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Most Googled: why is London called London?

By Thomas Hobbs

You ask, we answer: tackling the most popular Google searches about London.

Some pronounce it ‘Lundun’, others ‘Lahndahn’ – but one thing we seem to share (according to Google autocomplete, anyway) is a need to learn where our city’s name actually came from in the first place.

Legend suggests it’s named after the ancient dragon-slaying King Lud. Sadly, that’s not true (the bit about dragons probably gave that away). In fact it was the Romans, pitching up in AD 43 looking for a place to cross the Thames, who decided to establish a fort and town called ‘Londinium’. In 2016, archaeologists in the City of London discovered the earliest record of the capital’s Roman name, written on a tablet dating from AD 57.

But how did the Romans come up with the name? Er, nobody knows – according to Mike Paterson, director of London Historians. But a common theory is that it derives from a Celtic name for the area based on the word ‘lond’, meaning ‘wild’ – which would have been a good descriptor for our (far grassier) capital a thousand-odd years ago.

Although the Romans buggered off in about AD 400, London’s name didn’t die. Paterson adds that when the Anglo Saxons resettled the area near Aldwych in the early seventh century, they named it ‘Lundenwic’: a variation on the Roman name that meant ‘London trading town’.

The name then evolved into both ‘Lundin’ and ‘Lunden’, before some funky medieval handwriting turned the ‘U’ and ‘I’ into two ‘O’s by Shakespeare’s day.

Our city has lived so many lives that it’s not surprising it took some time to arrive at its world-famous name. Still, we got there in the end. London, baby! 

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