Internet linguist posts historic Albany-area name origins

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Albany's Hidden Etymologies

Albany’s Hidden Etymologies Infographic (Adam Aleksic / @etmologynerd)

ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — Adam Aleksic, a Harvard student who goes by “etymologynerd” on Instagram and Twitter, has created an infographic titled “Albany’s Hidden Etymologies”:

(Adam Aleksic / @etmologynerd)

In case the image is difficult for you to read:

  • Albany: Named after King James II, the Duke of Albany. Previously known as Fort Orange.
  • Altamont: An 1887 name meaning “high mountain” in Latin. Originally Knowersville.
  • Bethlehem: Named by some very religious farmers after the birthplace of Jesus.
  • Burnt Hills: Native Americans would burn the hillsides for deer-hunting purposes.
  • Clifton Park: Named after a 1708 land patent. Previously called Shenendehowa, an Algonquin word for “grassy plain.”
  • Cohoes: Thought to come from an Algonquian word meaning “pine tree.”
  • Colonie: Comes from the Dutch word coloyne, which means “colony.”
  • Delmar: Renamed from Adamsville to avoid confusion with another town.
  • Duane Lake: After James Duane, a judge, New York mayor, and revolutionary
  • East Greenbush: Greenbush is a corruption of Dutch groen bos, “green forest.”
  • Guilderland: Named after the Dutch province of Gelderland.
  • Latham: Named after hotel owner William G. Latham.
  • Loudonville: Named to honor John Campbell, 4th Earl Loudon, whose troops camped there during the French and Indian War. Previously known as Ireland’s Corners.
  • Menands: Named after French horticulturalist and local landowner Louis Menands.
  • New Scotland: Established in 1765 by Scottish settlers.
  • Niskayuna: An Algonquian word for “corn fields.”
  • Rensselaer: Named in 1897 after the Manor of Rensselaerswyck, which was named for diamond merchant Kiliaen Van Rensselaer. Previously known as De Laet’s Burg.
  • Rotterdam: Settled by the Dutch in 1661 and named after a city in the Netherlands
  • Schenectady: The name is from an Algonquian term sounding like skau0naugh0ta0da and meaning “over the pine plains”
  • Slingerlands: Named after the prominent Van Slingerlandt family, which owned land in the area.
  • Thacher Park: Named after John Boyd Thacher, a two-term mayor of Albany.
  • Troy: Named in 1789 for the ancient city of Troy. Formerly named Vanderhyden’s Ferry.
  • Voorheesville: Named by railroad attorney Alonzo Voorhees after himself
  • Watervliet: Means “water flows” in Dutch.

According to Merriam-Webster’s dictionary, etymology is the history of a linguistic form (such as a word) shown by tracing its development since its earliest recorded occurrence in the language where it is found, by tracing its transmission from one language to another, by analyzing it into its component parts, by identifying its cognates in other languages, or by tracing it and its cognates to a common ancestral form in an ancestral language.

Merriam-Webster also features toponomy: “the place-names of a region or language or especially the etymological study of them.” You can check out a list of toponymies in the Capital Region on Wikipedia.

Aleksic has created similar infographics for Manhattan, Philadelphia, and Melbourne.

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