Names of the Week: Chicago and Swansea

Swansea football players, in white, in a match against Nott'm Forest, their playoff rivals, from

I had a friend tell me the other day that she’s surprised Chicago hasn’t caught on as a baby name, because, and I quote: ‘It’s just a darn cool word to say’. I kid you not. But it gives me a reason to look into the background of the name Chicago, and for the sake of completion, our female name this week is also the name of a place, with similar non-usage but possible potential.

The area where Chicago currently stands was inhabited in the 18th Century by a Native American tribe called the Potawatomi. Circa the 1780s, the first permanent and non-indigenous settlers arrived, one being Jean Baptiste Point du Sable, who was of African and European origins. Chicago became a military post in 1795 after the Northwest Indian War, thanks to the Treaty of Greenville.

But onto the meaning of Chicago. It derives from a French interpretation of the Native American word, shikaakwa, which roughly means wild onion or garlic. Robert de LaSalle referenced the city as Checagou in 1679.

Chelsea was popular a few years ago, and I’ve always wondered about the potential of Swansea, the name of a Welsh city, whose football team are currently on the verge of Premiership stardom. Personally, I consider Swansea as my second team, since I go to see them several times during the season. Swansea is also well-known for it’s copper production – earning it the nickname Copperopolis.

Swansea’s history is a tad longer than Chicago’s as it is believed to have originally developed as a Viking trading post. The earliest known form of the modern name is Sweynesse, which was used between 1158-1184 by William de Newburgh, 3rd Earl of Warwick in a granted charter. At this point in time, Swansea was classed as a borough.

Swansea is believed to have derived from two old Norse elements, sveinn and ey, the latter meaning island, which is a common suffix amongst local coastal towns, such as Anglesey and Ramsey. Some think that its name is derived from the reference to an island may refer to a bank at the mouth of the river Tawe, or perhaps an area of raised ground in marshes. An alternative explanation is that the name derives from the Norse name Sweyn along with ey, which can mean inlet.

A second charter, following after 50 years in 1215 comissioned by King John, listed Swansea as Sweyneshe. The town seal from this period named the town as Sweyse.

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8 thoughts on “Names of the Week: Chicago and Swansea

  1. Chicago DOES actually sound cool … but being named after an onion???!!!

    Swansea is very fairytale; it sounds like it could be middle name material at least for either boy or girl.

    Do people in the UK name their children after football teams? I recently saw a baby here named Richmond Carlton after dad and mum’s AFL teams …


    • I don’t really think so, we love to tattoo our club symbols to ourselves, although I do know lots of little girls are named after Chelsea. Then there’s the case of the man who changed his name to Manchester after his footie team:

      I’m a fan of Notts County, and the only viable name I can think of is Magpie, after the clubs nickname, which I would never use. I would consider Swansea as a middle, however, after my second team, but then would feel bad for not honouring County.


      • There’s two Spanish names that mean “magpie” – Picasso (boy) and Urraca (girl). And in the deep sotuh of the USA, they have a French-Creole name Pyatt (boy) and Payette (girl) meaning the same thing. In Latin it’s Pica, in German Elster, in Gaelic Breac. In Czech, a girl’s name Sarka.

        There’s an Australian Aboriginal word Jinta, which means “magpie” – I think in a spiritual sense.

        That’s all I’ve got! Picasso Swansea certainly sounds memorable. 🙂


  2. Shilo

    I watched the playoff yesterday, and suspect Swansea are the favourites to go up into the premiership, they hammered Forest. This will give Swansea a higher profile, so we could see people being dubbed it in the future.


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