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Why are some lakes called "X Lake" and others called "Lake X"? Is there some sort of linguistic reason behind the naming?

Lake First

  • Lake Michigan
  • Lake Union (Seattle)

Lake Last

  • Great Salt Lake
  • Green Lake (Seattle)
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No rhyme or reason. –  Gnawme Aug 6 '13 at 5:19
It is rather odd, considering that the first option doesn't appear to be available for other bodies of water. There is no Ocean Enormous, Sea Splendid, Tarn Turnip, Mere Marvellous (Mere Chance doesn't count), Pool Pretty, Pond Postfix or Puddle Piddle. Move up to the Moon, though, and it's the other way round: Ocean of Absurdity and Sea of Senescence. –  Brian Hooper Aug 6 '13 at 5:49
Related: english.stackexchange.com/q/69657/14666 –  Kris Aug 6 '13 at 6:11
Did you notice that the words after Lake are nouns, whereas the ones before are adjectives? (Well, nouns could be used as adjectives as well, that's a different matter I suppose.) –  Kris Aug 6 '13 at 6:14
@BrianHooper Here's a counterexample to your observation: Bay of Biscay –  congusbongus Aug 6 '13 at 7:15

2 Answers 2

Generally, nouns go after Lake, River or Sea while adjectives precede. There may be exceptions, I'm not sure.

Also, nouns as a rule could be used in adjectival sense.

Both the classes of OP's examples match the above logic. However, again, there could be exceptions.

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Well, there's Mono Lake (in Mono County, California) and Crater Lake (in Oregon) and Possum Kingdom Lake (in Texas) for three examples of one or more nouns before Lake, and Lake Superior (on the U.S.–Canadian border) and Lake Placid (in New York) for two examples of an adjective after Lake. –  Sven Yargs Aug 6 '13 at 17:58
I might add that lakes named after particular people are likewise handled differently in different instances, for no obvious reason: Lake Champlain (on the New York–Vermont border), but Donner Lake (in California). –  Sven Yargs Aug 6 '13 at 18:08
@SvenYargs Mono Lake, etc.: "nouns as a rule could be used in adjectival sense." Think of "The (name) Act," a Bill attributed to a person, after it's passed. –  Kris Aug 7 '13 at 7:04

The only rule is "there is no rule." Witness, behind Roosevelt Dam on the Salt River in Arizona, both "Roosevelt Lake" and "Lake Roosevelt." I think it's common usage, somewhat aided by the perception of size. Green LAKE is smaller than LAKE Union. Of course, there is some arguement for the Noun vs Adjective logic. If Green Lake were named for Richard Green, would it then be Lake Green? Possibly.

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