Why are some lakes called "X Lake" and others called "Lake X"? Is there some sort of linguistic reason behind the naming?
- Lake Michigan
- Lake Union (Seattle)
- Great Salt Lake
- Green Lake (Seattle)
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.
An observation from upstate New York where we have two Great Lakes, Lake Erie and Lake Ontario,and eleven Finger Lakes, all beginning with the name and ending in "Lake," such as Canandaigua Lake where I live. People in these parts say that lakes explored and named by the French start with "Lake" and lakes explored and named by the English end in "Lake." However, all these names originated from Native American languages. Some people might conclude that size is a factor because the huge Great Lakes all begin with the title "Lake," but two of the Finger Lakes, Seneca Lake and Cayuga Lake, are over 40 miles long, so they are far from small. As for the lake names being nouns or adjectives, ours are both. Ontario means "beautiful" (adjective) while Canandaigua means "chosen place" (adjective/noun). In short, there appear to be many reasons for putting "lake" before or after the name. But I would say the best explanation is simply local custom.
In Indiana, "Lake" comes before lakes with a certain number of acres while it is after for smaller ones. However, no one has been able to tell me what the cut off number is yet. Examples for where I am are Lake Wawasee and Lake Tippecanoe.They are the only 2 lakes in Koscisuko County with the word "Lake" before the name and they are the two biggest. There are more than 100 lakes in the county. Lake Wawasee is the largest natural lake in Indiana.
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