From Zhōngguó and Sierra Leone to the village of Assington: How do places get their name?

Road sign directing drivers towards Truth or Consequences, New Mexico.

You may have seen that I’ve been outlining fictional maps for fun. This interest in creating fictional worlds has also got me thinking about how places get their name.

Usually, I’ve named locations based on what sounded good or right at the time. Quite often they have a thematic connection to what I’m working on, a distortion of a placename that already exists or is a joke (or a mix of the three).

But I decided to do some research and learn about how real places acquire their names. I thought it would help make more informed choices about the fictional worlds I’m inventing.

Predominantly I’ve looked at country names. But stick around until the end where I look at the origins of places with funny names, like the village Assington.