Weird place names in Illinois

Caitlin WilsonReboot Illinois

Jun 20, 2014

Ever notice how strange-sound words tend to start sounding normal after hearing them enough? What words come up frequently in Illinois that seem mundane to those of us who live here but maybe deserve a second look? Let’s recognize these weird place names in Illinois for the unique monikers they are.

If you were Martian just arriving in Illinois (albeit a Martian with a decent grasp of the English language and a surprisingly strong knowledge of Western human history) what kinds of weird comments or questions would you have if you heard these Illinois place names for the first time?

A lot of communities in Illinois have names that ring a bell:

Warsaw, Waterloo, Versailles, Verona, Vienna, Venice, Troy, Toledo, Rome, Paris, New Berlin, Liverpool, Kent, Hamburg, Geneva, Dover, Crete, Brussels, Bristol, Bath, Athens, Andalusia, Alhambra, Thebes, Pekin, Lima, Havana, Cypress, Cairo, Palestine, Panama, Peru, New Holland, Malta, Macedonia, Cuba, Columbia, Antioch, Tennessee, Wyoming, Ohio, Kansas, Dakota, Albany, Annapolis, El Paso, Georgetown, London Mills, Manhattan, Milan, New Memphis, Newark, Omaha, Oregon, Raleigh, Salem, Sparta, Topeka, Virginia

Are these names descriptive or aspirational?

Unity, Triumph, Noble, Justice, Equality, Fidelity, Hopedale, Good Hope, Industry, Joy, Libertyville, Lovejoy, Loves Park, Royal, Union, Harmony

And there are plenty of places that lend themselves to cringe-worthy puns:

Voila, it’s Viola.

How much is Worth worth?

Was the founding of Lowpoint really such a bad time?

What kinds of perks can you get living in Perks?

Is an afternoon in Timewell really time well spent?

What would the ransom note look like if the entire population of Ransom were kidnapped?

It’s not rare to see a Raritanian in Raritan.

They had to change the name of the town to Muddy after it started raining a lot in Dirty.

Let me preemptively say Preemption is a pretty preemptive place.

Oh man, I’d love to live in Ohlman.

They’re not very good at taking their vitamins in Mineral.

Living in Okawville is great, okaw?

Tell me about a normal day in Normal. Well, it’s actually pretty unusual.

Nachusa. Bless you!

I’m sure Plainville isn’t as boring as it sounds.

I shudder to think of the bureaucracy they must face in Bureau.

And then there are some places that just make you scratch your head:

Goofy Ridge, Dunfermline, Mooseheart, Media, Hometown, Golf, Orangeville, Sandwich, Joppa, Hooppole,

These towns could just as easily be people:

Mark, Marissa, Michael, Elizabeth, Maryville, Nora, Rosamund, Rossville, Roxana

Other observations:

Papineau sounds like “portmanteau” and is also kind of a portmanteau of Papua New Guinea.

La Place has got to be the least creative place name of all time.

La Prairie is a pretty close second, especially for a town that is actually located in the Prairie State.

Why Sugar Grove and not High Fructose Corn Syrup Grove? And why Spring Grove and not Winter Grove?

I’m going to bet the body of water from which Round Lake takes its name is not actually spherical.

Oblong is actually oblong shaped. That’s not a joke. Just a cool fact.

Maybe Flossmoor was a thinly-veiled instruction to its early townspeople.

Bone Gap sounds like it could be a painful calcium deficiency disorder.

Grayslake doesn’t sound like the most appealing of body of water. We have Crystal Lake, too, though, which does sound nice.

Cave in Rock sounds like it was named by man in cave.

I’m going to guess there are very few actual castles in Castleville.

Cerro Gordo means fat hill. Who thought that was a flattering name for a town?

Chicago is a Native American word meaning onion or garlic. Howsmelly. Good thing we have Aroma Park to help counteract it.

Is Pocahontas anywhere near Willow Hill or Willow Springs?

How many papas do you think live in Paw Paw?

Native American place names are cool because they connect us with a heritage the rest of the world doesn’t have and celebrates the original inhabitants of these places, but they can be a mouthful for people who aren’t familiar with them:

Tiskilwa, Minooka, Loogootee, Kaskaskia, Kankakee, Mackinaw, Moweaqua, Oquawka, Owaneco


Did we miss any towns or places in Illinois with unusual names? Let us know!


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