Guide: Naming a Town or City
There are many things to keep in mind when naming the town or city in your novel:
It’s very important to consider the genre and theme of your story when choosing a town name. Take these names for example, each of which indicates the genre or theme of the story:
King’s Landing (sounds fantastical)
Cloud City (sounds futuristic)
Silent Hill (sounds scary)
Sweet Valley (sounds happy and upbeat)
Bikini Bottom (sounds funny)
Radiator Springs (sounds car-related)
Halloween Town (sounds Halloween-related)
Storybrooke (sounds fairytale-related)
It’s also important to consider the time and place where your story takes place. For example, you wouldn’t use “Vista Gulch” as a name for a town in Victorian England. You probably wouldn’t use it for a town in modern day North Carolina, either. Vista is a Spanish word and would normally be found in places where Spanish names are common, like Spain, Central and South America, the southwest United States (including southern California), Cuba, Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic, and Florida.
3) Size/Settlement Type
An isolated town of 300 people probably won’t be Valley City, but a sprawling metropolis of 30 million could be called Windyville, because it could have started out as a small town and grew into a large city.
Words like gulch, butte,and bayou tend to be regional terms. You probably wouldn’t find Berle’s Bayou in Idaho, or Windy Butte in Rhode Island.
Words like mount, cape, and valley are dependent upon terrain. Most of the time, you won’t have a town named “mount” something unless there are hills or mountains nearby. You wouldn’t use “cape” unless the town was on a cape, which requires a large body of water.
Is there a historical person or event that your town might be named after? The Simpsons’ hometown of Springfield is ironically named after its founder, Jebediah Springfield. Chattanooga, Tennessee is named after the Cherokee town that was there first. Nargothrond, in The Lord of the Rings, is an Elvish town with an Elvish name.
6) Combination of Words
- person name + geographical term = Smithfield, Smith Creek
- group name + geographical term = Pioneer Valley, Settlers’ Ridge
- descriptive word + geographical term = Mystic Falls, Smoky Hill
- person name + settlement type = Smithton, Claraville
- landmark + settlement type = Bridgton, Beaconville
Types of Settlements
Try a combination of two words from any of these lists. :)