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Geographical renaming is the act of changing the name of a geographical feature or area. This can range from the uncontroversial change of a street name to a highly disputed change to the name of a country. Some names are changed locally but are not recognised by other countries, especially when there is a difference in language. Other names may not be officially recognised but remain in common use.

There are many reasons to undertake renaming, with political motivation being the primary cause, such as renaming places to honour Stalin, and reverting to the original names (see de-Stalinization). One of the most common reasons for a country changing its name is newly acquired independence. When borders are changed, sometimes due to a country splitting or two countries joining together, the name of the areas can change. This, however, is more the creation of a different entity than an act of geographical renaming.

Other more unusual reasons for renaming have included:
  • To stop having an unusual or embarrassing name
  • As part of a sponsor deal or publicity stunt

A change might see a completely different name being adopted or may simply be just a slightly different spelling.

In some cases established institutions preserve the old names of the renamed places in their names, such as the Pusan National Universitymarker in Busanmarker, South Koreamarker; the Peking Universitymarker in Beijing, People's Republic of Chinamarker; Bombay Stock Exchange, IIT Bombaymarker and the Bombay High Court in Mumbaimarker, Republic of Indiamarker; Persian Gulfmarker, south of Iranmarker (formerly Persiamarker); and the University of Madras, Madras Stock Exchange, the Madras High Courtmarker, and IIT Madrasmarker in Chennaimarker, Republic of Indiamarker.

Naming disputes

Significant name changes

The following list shows acts of geographical renaming that have had been of international importance or significance.

Countries and territories

Subnational entities

  • Free Statemarker – formerly Orange Free State - (South Africa)
  • Gautengmarker – formerly Pretoria Witwatersrand-Vereeninging - (South Africa)
  • Guangdongmarker – formerly known in English as Canton - (China)
  • Hebeimarker – formerly Zhili (直隶) - (China)
  • Kashmir and Jammu (princely state of India), today split as Jammu and Kashmirmarker (India) and Azad Jammu and Kashmirmarker (Pakistan)
  • KwaZulu-Natal – formerly Natal - (South Africa)
  • Limpopomarker – formerly Northern Province, formerly Northern Transvaal - (South Africa)
  • Mpumalangamarker – formerly Eastern Transvaal - (South Africa)
  • Newfoundland and Labradormarker – formerly Newfoundland - (Canada)
  • Papuamarker – formerly Irian Jaya, Irian Barat, West New Guinea and Netherlands New Guinea. Also known as West Papua - (Indonesia)
  • Phuket, an island belonging to Thailandmarker in the Andaman Seamarker was formerly known as Talang in Thai, Ujong Salang in Malay and Junk Ceylon - (Thailand)
  • Puducherrymarker – formerly Pondicherry - (India)
  • Sabahmarker from British North Borneo in 1963 - (Malaysia)
  • Sughdmarker from Leninobod in 2004 - (Tajikistan)
  • Tasmaniamarker – Large island south of mainland Australia which was formerly known as Van Diemens Landmarker - (Australia)

Cities and towns

Changes resulting from splits and mergers

Unusual name changes

See also


External links

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