Ain't Just Born That Way: Ever Wondered How the NYC Boroughs Got Their Names?

New York City has some of the most interesting neighborhoods in the world and the stories behind the names of those neighborhoods are just as interesting.

But what about the boroughs themselves?

We already know that each borough has their own cocktail-- not just Manhattan, thank you very much. 

So, if you'd ever wondered how the boroughs got their names, we've looked into it. You're welcome. 

You won’t believe how some of these places got their names or what these words actually mean.

1. Manhattan 


The word Manhattan is derived from the word Manna-hata. Manhattan comes from the Lenni Lenape language called Munsi and it means land of many hills.

The colony was originally named New Amsterdam when the Dutch tricked the Native Americans into selling it to them for some preposterous price. Then, the British took it from the Dutch because England was trying to own the world back then. 


Anyway, the British changed the name of the colony to New York.

However, the area that is still referred to as Manhattan today was first described as Manna-hata in the logbook of Captain Robert Juet in 1609. He was the captain of the Halve Maen (half moon), the yacht owned by Henry Hudson.

2. Brooklyn


This is a surprisingly boring answer. The word Brooklyn is a messed up version of Breukelen which is a Dutch word. Actually, it’s not even a real Dutch word.

It’s just the name of some town in the Netherlands. Manhattan gets to mean land of many hills meanwhile Brooklyn gets stuck with an anglicized version of some village in the Netherlands. Kind of a bummer.

3. Staten Island


Much like Brooklyn, Staten Island is an anglicized version of Dutch. The island was initially named Staaten Eylandt which literally means "States Island." It was supposed to be in honor of the Dutch parliament.


Henry Hudson named it that in 1609. Henry Hudson was an English guy, but he named it in Dutch because he was working for the Dutch East India Company and was probably just trying to get some brownie points.


4. Queens

Queens is named after Queen Catherine of Braganza. She was married to King Charles II. It’s kind of weird that they decided to name it Queens rather than Catherine’s though. 

Well, Catherine’s sounds kind of absurd. But, maybe something that couldn’t be attributed to any queen in the history of the world.


If you were at pub trivia and the question came up asking which queen was the inspiration for calling it Queens, no way you would’ve guessed Queen Catherine of Braganza. Absolutely no way.

5. The Bronx


The Bronx is named after Jonas Bronck who settled in the area in 1639. He was also Dutch. Bronck owned a huge farm in modern Mott Haven. It was a mad big farm. The farm was way over 600 acres.

Anyway, it was initially called Emmaus, which was some kind of biblical reference. After that people started calling it Bronck’s land, then they changed it to Bronksland, then eventually just The Bronx.

6. The Big Apple


So, there are a bunch of explanations as to how NYC got its now famous nickname. However, the prevailing theory is that it developed out of a horse racing column written by this guy J. Fitz Gerald in the 1920s. 

Apparently he used to always use the phrase, “Around the big apple.”


Others say that the name came about because New York produces the second-most apples in the United States to Washington. But, most people agree that’s ridiculous.

The last theory is that in the 1930 jazz musicians used the phrase the big apple in reference to the great music clubs in NYC.

Check out Manhattan Isn't the Only Cocktail Named After a Borough. 

[Feature Image Courtesy FiveBoroughsBlog] 

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