From On the Go Tours

New map shows the literal translations of world cities, and some are real headscratchers

TORONTO – Did you know that Rio de Janeiro means ‘river of January’? Or that Bangkok means ‘district of wild plums’?

We bet you didn’t know that many city names carry hidden meanings and historic references, with some proving more obvious than others.

In a revealing new map, On The Go Tours takes a look at major city in each country around the world to highlight their literal translations. Based on their meanings, where will you book a trip this summer?

Here are the most unusual literal translations the company found:

Tirana (Albania) – ‘Dairy’

Mbuji-Mayi (Democratic Republic of the Congo) – ‘Goat water’

Quito (Ecuador) – ‘Centre of the world’

Accra (Ghana) – ‘Ants’

Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia) – ‘Muddy confluence’

Ngerulmud (Palau) – ‘Place of fermented fish’

Bo (Sierra Leone) – ‘Yours’

Singapore (Singapore) – ‘Lion city’

Bloemfontein (South Africa) – ‘Fountain of flowers’

Khartoum (Sudan) – ‘End of an elephant’s trunk

Dushanbe (Tajikstan) – ‘Monday’

Ashgabat (Turkmenistan) – ‘City of love’

Funafuti (Tuvalu) – ‘Banana’

Abu Dhabi (United Arab Emirates) – ‘Father of the gazelle’

Harare (Zimbabwe) – ‘He does not sleep’

To view the full map, go to:

The map is broken down into a number of different categories: People. Natural, Feelings, Man Made, Animal and Other. According to the map, it seems that nature inspires us the most when it comes to naming our cities, as 35% (67 cities) of those featured on the graphic have been named after things in nature. This includes Berlin, Germany, whose literal translation is ‘swamp’ and Reykjavik, Iceland, which translates as ‘smoky bay’.

The next most popular theme we choose to name our cities is ‘manmade’. 50 cities fall under this category including Lisbon, Portugal, which means ‘safe harbour’, Kuwait City, Kuwait, which means ‘fortress by the sea’ and Canberra, Australia, whose literal translation is ‘meeting place’. There are only 11 places on the map that are named after animals; including Bern, Switzerland, named after ‘bear’ and Kampala, Uganda, which translates as ‘gazelle’.

The remaining cities are named after ‘people’ (29 cities), ‘feelings’ (17 cities) and ‘other’ (16 cities).

For more information on the literal translations of cities around the world, please visit On The Go Tours.

Travel Week Logo

Get travel news right to your inbox!