The name of
Toronto has a history distinct from that of the city
itself. Originally, the term "Taronto" referred to a channel of water
Lake Simcoe and Lake Couchiching, but in time the name passed
southward, and was eventually applied to a new fort at the mouth of
the Humber River. Fort
Toronto was the first settlement in the area,
and lent its name to what became the city of Toronto.
John Graves Simcoe
John Graves Simcoe identified the area as a strategic location to base
a new capital for Upper Canada, believing Newark to be susceptible to
American invasion. A garrison was established at Garrison Creek, on
the western entrance to the docks of
Toronto Harbour, in 1793; this
later became Fort York. The settlement it defended was renamed
August 26, 1793, as Simcoe favoured English names over those of First
Nations languages, in honour of Prince Frederick, Duke of York.
Residents petitioned to change the name back to Toronto, and in 1834
the city was incorporated with its original name. The name York
lived on through the name of
York County (which was later split into
Metropolitan Toronto and
York Region), and continues to live on
through the names of several districts within the city, including
Yorkville, East York, and North York, the latter two suburbs that were
formally amalgamated into the "megacity" of
Toronto on January 1,
1.1 Beginnings of Upper Canada
1.2 Incorporation of the City of Toronto
A garrison was established at what would eventually become Fort York,
built to protect what would be the new capital of Upper Canada.
Prior to the Iroquois inhabitation of the
Toronto region, the Wyandot
(Huron) people inhabited the region, later moving north to the area
around Lake Huron and Georgian Bay. The word "toronto", meaning
"plenty" appears in a French lexicon of the Huron language in 1632.
Toronto however, did not appear on any map of the region before
1650. After 1650, and the destruction of Fort Sainte Marie, the
Hurons left the region.
The term "Toronto" became associated with Matchedash Bay, and was
recorded with various spellings in French and English, including
Tarento, Tarontha, Taronto, Toranto, Torento, Toronto, and
Toronton. "Taronto" later referred to "The Narrows", a channel of
water through which
Lake Simcoe discharges into Lake Couchiching. This
narrows was called tkaronto by the Mohawk, meaning "where there are
trees standing in the water," and was recorded as early as 1615 by
Samuel de Champlain. Today the area is partially surrounded by
trees along the water's edge with the rest with marinas and location
of the historic Mnjikaning Fish Weirs.
Lake Simcoe appeared as Lac de Taronto on a map created by
French court official Abbé Claude Bernou; by 1686, Passage de Taronto
referred to a canoe route tracking what is now the Humber River. The
river became known as Rivière Taronto as the canoe route became more
popular with French explorers, and by the 1720s a fort to the east of
the delta on
Lake Ontario was named by the French Fort Toronto.
Rivière Taronto was renamed to Humber River by Simcoe.
The change of spelling from Taronto to
Toronto is thought to originate
on a 1695 map by Italian cartographer Vincenzo Coronelli.
During his travels in
Upper Canada in 1796,
Isaac Weld wrote about
Simcoe's policy of assigning English names to locations in Upper
Canada. He opposed the renaming scheme, stating:
It is to be lamented that the Indian names, so grand and sonorous,
should ever have been changed for others. Newark, Kingston,
poor substitutes for the original names of the respective places
Niagara, Cataraqui, Toronto.
— Isaac Weld
The name has also sometimes been identified with Tarantou, a
village marked on a 1656 map of
New France by Nicolas Sanson. However,
the location on this map is east of
Lake Nipissing and northwest of
Montreal in what is now Quebec.
Beginnings of Upper Canada
In 1786, Lord Dorchester arrived in Quebec City as Governor-in-Chief
of British North America. His mission was to solve the problems of the
newly landed Loyalists. At first, Dorchester suggested opening the new
Canada West as districts under the Quebec government, but the British
Government made known its intention to split Canada into Upper and
Lower Canada. Dorchester began organizing for the new province of
Upper Canada, including a capital. Dorchester's first choice was
Kingston, but was aware of the number of Loyalists in the Bay of
Quinte and Niagara areas, and chose instead the location north of the
Bay of Toronto, midway between the settlements and 30 miles
(48 km) from the US. Under the policy of the time, the British
recognized aboriginal title to the land and Dorchester arranged to
purchase the lands from the Mississaugas.
Dorchester intended for the location of the new capital to be named
Toronto. Instead, Lieutenant Governor Simcoe ordered the name of the
new settlement to be called York, after the Duke of York, who had
guided a recent British victory in Holland. Simcoe is recorded as both
disliking aboriginal names and disliking Dorchester. The new capital
was instead named
York on August 27, 1793. In 1804, settler Angus
MacDonald petitioned the
Upper Canada Legislature to restore the name
Toronto but this was rejected. To differentiate from
England and New
York City, the town was known as "Little York".
Incorporation of the City of Toronto
An early map depicting
Teiaiagon and Lac Taronto, which would be
renamed Lake Simcoe. Les Piquets refers to the fish weirs consisting
of trees standing in the water. The
Toronto Carrying-Place Trail is
shown, simply marked as Portage, and
Lake Ontario was then known as
Lac de Frontenac.
In 1834, the Legislative Council sought to incorporate the city, then
still known as York. By this time, it was already the largest city in
Upper Canada, growing greatly in the late 1820s and early 1830s
following the slow growth from its founding in the 1790s. The Council
was petitioned to rename the city
Toronto during its incorporation,
and on March 1, 1834 debated the issue. In Debate on Name
Incorporation Act, March 1, 1834, records indicate various council
members noting their support for or opposition to the measure. The
most vocal opponents were John Willson, and Mr. Jarvis and Mr.
Bidwell. Proponents were William Chisholm, William Bent Berczy, and
Mr. Clark. The Speaker noted that "this city will be the only City of
Toronto in the world", to cheers from council.
The name was chosen in part to avoid the negative connotations that
"York" had engendered in the city's residents, especially that of
dirty Little York.
Toronto was also considered more pleasing, as the
speaker noted during the debate, "He hoped Honourable Members had the
same taste for musical sounds as he had". Berczy noted that "it is
the old, original name of the place, and the sound is in every respect
On March 6, 1834,
York was officially incorporated as Toronto.
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The stress is on the second syllable; with careful enunciation
"Toronto" is pronounced /toʊˈrɒntoʊ/ toh-RON-toh or
/təˈrɒntoʊ/ tə-RON-toh. In conversation, locals generally
pronounce it /təˈrɒnoʊ/ tə-RON-oh, /ˈtrɒnoʊ/
TRON-oh, /ˈtrɒntoʊ/ TRON-toh, /toʊˈrɒnə/ toh-RON-ə, or
/təˈrɒnə/ ( listen) tə-RON-ə, or, in its most
abbreviated form, /ˈtrɒnə/ TRON-ə. As with other
words beginning with tr, the stressed /tr/ often sounds almost like
[tʃʰʷɹʷ] chr, for pronunciations such as CHRON-oh and CHRON-ə.
The same speaker may pronounce "Toronto" differently depending on the
subject of the conversation in which it is used.
Canadian francophones say [toʁɔ̃to], with the French nasal on on
the second syllable and, if the word is said at the end of a phrase,
the stress on the third syllable.
A pen of hogs at the William Davies Company, circa 1920. Although the
pork processing plants have moved out of town, Toronto's nickname of
The seal of the former Metropolitan Toronto, containing six loops
representing the six municipalities, a partial inspiration for "The
Six"; amalgamation occurred in 1998
Toronto has garnered various nicknames throughout its history. Among
the earliest of these was the disparaging Muddy York, used during the
settlement's early growth. At the time, there were no sewers or storm
drains, and the streets were unpaved. During rainfall, water would
accumulate on the dirt roads, transforming them into often impassable
muddy avenues. A more disparaging nickname used by the early
residents was Little York, referring to its establishment as a
collection of twelve log homes at the mouth of the Don River
surrounded by wilderness, and used in comparison to
New York City
New York City in
the United States and
York in England. This changed as new settlements
and roads were established, extending from the newly established
...all roads, all new determinations of settlement radiated from the
single muddy street of log houses east of the white-painted wooden
church dedicated to St. James, the first representative of the present
— Charles Pelham Mulvany, Toronto: past and present
Adjectives were sometimes attached to Little York; records from the
Legislative Council of the time indicate that dirty Little
York were used by residents.
He hoped the name of
Toronto would be adopted, and by that means the
inhabitants would not be subjected to the indignity of residing in a
place designated "dirty little York".
— The Town of York
It would in some measure meet his notice for a change of the seat of
Government as much as could be done this Session, for it would change
the name from "Nasty Little York" to the CITY OF TORONTO.
— The Town of York
In his book Naming Canada: Stories about Canadian Place Names, Alan
Rayburn states that "no place in Canada has as many sobriquets as
Toronto." Among them are the nicknames:
"Centre of the Universe", as mentioned in the documentary film
Let's All Hate Toronto, as the term is used derisively by
residents of the rest of Canada in reference to the city. It is also
infrequently used by the media. Outside Toronto, it is
sometimes said to be used by residents of the city. The moniker
"Center of the Universe" was originally a popular nickname for New
York City, and more specifically
Times Square in Midtown Manhattan. It
has since been used to refer to other cities.
"TO" or "T.O.", from Toronto, Ontario, or from Toronto; pronounced
"Tee-Oh". Sometimes used as T-dot.
"The Megacity", referring to the amalgamation of the former
"The City That Works", first mentioned in a
Harper's Magazine article
The Washington Post
The Washington Post correspondent Anthony Astrachan in
1975. It refers to the city's reputation for successful urban
"The Big Smoke", used by Allan Fotheringham, a writer for
Maclean's magazine, who had first heard the term applied by Aboriginal
Australians to Australian cities. The Big Smoke was originally a
popular nickname for London, England, and is now used to refer to
various cities throughout the world.
"Hogtown", said to be related to the livestock that was processed in
Toronto, largely by the city's largest pork processor and packer, the
William Davies Company.
Possibly derived from the Anglo-Saxon word for York, Eoforwic, which
literally translates to "wild boar village".
A by-law which imposed a 10-cent-per-pig fine on anyone allowing pigs
to run in the street.
Toronto the Good", from its history as a bastion of 19th
Victorian morality and coined by mayor William Holmes
Howland. An 1898 book by C.S. Clark was titled Of
Good. A Social Study. The Queen City of Canada As It Is. The book
is a facsimile of an 1898 edition. Today sometimes used ironically to
imply a less-than-great or less-than-moral status.
"Queen City", a reference now most commonly used by French Canadians
("La Ville-Reine") or speakers of Quebec English, other
Franco-Ontarian newsmedia such as
Le Droit or in
advertising. The second part of the three-part Toronto: City of
Dreams documentary about the city was titled The Queen City
"Methodist Rome", an analogy identifying the city as a centre for
Canadian Methodism.
"City of Churches".
"Hollywood North", referring to the film industry.
"Broadway North", in reference to the
Broadway theatre area in
Toronto is home to the world's third largest
English-speaking theatre district after
London and NYC.
"The 416", referring to the original telephone area code for much of
the city (the other area codes are 647 and 437); the surrounding GTA
suburbs, now using area codes 905, 289, and 365, are similarly "the
"The Six" (also written as "The 6" or "The 6ix") popularized in 2015
by Toronto-born musician, Drake, with his mixtape If You're Reading
This It's Too Late and 2016 album Views. Drake himself credits Toronto
rapper Jimmy Prime with inventing the handle, but it was used by other
Toronto rappers in the early 2000s, in songs such as Baby Blue
Soundcrew's "Love 'Em All". The usage of the nickname in many of
Drake's songs has since brought it to global attention. While the
meaning of the term was initially unclear, Drake clarified in a
2016 interview by
Jimmy Fallon on The Tonight Show that it derived
from the city's 416 area code and the six municipalities that
amalgamated into the modern City of
Toronto in 1998.
Benson, Denise. "Putting T-Dot on the Map". Eye Weekly. Retrieved
December 5, 2006.
Bly, Laura (September 4, 2009). "
Toronto rolls out the red carpet for
celebs and U.S. tourists". USA Today. Retrieved April 7, 2010.
Cerny, Dory (April 2009). "Earthgirl". Book reviews. Quill &
Quire. Retrieved April 7, 2010.
Clark, C.S. (1970). Of
Toronto the Good. A Social Study. The Queen
City of Canada as it is. ISBN 0-665-00659-4. Retrieved March 31,
Court, Paul. "How
Toronto Got Its Names". United States Institute for
Theatre Technology, Inc. Retrieved April 25, 2009.
Davidson, Hilary (2007). Frommer's
Toronto 2007 (13 ed.). John Wiley
and Sons. ISBN 978-0-470-04852-8.
Donald, Betsy (May 16, 2002). "Spinning Toronto's golden age: the
making of a 'city that worked'". Environment and Planning A. 34 (12):
2127–2154. doi:10.1068/a34111. ISSN 1472-3409. Retrieved April
Filey, Mark (February 17, 2010). "The rise of the Big Smoke". Toronto
Sun. Retrieved April 7, 2010.
Firth, Edith G., ed. (1966). The Town of York: 1815—1834; A Further
Collection of Documents of Early Toronto. University of Toronto
Gerard, Warren (2004). "Chronicling a City's Past". Imperial Oil
Imperial Oil Limited. 88 (450). Archived from the original on
December 17, 2004. Retrieved April 25, 2009.
Guillet, Edwin C. (1969) . Pioneer Settlements in Upper Canada.
Toronto Press. ISBN 0802061109.
Hare, P.J. "
Toronto Pork Packing Plant".
Toronto Green Community.
Retrieved March 7, 2008.
Hayes, Derek (2002). Historical Atlas of Canada: Canada's History
Illustrated with Original Maps. Douglas & McIntyre, University of
Washington Press. ISBN 0-295-98277-2.
Hoang, Na. "Women in
Toronto the happiest in Canada?". Canwest News
Hounsom, Eric Wilfird (1970).
Toronto in 1810. Toronto: Ryerson Press.
Hume, Christopher (October 24, 2009). "A brilliant beauty built to
Toronto Star. Retrieved April 7, 2010.
Kuitenbrouwer, Peter (February 18, 2010). "
Toronto is Hollywood North
again". National Post. Retrieved April 7, 2010. [dead link]
Low, A. Ritchie (April 20, 1948). "How Good is '
Toronto the Good'?".
Baltimore Afro-American. p. M-6. Retrieved April 7, 2010.
Maloney, Mark (January 3, 2010). "Toronto's mayors: Scoundrels, rogues
Toronto Star. Retrieved April 7, 2010.
Mendelson, Rachel (December 12, 2013). "Deputy Mayor Norm Kelly says
calm has returned to city hall".
Toronto Star. Retrieved December 12,
McCarthy, Pearl (March 5, 1954). "Tarantou, Now Toronto, First Mapped
in 1656". The Globe and Mail. Toronto.
Mulvany, Charles Pelham (1884). Toronto: past and present: A handbook
of the city. W. E. Caiger. access-date= requires url= (help)
Rayburn, Alan (2001). Naming Canada: Stories about Canadian Place
Names. Toronto: University of
Ruppert, Evelyn Sharon (2006). The moral economy of cities: shaping
good citizens. University of
Stewart, Barry D. (2004). Across the Land: A Canadian Journey of
Discovery. Trafford Publishing. ISBN 978-1-4120-2276-7.
Tossell, Ivor (January 30, 2009). "Open-source politics breathe fresh
air into the Big Smoke". The Globe and Mail. Retrieved April 7,
"Why, Toronto, you don't look a day over 174..." CBC News. March 6,
2009. Retrieved April 7, 2010.
"Introduction to Toronto". Frommer's. Wiley Publishing. Retrieved
April 7, 2010.
Toronto as centre of Facebook universe". The Globe and
Mail. July 23, 2007. Retrieved April 7, 2010.
"Toronto: History". Lonely Planet Publications. Retrieved April 7,
"The real story of how
Toronto got its name". Natural Resources
Canada. Archived from the original on November 9, 2013. Retrieved
April 17, 2006.
"Canada, Provinces & Territories: The naming of their capital
cities". Natural Resources Canada. Archived from the original on
December 11, 2011. Retrieved April 25, 2009.
Toronto Megacity Mapbook". Archived from the original on
January 16, 2008. Retrieved December 5, 2006.
"Origin of the name of Toronto". City of Toronto. Archived from the
original on July 28, 2014. Retrieved July 24, 2014.
Toronto competes". City of Toronto. Archived from the original on
January 27, 2007. Retrieved April 7, 2010.
"Entertainment and Tourism".
Toronto facts. City of Toronto. Retrieved
December 21, 2011.
"Let's All Hate Toronto". The Lens. CBC Newsworld. Retrieved April 7,
Urban Decoder (November 1, 2003). "
Toronto is often described as la
Ville-Reine (the Queen City) by announcers on Radio-Canada". Toronto
Life. Retrieved January 21, 2010.
Toronto region". Via Rail. Retrieved April 7, 2010.
"Part Two: Queen City (1867 - 1939)". Toronto: City of Dreams. White
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"We The 6: Why the name Drake gave us is here to stay". The Globe and
Mail. Retrieved August 7, 2015.
^ a b c d e f g Natural Resources Canada.
^ a b Hounsom 1970, p. 26.
^ a b Hounsom 1970, p. 27.
^ Guillet 1969, p. 49.
^ a b Natural Resources Canada: Canada, Provinces & Territories:
The naming of their capital cities.
^ a b Guillet 1969, p. 55.
^ a b McCarthy 1954, p. 3.
^ Hayes 2002, p. 60.
^ Hounsom 1970, pp. xiv-xv.
^ Hounsom 1970, pp. 26–27.
^ a b Firth 1966, p. 297–298.
^ a b c d Firth 1966, p. 297.
^ Gerard 2004.
^ Mulvany 1884, p. 10.
^ a b c d e Rayburn 2001, p. 45–48.
^ The LensMister
Toronto hurdles through the divide to discover more
than he could imagine about the "Centre of the Universe" and the crazy
country around it.
The Globe and Mail
The Globe and Mail 2007.
^ Cerny 2009.
^ Stewart 2004Attitude is something
Toronto has lots of. It's not that
they actually say they are the "centre of the universe," as that
Montreal radio station mentioned. It is just that they "know" it.
^ City of Toronto:
Toronto competesGood infrastructure including
transit, roads, airports, piped services, public buildings is still a
prerequisite to retaining our well earned reputation as the 'city that
works' and making our businesses internationally competitive.
^ Lonely PlanetAlthough
Toronto is still 'The City That Works', a
geeky nickname acquired for its urban planning successes, the new
millennium has delivered a lot of headaches so far
^ Donald 2002..key elements of the mode of regulation operating at the
urban scale in Toronto's postwar period to learn what it was that
inspired an entire generation of scholars to call
Toronto the 'city
that works' in this period.
CBC News 2009The Big Smoke dusted off its party coat on Friday to
kick off festivities celebrating Toronto's 175th birthday amid
^ Tossell 2009.
^ Filey 2010.
^ Mendelson 2013.
^ Macor, Kristie (2010). The Hogtown Project. Toronto, ON: The Hogtown
Project. p. Inner cover. ISBN 978-0-9866001-0-4.
first1= missing last1= in Authors list (help)
^ Davidson 2007, p. 261It was still a city of churches worthy of
the name "
Toronto the Good," with a population of staunch religious
conservatives, who barely voted for Sunday streetcar service in 1897,
and, in 1912, banned tobogganing on Sunday.
^ Low 1948Known to Canadians as '
Toronto the Good," the Ontario
metropolis is a thriving city of three-quarters of a million
population, of whom four or five thousand are colored.
^ Maloney 2010.
^ Ruppert 2006'
Toronto the Good' is one of many popular nicknames used
to represent the moral conduct of its citizens. This term was first
associated with one of the early examples of reform politics in
Toronto: the mayoralty of
William Holmes Howland
William Holmes Howland from 1886 to 1888 and
his campaign for moral purification (Morton 1973).
^ a b Clark 1970.
Toronto Life 2003.
^ Via RailWith more than 2.5 million residents,
Toronto is Canada’s
largest city and the capital of Ontario. The Queen's City is located
on the north shore of
Lake Ontario and is considered the financial hub
^ Toronto: City of Dreams.
^ Hume 2009That landmark heap was built in 1881 by William McMaster as
a Baptist college for women, a fitting monument of 19th-century
Toronto, then known as the City of Churches.
^ Kuitenbrouwer 2010.
^ Frommer'sChances are that even if you've never set foot here, you've
seen the city a hundred times over. Known for the past several years
as "Hollywood North,"
Toronto has been a stand-in for international
centres from European capitals to New
York -- but rarely does it play
^ Bly 2009Though it vies with Vancouver for the title of Hollywood
North, Toronto's active arts and design scene extends far beyond
^ City of Toronto:
^ "We The 6: Why the name Drake gave us is here to stay". The Globe
and Mail. Retrieved 2015-11-18.
^ Daniell, Mark (May 13, 2016). "Drake finally explains 'The Six'".
Toronto Sun. Postmedia Network. Retrieved February 8, 2017.
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