Vol. 47 No. 3 (1999)
Research Article

Numbers in Placenames

Published 1999-09-01



The most obvious factor that accounts for numbers forming parts of placenames — most of them minor, odonyms being especially numerous — is expediency. Such names, of which New York's Fifth Avenue is no doubt the most renowned, serve the practical needs of urbanization and administration in a time of new development and, in many cases, become established in popular usage. Another large category of examples relates to distances, along a major highway, from an important supply center: while most examples of this type are modem, there are a few in Europe that survive from antiquity. These two types, however, far from account for all the circumstances that may lead to numbers becoming part of recognized placenames. The origin of “numerical” names is occasionally incidental or anecdotal; but there are many more that mark junctions or boundaries, or refer to groups of natural or man-made features. Where such groupings are involved, certain numbers are more frequently favored than others: clearly, not all numbers are equally acceptable in popular toponymic usage.


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