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Typically we don't use articles with city names, e.g. "Seattle" and not "the Seattle." I know at least one exception though which is The Hague. Are there any other city names which we use with the article?

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I don't believe the "The" in "The Hague" is an article as such. It is part of the name itself. –  mickeyf Jun 1 '11 at 20:33
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Here's one for you: กรุงเทพมหานคร อมรรัตนโกสินทร์ มหินทรายุทธยา มหาดิลกภพ นพรัตนราชธานีบุรีรมย์ อุดมราชนิเวศน์มหาสถาน อมรพิมานอวตารสถิต สักกะทัตติยะวิษณุกรรมประสิทธิ์ aka Bangkok. There are a few articles in that lot (at least 7). The start "กรุงเทพมหานคร" Krung Thep Maha Nakhorn means 'The city of angels'. –  boehj Jun 1 '11 at 23:07
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There's also The Hyde and The West End in London. But I think the answers dealing with countries/states cover this question too, so it's a dup. If not, it's an invitation to create a list, which imho is off-topic. –  FumbleFingers Aug 22 '12 at 23:31

6 Answers 6

up vote 7 down vote accepted

In addition to The Hague and The Bronx, there are a few other minor English placenames that still include a definite article, including The Plains, Virginia, and The Dalles, Oregon.

This article postulates that the usage of articles in front of place names began simply as descriptions of the place, and that the place name evolved with common usage from there.

In the instance of The Hague/Den Haag, which is the colloquial term for 's-Gravenhage (truncated from des Gravenhage), the descriptor translates to something like the Royal court.

Other places dropped the article long ago after the descriptor no longer had the same conveyance. (For example, the city of Bath in England was known as Baðum - at the baths.)

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The Dalles is named for the dalles, the rapids and rocks on the river at that location (before it was covered with water from a dam). See en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Dalles,_Oregon. –  thursdaysgeek Jun 1 '11 at 23:21
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+1 In Dutch, it seems quite clear that those articles are there because the names of the cities point to geographical features, as you say, because they use the dative/accusative article den and most of them are in fact geographical: (tot) Den Bosch = "to/in the forest". Most cities without articles seem to point to locations as well. The (truncated) genitive article des indicates possession: 's Graven Hage = "the Count's Hedge/Court"; 's Hertogen Bosch = "the Duke's Forest"; 's Heerenberg = "the Lord's Mountain/Hill" (could be God or a wordly lord). –  Cerberus Jun 2 '11 at 0:25

The etymology of The Hague (Den Haag in Dutch, La Haye in French, La Haya in Spanish) is that it used to be a Royal Enclosure (Hague => Edge) - possibly a stockade. The "the" is therefore a valid article.

Also consider the followings:

  • Los Angeles
  • Las Vegas
  • La Paz
  • Le Havre (France)
  • La Mancha (Spain)
  • La Havana
  • El Salvador
  • La Rochelle (France)

I realise there are reason to believe that a city name starting with an article is more common in Romance languages - possibly because you can't omit articles in these languages. For instance the French name of New Orleans is La Nouvelle Orléans.

As a conclusion, one can probably hypothesise that having a city name starting with an article is unnatural to English and that whenever it does happen it is only as the result of the literal translation of an original article included in the place name in its home language.

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Could only think of the Bronx in English. The USPO once tried to standardise names, one of the rules was no articles hence Elpaso, but Las Vegas, and Los Angelese were too big to change. –  mgb Jun 1 '11 at 21:10
    
Interesting idea, but I'd venture a guess as to what geographic feature is prominent in The Plains, Virginia. See my answer for more, including examples where the article was dropped when once present. –  HaL Jun 1 '11 at 21:30
    
Another example outside English is Y Bala in Wales. It's at the end of the largest natural lake in Wales, and the name means "the outflow". Y Bala is the Welsh name, it's plain Bala in English. –  Hugo Jun 1 '11 at 22:12
    
Also note that names like "Los Angeles" have a testably different status in English in comparison to "The Bronx". We remove the the when Bronx (or words like it) is prenominal or part of a compound, like "Bronx County", "Bronx Zoo", "Bronx bus map", etc. (also note that e.g. "the Bronx Zoo" has the modifying zoo, not Bronx) We do not generally see this pattern for names like "Los Angeles", where there is a foreign article: "Los Angeles Lakers", "Los Angeles Times", and you can add an article to create e.g. "the Los Angeles Lakers" — you could never say "the The Bronx Bombers". –  Kosmonaut Jun 1 '11 at 22:49
    
+1 Your conclusion seems valid. There are also many cities around the world where the article has been attached to the geographical feature, such as Lille. In Dutch, we have quite a lot of cities/villages with articles (though it still isn't the norm), so I'm not sure it's typical for the Romance languages alone. We have Den Haag / 's Gravenhage, Den Bosch / 's Hertogenbosch (Bois-le-Duc in French), 't Harde, Den Briel / Brielle, Den Dolder, Den Ham, 's Gravenzande, etc. These are all inflected forms of the article, either datives of location or genitives of possession. –  Cerberus Jun 2 '11 at 0:10

Perusal of my road atlas (of the British Isles) turned up a couple of dozen such place names, although I'd hesitate to describe any of them as cities (hamlets would probably be nearer the mark).

My personal favourites are The Arms (Norfolk), The Barony (Orkney), The Bog (Shropshire), The Four Alls (Shropshire; The Four Alls is quite a common pub name so I suspect that's where it comes from), and The Throat (Berkshire).

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+1. No "The White Hart" ;-) ? –  Alain Pannetier Φ Jun 2 '11 at 3:53

Canada has The Pas which is called Le Pas in French http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Pas -- the name dates from 1912.

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Is "The Bronx" a city?

And of course The Netherlands, and until recently "The Ukraine"

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Technically, "The Bronx" is a borough, not a city. It is also "Bronx County", without a The. –  Peter Shor Jun 1 '11 at 20:47
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And technically, the Netherlands and Ukraine aren't cities either :) –  Hugo Jun 1 '11 at 22:11
    
But the The Hague is in The Netherlands which is interesting! –  mgb Jun 1 '11 at 22:25
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While we're starting on countries you sometimes see Argentina referred to as "The Argentine" - quite old-fashioned I think. –  AAT Jun 1 '11 at 22:38
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Wikipedia's article on the history of The Bronx says that its name was originally short for Annexed District of the Bronx, which was created in 1874 when part of the present-day Bronx was transferred from New York City from Westchester County (the rest of the Bronx was annexed later from Westchester). The district was named after the Bronx River, so it is an example of the use of the article for geographic features. –  Peter Shor Jan 26 '12 at 16:54

The Bronx is a borough, one of the five boroughs which make up the city of New York, New York. (The others are Queens, Manhattan, Staten Island, and Brooklyn.) Generally, we use the to preface regions, such as The Congo, The Mediterranean, The Los Angeles area, etc.

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Isn't "The Los Angeles" a bit redundant? –  mgb Jan 26 '12 at 17:00

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