The capital city in my novel is called Mirrorith.

There is one extremely affluent neighborhood and two poorer areas. One area is the industrial center where people work in large warehouses to produce standardized goods. The other is where the invalids and diseased live.

I am looking for a process or guide to help me select names that would reflect their characteristics.


3 Answers 3


So some ideas come to mind. These are some common themes/conventions that pop up in fiction.

Influential Neighborhoods

  • Name the section of the city after a landmark, a great temple, or maybe a castle, or some natural (or magical) phenomenon that the city was built around.
  • The Nobles' Quarter
  • High town or some other reference to elevation, usually in non-flat cities the rich folks live up high.

Industrial Center: The era your are working with is relevant to this section in particular but it could follow these themes.

  • Crafters' Quarter
  • Smoketown (or some other reference to the haze from industry)
  • If the town focuses on one thing, maybe foundries you could work that in to the name.
  • If industry had a major accident that wrecked half the district you could work that into the name, it adds a little flavor and history to the town as well.

The Rest: So I am not sure if you are talking about a walled off sort of formal asylum or something more like the Narrows in the (fairly) recent batman trilogy.

  • Lowtown
  • Rats nest
  • Generally just think dirty nastiness. Again the placement geographically and historical considerations can help name it, also consider the local flavor of pest (rats, stray dogs, perhaps a culturally despised group name)

Other Notes

  • Commonly in fiction cities are broken into at least 4 districts, noble, common, military, economic. You can also add magical and others that seem appropriate.
  • Arbitrary names will seem arbitrary to your readers. If they ask, why is it called "x" and your answer is simply..."because" users/readers will notice that. When naming look into the history, sections (unless they are being built brand new in your time/universe) should have names evolved from common usage. "Market Hill" could be a district for example. Its simple but it explains exactly what it is and you know why it has that name. Not because someone chose it but because that is what locals called it.
  • If you want to can add flavor by using some other languages if that fits your world too...so instead of the "high market" district you could have "Obermerkt" which is a quick bastardization of German "upper" and "market". Google translate is your friend.
  • Keep in mind that each section of the city, unless we are talking about a hardcore controlled communist state where you live in one section, work in another, and shop in a third, MOST city districts will have shopping housing and employment opportunities.

EDIT: One more note. This question, Are there techniques for creating alien or foreign sounding names?, provides useful info on creating names, may be helpful in this endeavor as well.

  • 3
    $\begingroup$ +1 (well I will tomorrow when I've not hit cap) - IMHO this is the answer to the question that should have been asked (naming conventions for towns). $\endgroup$
    – Liath
    Commented Nov 26, 2014 at 16:09

My first thought is that Mirrorith is a complicated name to say. I'd bet that rapidly people would be mispronouncing it to something more like "Mrith" or even just "'Rith" - most populous cities have fairly short names because they are names that people use the whole time.

Onto the point - how do neighbourhoods get their names?

Subsumed Satellites

In a large city, many of them started out as separate towns or villages - if you look at historical maps of London it is very clear how the city has grown and swallowed up previously separate villages or towns giving us Hackney, Camberwell, Clapham and Streatham, all of which are fairly typical English Town names.


London ( it's my local capital city so I will tend towards it for examples ) has quite a few areas whose names are actually just the name of the land the city swallowed up - Blackheath and Shepherds Bush - or the name of a significant building in the area - Westminster, Crystal Palace. There is a common process where one might start off with a topographic name and then later the language may change or be superseded by an invador's tongue so the name becomes less obvious. A good example of this might be equivalent names- Dublin and Blackpool are very similar in terms of what they describe, in different languages.


Sometimes neighbourhoods are named for their functions but this tends to be restricted to relatively significante areas - docks tend to name their immediate areas, in particular, but it is relatively unusual beyond that. You are more likely to see street names that reflect the trades in an area ( "Tanners Row", "Smith Street" ) than you are to see an entire area named after a particular area.


Sometimes place names are related to a particular demographic- for example one could probably guess the relative affluence of Cheapside and Covent Garden when they were named. Different social classes are likely to have quite different environments and so names reflecting parks, gardens and other relatively leisurely pastimes are more likely to arise in affluent areas, whereas names indicating population density or industrial activity are likely to be less affluent.


Regardless of how you name your districts, remember that names are things that people use constantly. As a result they get worn to convenient shapes. If different social elements in your setting have different accents, then the names will- to a degree- shape to fit into those accents. Names tend to get shorter and lose syllables because it's more convenient to say them that way, but most towns also have a few names that are slighly hard to pronounce, with which locals delight in making it hard for outsiders to follow directions.


Compass directions: East Boston, West End, North End.

Names of famous people: city founder, war heroes, kings, religious figures.

Names of geographic features: Oak Ridge, Riverside, Mountainview.

Nationalities: Chinatown, Little Italy, New Amsterdam.

Informal/Shaming: Red Light district

Primary occupation: Garment district, the docks, the bazaar

Contractions: St. Botolph's Town = Boston


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