's street racing. Eventually the name Race Street became the official name.
Reed Street Named for Joseph Reed, statesmen of the American Revolution.
Ridge Avenue Named for the ridge of high ground between the Wissahickon and Schuylkill valleys, which the avenue follows.
Rising Sun Avenue Named after the Rising Sun Tavern, which was an important roadhouse in colonial times.
Roosevelt Boulevard/Roosevelt Expressway Named for President Theodore Roosevelt.
Sansom Street Named by developer William Sansom for himself (See Jewelers' Row)
Shackamaxon Street Named for the historic village where the Shackamaxon Treaty was signed between William Penn and the village leaders of the Delaware/Lenape Indian tribe.
South Street Formerly known as Cedar Street (originally one of William Penn's streets named for trees, in this case cedar trees), it is the original southern border of the city of Philadelphia, before the 1854 Act of Consolidation.
Spruce Street One of William Penn's streets named for trees, this one was named for the spruce tree.
Walnut Street One of William Penn's streets named for trees, this one was named for the walnut tree.
Vine Street One of William Penn's streets named for trees, this one was named after vines.

Place names[edit]

Place Name Source
Clark Park Built on land donated by Clarence Howard Clark, originally known as "Clarence H. Clark Park".[10]
Delaware River Named for the Delaware Bay which was named after Thomas West, 3rd Baron De La Warr, governor of the Jamestown Colony.
Fern Rock The neighborhood is named after the ancestral estate of Elisha Kent Kane, a renowned arctic explorer and naval surgeon from Philadelphia.
Fox Chase Named for the "Fox Chase Inn" which catered to affluent fox hunters.[citation needed]
Franklin Square Named for Benjamin Franklin.
Independence Mall Named for Independence Hall.
Lemon Hill Named for the numerous lemon trees in Robert Morris's greenhouse.[citation needed]
Logan Circle Named Logan Square after Philadelphia statesman James Logan.[11]
Manayunk From the Lenape name for the Schuylkill River, "Manaiung", their word for "river", which literally translates as "place to drink".[12][13]
Marconi Plaza in honor of the Nobel Prize Laureate Guglielmo Marconi, the inventor of radio.
Mount Airy Named for the estate of William Allen
Nicetown Named after immigrants to the area whose surname has appeared with many spellings over the centuries, including Neues, Neus, Neiss, Nice, and Nyce.
Pastorius Park Named in honor of Francis Pastorius, a leader of early German immigrants to the area.[citation needed]
Queen Village Named for Queen Christina of Sweden who promoted European settlement of the area.[14]
Rittenhouse Square Named for David Rittenhouse.[15]
RittenhouseTown Named after William Rittenhouse.
Roxborough The area was likely named for Roxburghshire, Scotland, the original home of Andrew Robeson, one of the early settlers of what is now Roxborough.
Society Hill Named after the Free Society of Traders, which had its offices in the area.
Southwark Named for a district in London.[16]
Torresdale Originally Torrisdale, named by Charles Macalester for his Scotland home.[17]
Washington Square Named for George Washington.
Wicaco From the Lenni Lenapi name for the area meaning "Pleasant Place".[16]
Wissahickon Creek From the Lenape language for "catfish creek" or "stream of yellowish color".[13]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2012-12-11. Retrieved 2013-01-12.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  2. ^ Schuylkill Arsenal « THE NECESSITY FOR RUINS
  3. ^ Kelly Drive : Photo Detail :: - The Official Visitor Site for Greater Philadelphia
  4. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2002-06-04. Retrieved 2006-05-23.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  5. ^ Taussig, Doron (January 13–19, 2005). "Fit for a King?". Philadelphia Citypaper., p. 36. Archived 2006-03-08 at the Wayback Machine
  6. ^ "Mount Pleasant". Independence Hall Association. It was built in 1761-62 by Captain John Macpherson, a privateer who had had "an arm twice shot off" according to John Adams. The pirate called the house "Clunie" after the seat of his family's ancient clan in Scotland.
  7. ^ Philadelphia Museum of Art. "Fairmount Park Houses: Mount Pleasant". Scottish ship captain John Macpherson (1726–1792) and his first wife, Margaret, built their grand country estate on this site—high atop cliffs overlooking the Schuylkill River—between 1762 and 1765. They employed as their builder-architect Thomas Nevell (1721–1797), an apprentice of Edmund Woolley, the builder of Independence Hall.
  8. ^ page with reference Retrieved 2011-01-31
  9. ^ [1] Retrieved 2012-07-24
  10. ^ JAMA, 1912
  11. ^ [2]
  12. ^ Nickels, Thom Images of America :ManayunkArcadia Publishing 2001, ISBN 978-0-7385-0511-4
  13. ^ a b Chapter 3 - Part II, Vol. II - Watson's Annals of Philadelphia and Pennsylvania, 1857
  14. ^ [3]
  15. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2009-01-06. Retrieved 2009-08-22.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  16. ^ a b Sitarski, Stephen. From Weccacoe to South Philadelphia: The Changing Face of a Neighborhood. Pennsylvania Historical Society
  17. ^ "Torresdale", Historical Northeast Philadelphia: Stories and Memories ~1994, William C. English and Elaine D. Malinowski, Torresdale Historical Society