• Can anyone tell me why the Tuscan city of Livorno used to be called Leghorn in English?

An increasing number of British writers, artists, philosophers, and travelers visited the area and developed the unique historical ties between the two communities. The British referred to the city as Leghorn.


I believe nowadays English brochures, foreign travellers etc. call the city by its traditional Italian name. So did the name Leghorn simply fell in popularity or disuse as suggested by Google Ngram? Did the Livornese hold a petition or protested?! (I've been living in Italy for over thirty years, and I don't recall ever hearing them complain.)

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  • What term is commonly used when an anglicized city's name reverts back to the original?
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    Livorno was a major trading port until it became part of Italy in 1868. After that it probably figured much less in the minds of people everywhere, and references to it dropped off accordingly. Probably the anglicised name became so rarely used, many people didn't know that there was an anglicised name for the place and just used the local name.
    – Neil W
    Apr 30, 2015 at 8:03
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    @NeilW I used to hear Leghorn mention occasionally when I was much younger; Italian middle school students learning English were taught the anglicized names of Italian cities e.g. Venice, Florence, Milan, Naples, and Leghorn used to be included. I doubt it is taught today, but I assure you I was born in the 1960s, not the 1860s :)
    – Mari-Lou A
    Apr 30, 2015 at 8:27
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    Yes, In Britain it would sound pretentious to say that you're going on holiday to Venezia, Firenze or Milano, but Livorno/Leghorn has dropped off the radar. I have noticed some Brits referring to Napoli, however, and I think that's because of the football team. Apr 30, 2015 at 8:53
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    Funny thing, but the Norwegians, on the edge of Europe – in the words of one medieval chronicler, making their living on the icy sea as if they were whales – use the native name for everything. IOW, they are Firenze-only folks. Perhaps only great imperial powers can afford to shit all over the map like the Brits.
    – David Pugh
    Apr 30, 2015 at 18:04
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    In his memories Churchill wrote in 1944 I wanted to visit the port of Livorno which had been important in the history of our Navy . I think that once the contact between Livorno and the British became less and less relevant, the name Leghorn was less and less used. comune.livorno.it/_cn_online/index.php?id=299
    – user66974
    Apr 30, 2015 at 18:20

2 Answers 2


On the origin (also this):

breed of fowl, 1869, from Leghorn, city in Italy (modern Livorno, 16c.-17c. Legorno), from Latin Liburnus, from the native people name Liburni, which is of unknown signification.

[ Online Etymology Dictionary ]

Ferdinando I de' Medici wrote "Liuorno" in 1593 (Document Inviting Jewish Merchants to Settle in Livorno and Pisa). In any case here is a discussion about the Livorno/Legorno difference (see also note therein):

In the fine Portolano of Carachi already mentioned, Legorno, Florentia and Neapolis appear for Livorno, Firenze and Napoli of the present day; and assuredly the classic enunciation of the last two cities assimilates more with the English names - also our adjective, Neapolitan - than with the modern Italian. Leghorn he has even written in Greek characters Λεγορνο [...]; and others of the same epoch(circa 1550) term it Legorne, Ligorna and Ligorno which last was adopted by Crescentio, in 1607.*

[ The Mediterranean: A Memoir Physical, Historical, and Nautical, Rear-Admiral William Henry Smyth, 1854(John W. Parker and Son), p. 409 ]

Aside from the "similar" spelling, Leghorn (even more so when /ˈlɛɡɔrn/) resembles Legorno (somewhat), at least more so than it does Livorno.

Maybe Leghorn was an exonym based on the classic enunciation and geographical renaming occurred.

  • Legorno, well I never... I have never heard that name.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Apr 30, 2015 at 8:53
  • Thank you! Didn't know about exonyms and got to look at what Medici wrote. Cheers.
    – user98955
    Apr 30, 2015 at 18:52
  • Someone has made a mess of the Greek.
    – fdb
    Apr 30, 2015 at 22:36
  • Λεγορνο (someone has half corrected it now; only the initial upper-case Λ is still required.)
    – fdb
    May 1, 2015 at 10:43
  • @fdb wouldn't it have been simpler, and faster if you had done the editing the first place? I am not going to meddle with ancient Greek or its characters, I have no idea if what you are saying is true. But if it is, please edit. I'm sure Amphiteóth won't mind.
    – Mari-Lou A
    May 2, 2015 at 16:40

The genoese version is Ligorna... so maybe this is where it comes from.

  • This may turn out to be a helpful answer, but it needs considerable elaboration.
    – jsw29
    May 21, 2021 at 15:57

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