Exonyms and endonyms

Peking is an example of an exonym, a name given to a place or group of people by foreigners. Other exonyms for places in China include Canton, Amoy, Macau and China itself. The endonyms or autonyms (native names) for these places are 广州 (Guǎngzhōu in Mandarin, Gwóngjàu in Cantonese); 厦门 (Xiàmén), 澳門 (Ngoumún) and 中国 (Zhōngguó).

English exonyms for countries in Europe include:

Croatia (Hrvatska), Finland (Suomi), Germany (Deutschland), Hungary (Magyarország), Poland (Polska), Spain (España), Sweden (Sverige) and Wales (Cymru)

English exonyms for cities in Europe include:

Copenhagen (København), Moscow (Москва/Moskva), Prague (Praha), Rome (Roma), The Hague (Den Haag), Munich (München), Cologne (Köln), Vienna (Wien) and Warsaw (Warszawa)

(the endonyms are shown in brackets)

Exonyms are used in other languages, of course, not just in English. For example, London is called Londres in French, Spanish and Portuguese, Londra in Italian and Romanian, Llundain in Welsh, Lunnain in Scottish Gaelic, ロンドン (rondon) in Japanese, and 倫敦 [伦敦] (Lúndūn) in Mandarin.

You can find the native names (endonym/autonyms) of all the countries of the world here and the native names of many languages here, and a good place to find both exonyms and endonyms of countries, cities, languages, etc. is www.geonames.de

This entry was posted in English, Language, Words and phrases.

10 Responses to Exonyms and endonyms

  1. I LOVE these links…thanks! I’ve been working on stuff like this too for my conlangs. One sity whose autonym is “Hláthina” is rendered “Lahsin” in my more “Germanic” language…thanks for some real examples. 🙂

  2. Damien Ryan says:

    You forgot Ireland for Eire 😉

  3. Weili says:

    I don’t think he forgot, he just didn’t want to list ALL European countries 😉

  4. Declan says:

    Would Éire really be that much of an exonym? Because most of us speak English as our first language and refer to the country as Ireland.

  5. Podolsky says:

    Most European names of places in Asia are exonyms, like India for [bhaarat], Egypt for [misr], Delhi for [dillii].

  6. Paul S says:

    Like the question over the example of Ireland, are “Finland” and “Wales” true exonyms? Both are the names of the countries in official, autochthonous (hooray!) languages of those countries: namely; Swedish and English.

    On a side note, I do find the differences in the intra-celtic exonyms very interesting: Cernyw, Kernev-Veur, A’ Chòrn, Corn na Breataine; Kembre, A’ Chuimrigh, An Bhreatain Bheag; A’ Bhreatainn Bheag, Llydaw, An Bhriotáin, Breten Vyghan; Ynys Manaw, Oileán Mhanann; Iwerddon, etc.

    Also: Rywvaneth Unys Breten Veur ha Kledhbarth Iwerdhon; Ríocht Aontaithe na Breataine Móire agus Thuaisceart Éireann; Rouantelezh Unanet Breizh Veur ha Norzhiwerzhon, etc.

  7. Aeneas says:

    Cologne, if anything, is a French exonym for Koln. In English, we just take the French word (like in so many other intances…).

  8. AR says:

    Lots of cities in India are changing their English exonym versions to the native Indian versions.

    Ex. Bombay => Mumbai
    Madras => Chennai
    Calcutta => Kolkata
    Trivandrum => Thiruvananthapuram
    Baroda => Vadodara
    Benares +> Varanasi

  9. Aeneas says:

    Another correction…

    Bombay comes from the Portuguese Bom Baia, meaning good bay. India’s “Hindinizing” a foreign name.

  10. New Zealand Coffee Lover says:

    Eritrea was named by Italians.

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