I've been a small time traveler for years and always seem to find a treasure trove of inspiration for stories I write.
Unusual, Unique and Cool City Names That Writers Will Find Quite Useful
There are a lot of cities with cool names that dot our planet. Most of them are an average snapshot of a small town, the only difference being a weird or unusual name. Any writer knows that a city can be a character unto itself, and the better name your characters have, the more memorable they are, especially when that city or town is a real place.
This article is chock full of unique town names that actually exist or once existed at some point in time. I've also included where the city is located in case you want to do more research on the actual destination (to make your story seem more real). I really hope you find an interesting name that you can use, and be sure to check back every once in a while as I plan to keep adding to the list. Thanks for taking a look.
Abasha (Georgia - the Country)
Abu Dhabi (United Arab Emirates)
Addis Ababa (Ethiopia) (Check out the Ethiopian National Library to see old letters written by kings and princes.)
Alice Springs (Australia)
Al Jahrah (Kuwait)
Amsterdam (Netherlands) (The city's name was derived from the fact that it grew around a dam that was in a river called Amstel.)
Andorra La Vella (Andorra)
Auckland (New Zealand)
Balls Pond (London, England)
Big Sandy (Tennessee, U.S.)
Bodden Town (This Cayman Islands village was named after a government leader named William Bodden.)
Brussels (Belgium) (The Grand-Place is the main market square and between March and October you will find a daily flower market there.)
Bucharest (Romania) (The Palace of Parliament is one of the largest buildings in the world and is a must visit via a guided tour.)
Budapest (Hungary) (Has lots of municipal parks with lots of seasonal activities.)
Buenos Aires (Argentina)
Cairo (Egypt) (Most people will want to visit the pyramids on the outskirts of Cairo, but leave plenty of time to explore the rest of the city.)
Calydon (An ancient Greek city that took its name from the founder Calydon, son of Aetolus.)
Cannes (France) (A city known for its association with the rich, famous and powerful; also the annual yearly destination for those that go to the Cannes Film Festival.)
Cape Town (South Africa)
Castletown (Isle of Man)
Cidra (Puerto Rico) (Also known as the "Town of the Eternal Spring" due to its cool temperatures.)
Cologne (This German city's name dates back to Roman times when it was called Colonia.)
Damascus (Syria) (One of the oldest inhabited cities in history.)
Dori (Burkina Faso)
Dubai (United Arab Emirates) (This global city is one of the main business hubs of the Middle East.)
Edinburgh (Scotland, UK)
El Estor (Guatemala)
Fagatogo (American Samoa)
Fairy Dell (Victoria, Australia) (An unusual, but beautiful name for a city or town.)
Freetown (Sierra Leone) (A harbor city that is known for being the oldest capital founded by African Americans.)
Gore (Ethiopia) (What a great name for a city or town in a scary movie.)
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Greymouth (New Zealand)
Hague, The (Netherlands)
Halifax (Nova Scotia, Canada)
High Rock (Bahamas) (Relax in seclusion on white sandy beaches and clear, blue water that is perfect for snorkeling, fishing and kayaking.)
Himera (ancient Sicilian city)
Hong Kong (Hong Kong, China)
Honolulu (Hawaii) (Means a place of shelter.)
Innsbruck (Austria) (Well known internationally for its winter sports center.)
Kandy (Sri Lanka)
Kells (Republic of Ireland)
Killarney (Republic of Ireland)
Kota Sorong (Indonesia)
Kowloon (Hong Kong)
Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia)
La Serena (Chile)
Las Tunas (Cuba)
Limerick (Republic of Ireland) (A boat tour along the River Shannon is highly recommended.)
Lost (A tiny village in Aberdeenshire, Scotland.)
Malaga (Spain) (One of the oldest cities in the world that's had a continuous population living there.)
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Mecca (Saudi Arabia)
Merthyr Tydfil (Wales)
Monte Carlo (Monaco)
Nakasi 9 Â½ Miles (Fiji)
Odessa (Ukraine) (Sometimes called the "Pearl of the Black Sea".)
Omoka (more of a village in the Cook Islands)
Orange Walk (Belize)
Pigg's Peak (Swaziland)
Plymouth (an abandoned city in Montserrat)
Port Royal (Jamaica)
Prague (Czech Republic)
Pretoria (South Africa)
Rhodes Town (Greece)
Rio de Janeiro (Brazil)
Riyadh (Saudi Arabia)
Road Town (Virgin Islands)
Samara (Russia) (Name was changed to Kuybyshev in 1935 and changed back to Samara in the early nineties.)
San Lorenzo (Paraguay)
San Sebastian (Puerto Rico)
Sao Paulo (Brazil)
Seoul (South Korea)
Sinpo (North Korea)
Snug Corner (Bahamas)
Strand (South Africa)
Tamboril (Domincan Republic)
Thunder Bay (Ontario, Canada)
Don't overlook travel ads when trying to come up with interesting destinations. While made to showcase the best of the area, they are a good place to start your research and most stories do feature prominent landmarks at some point.
Tralee (Republic of Ireland) (Be sure to check out the Rose of Tralee International Festival that has been held every August since 1959.)
Twizel (New Zealand)
U.S. cities with strange names can make your stories better, not worse.
Finding cool city names in the U.S. is easier than you think because we are such a melting pot of a nation. Our city names can come form anywhere and be inspired by anything past, present or future.
Five Points (Got its name from the five roads that all converged to a single point.)
Barrow (Named after Sir John Barrow, a British Admiral, by explorer Frederick Beechey in 1825.)
Chicken (Chicken was the second town to be incorporated in Alaska, and was named Chicken by its founders because they were unsure how to spell what they really wanted to call the town... ptarmigan - a local grouse that helped settlers survive their first harsh winter.)
Snowflake (The town was named by its founders Erastus Snow and William Jordan Flake.)
San Francisco (Got it's name from a mission called "Mission San Francisco de Asis a la Laguna de lost Dolores" which was established back in 1776.)
Boulder (Believed to have gotten its name from Boulder Creek.)
Slaughter Beach (Name from crabs that wash up on shore and die each year.)
How Do Towns And Cities Get Their Names? - It's often simpler than you think.
- Sometimes a town is named after a person, no matter how weird that person's last name is. Sometimes they're famous. Sometimes they're infamous.
- An offhand remark or sarcasm can sometimes be taken seriously.
- Some cities are named after a prominent landmark or an abundant resource, even though it may be a bit of an embarrassment (gold, wood, etc.).
- Odd celebrations can be an inspiration for names.
- Naming a place after a certain plant or animal indigenous to the area is always an option.
- A famous person's opinion can sometimes be the best (or worst) thing to happen to a town. Their opinion can give a town an immediate name, especially if the press gets hold of it.
Key West (Mallory Square is a waterfront plaza that you've got to visit for the "sunset celebration".)
Lake Placid (Many movies named after cities or towns are quite good.)
Waldo (I could not find Waldo during my visit to this town.)
Climax (A unique name for a city, to be sure.)
Iron City (This would be a great setting for a Fantasy story.)
Chicago (Derived from the Native American word "shikaakwa", which means "smelly onion".)
Small Towns And Out of the Way Places Are A Lot Easier To Find With A Map - A City With A Cool Name Isn't Always Enough - You Must Do Your Research
If your story takes place in a town or city with your own specific layout, then a good name for it is all you will need, but if you plan on basing your story in a real place, then you need to investigate. I have actually planned three vacations based upon how weird, strange or unique the city name was. They were all very memorable and very enjoyable trips.
French Lick (Hometown of NBA legend Larry Bird.)
Hell For Certain (The official name is "Dryhill", but the community's common name comes from the Hell For Certain creek.)
Science Hill (Named by Willie Bobitt after his favorite subject and for the hill which the town is located on.)
Kittery (Named after the birthplace of founder Alexander Shapleigh. Born and raised in Devon, England from his manor Kittery Court at Kingswear.)
Bad Axe (a weird name for a city, for sure)
Hell (Named when someone asked an early settler what it should be called and his reply was, “Name it ‘Hell’ if you want to, I don’t care.”)
Hot Coffee (The community name came from an inn ran by L.J.Davis back in 1870 which was well known for “the best hot coffee around”.)
Knob Lick (Takes its name from nearby Knob Lick mountain; "knob" referring to an isolated summit and "lick" referring to a natural salt lick or spring.)
Hackensack (The Ice House is a complex with several full size skating rinks that you've got to see to believe.)
Roswell, New Mexico
Roswell (made famous by the events that happened there)
Truth or Consequences (Changed its name from Hot Springs to the current one on March 31, 1950 after Ralph Edwards, the host of the game show Truth or Consequences, made a challenge for an American town to do so.)
Bath (Derived from John Granville, Earl of Bath.)
Sparks (Named after George T. Sparks in 1902, a director for Fort Smith and Western Railroad Company.)
Burnt Woods (Forest fire problems, anyone?)
Echo (Great name for a town in a horror film.)
Upper Black Eddy
Deadwood (Visit Mount Moriah Cemetery to pay your respects to people such as Bill Hickok and Calamity Jane.)
Cut and Shoot (The name came from a threat of violence back in 1969 that never happened when someone remarked, "I'm going to cut around the corner and shoot through the bushes.")
Hideout (I wonder if this city would make a good one?)
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Some Of My Favorite Fictional Cities
© 2013 Don
Tell Others About Any Interesting Towns Or Cities You've Visited - Especially those with strange names.
Julia Rose from Japan on May 21, 2019:
I like that this combines traveling with writing. Sometimes fact really is stranger than fiction. I'll have to keep some of these city names in mind when writing my next story. Thank you for the wonderful information!
Liz Westwood from UK on December 07, 2018:
Some familiar, but many unfamiliar place names here. I often base my choice of a book or film on the location. I tend to favour the places I have already visited so I can recognise and visualise the location.
apothecarynow on November 09, 2018:
Very impressive list - I never knew there were so many unusual place names.
Maria Grace de Guzman from Philippines on September 28, 2018:
Thank you for sharing this list. I have learned something new today.
Afroditi Chaida on July 24, 2018:
Very nice! Love Damascus.
Ellen Adarna from San Diego, California on May 12, 2018:
Nice List. Thanks for it!!!!!
Cerio on May 11, 2018:
Cool stuff. Those are a must visit places for tourists, including myself.
Thanks for sharing, Don!
Billy Haynes from Paragould, AR on April 23, 2018:
Couple names you could add to the list:
Success, Arkansas (we pass this small town when going to visit the girlfriends parents in Missouri).
Pilot Knob, Missouri
Bald Knob, Missouri
Alexander James Guckenberger from Maryland, United States of America on December 08, 2017:
I would love to visit Delhi one day.
Kristen Howe from Northeast Ohio on December 03, 2017:
This is a great list of places to set your stories and scripts. I lived in Shaker Heights OH for 5 years, when I first moved to Ohio from New Jersey. And my first summer Nano novel took place to the Florida Keys, mainly Key West. Thanks for sharing. No strange named towns that I've visited or lived in.
Tiffany on April 11, 2017:
Petra is an ancient city that no longer exists that has a cool name, though I would only use it in as story as an actual setting.
anonymous on February 14, 2017:
I'm quite fond of the name Trieste, in Italy.
Michael on September 30, 2016:
Hf on September 05, 2016:
Davies on June 29, 2016:
I know a few amateur writers that have written stories after traveling to certain cities or towns, and I believe there are some well-known authors who have done so as well.
speedd on June 18, 2016:
If you could explain a little bit of history of the names it would be even more interesting
Ocicat on November 12, 2014:
I think they definitely missed one. Angel Fire New Mexico.
Peg on November 07, 2014:
I think a story with cities named after Sodom and Gomorrah (from Bible) would be kind of cool. The other cities allied with these two were Zeboim, Bela and Admah; collectively they were known as the "cities of the plain".
Don (author) from Tennessee on January 09, 2014:
@rasgriz: I just love a lot of the city names in other parts of the world. They have so much more history and have been around a lot longer than the younger countries. I've often wondered why any older city would change its name from the one it had in ancient times. I guess to commemorate a new start?
rasgriz on December 28, 2013:
you should put Bandung (indonesia) its very unique name, and of course the city itself
anonymous on May 07, 2013:
I wonder how many people visit Hazard, Kentucky because of the Dukes of Hazard tv show? I'm one of them!
anonymous on April 26, 2013:
Once visited a small town called Arches (in Utah I think) several years ago. I've always wondered how a town chooses its name. Maybe you could put that in your article?
anonymous on March 31, 2013:
I've just finished watching Spartacus. There's lots of interesting city names in that one from ancient Rome. Capua. Thrace. Gaul.