10 Words from Place Names

Bikini, bourbon, and badminton were places first
words from place names bikini

In July 1946, the United States detonated two nuclear bombs at the Bikini atoll, an island in the central Pacific Ocean, which of course was big news around the world.

A year later, a French fashion designer introduced a scanty two-piece bathing suit and named it the bikini.

Unable to find a model immodest enough to wear it, he debuted it on a stripper - and it too became big news.

words from place names bourbon

How does whiskey get to be called "bourbon"?

By being distilled from mash that is at least 51% corn, then aged in new charred oak barrels.

That's the way people liked it back in the 19th century when it was first created - in Bourbon County, Kentucky.

words from place names denim

Denim, the all-American fabric, actually gets its name from the French words de Nĭmes meaning "of Nĭmes," because it was manufactured in the French city of Nĭmes.

The word jeans is also European in origin - the name comes from the city of Genoa (earlier known as Genes) because the pants were worn by sailors in the Genoese navy.

words from place names lesbian

Originally, lesbian simply meant "from Lesbos," the Greek island pictured here.

Its current sense comes from the ancient poet Sappho, who lived on Lesbos around 600 BC and wrote poems that dealt with the relationships - sometimes passionate - between women.

words from place names tuxedo

Sometimes called a "monkey suit," its origins involve the wolf. Here's why:

In the 1880s the village of Tuxedo Park, about 50 miles north of Manhattan, became a popular resort. It was here that some young men, disregarding the fashion of the day, began to wear dinner jackets without tails.

The new style was soon called the tuxedo.

And the name of the town? It comes from a Native American word meaning wolf.

words from place names marathon

After defeating the Persians at the battle of Marathon, a town in southern Greece, the Athenians sent a messenger to run the 25 miles back home.

According to legend, he delivered the news and then dropped dead.

Marathons became 26 miles, 385 yards at the 1908 Games in London when extra yards were added so the race would finish in front of the royal box.

words from place names donnybrook
Photo: Photo: AZAdam from Flickr

The annual Donnybrook Fair near Dublin included fiddlers and dancers, but it was best-known for the frequent eruption of whiskey-fuelled fighting - often involving heavy clubs known as shillelaghs.

The fair was shut down in 1855, but by that time the word donnybrook had bashed its way into the language to mean a free-for-all or brawl.

words from place names tequila

Developed in Mexico in the 16th century, this was probably the first distilled alcoholic beverage created in North America.

It's made from the fermented juice of the Mexican agave plant.

Some of the best was - and still is - made in the town of Tequila.

words from place names badminton

A game with an upper-crust heritage.

Badminton House is the residence of the Duke of Beaufort in southwest England, and the sport is said to have been played there for the first time in 1873.

Originally it was known as "The Game of Badminton," but soon became plain old "badminton."

It's a combination of a children's game called "battledore and shuttlecock" and poona, which was played by British officers in India in the 1860s.

words from place names hamburger

Hamburger means of or from the city of Hamburg, Germany, where this preparation of meat, originally called "Hamburg Steak", originated. In the U.S., the name was applied to the sandwich as well.

Frankfurters, by the way, originated in Frankfurt, Germany, where they were often served in beer gardens. And wieners? Named for Vienna, Austria.

niagara falls photo

Derby, Niagara, Shanghai, Mackinaw, Golconda, and Japan are not just the names of places, but have new meanings that became words on their own.