Some place-names from the Western U.S.

jackpot, idaho, place name

In late December, not long after a short stay in New Orleans, my husband and I took a road trip through several states. Along the way I spotted some interesting place-names, mostly in Utah:

  • Little America, Wyoming – named after a local hotel whose name was inspired by the “Little America” exploration base in Antarctica.
  • Jackpot, Nevada – a casino town cleverly named to attract business.
  • Pahranagat Valley, Nevada – named for the local Native American tribe. Theories about the meaning include: “watermelon,” “squash,” “people of the marshy spring,” “put their feet in the water.”
  • Hurricane, Utah – named by an early settler whose buggy-top was blown off by a gust of wind. Locals pronounce it hurrakin.
  • Browse, Utah – possibly named for a 1930s Forest Service research study of local plants used as food by browsing animals.
  • Kolob Canyons, Utah – named after LDS star/planet Kolob.
  • Kanarraville, Utah – named after Piute chief Canarrah (or Quanarrah).
  • Farr West, Utah – named after Mormon pioneers Lorin Farr and Chauncey West. It was also reminiscent of the name of an earlier Mormon town: Far West, Missouri.
  • Elsinore, Utah – named after Helsingør, Denmark (known as Elsinore in English).
  • Loa, Utah – named after Mauna Loa, the volcano in Hawaii.

Elsinore caught my eye because it seemed like a mashup of the names Elsie and Eleanor. Even though it’s never appeared in the SSA data, records suggest that several hundred people in the U.S. have been named Elsinore. (Here are the graves of various Elsinores buried in California, Florida, Pennsylvania, Washington, Minnesota, and, yes, Utah.) The usage might be attributable to Shakespeare, who set Hamlet in a castle in Elsinore.

Source: Carlson, Helen S. Nevada Place Names: A Geographical Dictionary. Reno: University of Nevada Press, 1974.

2 thoughts on “Some place-names from the Western U.S.

  1. I would think Elsinore is based on Shakespeare’s play. Many more places were historic, classical, or literature based than present day.

  2. It could have been based on Shakespeare’s play. But there were a fair number of Danish people involved in settling various parts of Utah. I’m off to see what I can learn about Elsinore’s history.

    Yep, it was settled by Danish people.

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