From Cape Cod to the Berkshires, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts is filled with cities and towns with quirky names. Many of these names are odd, humorous, and
downright difficult to pronounce. Behind each town name, there are stories of indigenous people, early colonial settlers, and even a few interesting animals. Have you ever wondered about the origins of the names of some of the most quirky towns in the state?
The name “Aquinnah” honors the Wampanoag community who once resided on land that is now a small town on Martha’s Vineyard. The name Aquinnah means “land under the hill.” The town name was changed from “Gay Head” in 1997.
Belchertown, MA 01007, USA
Due to its unusual name, it is not surprising that the town of Belchertown is often the butt of many corny jokes. However, this Hampshire County town was actually named after Jonathan Belcher, a landowner and Royal Governor of Massachusetts.
The name Braintree immediately makes me think of a brilliant plant, but it was actually named after the English town of Braintree. Some intelligent people were born here, however - John Adams, John Quincy Adams, and John Hancock are a few famous citizens.
4. Buzzard's Bay
Buzzards Bay, Bourne, MA 02532, USA
The name given to the Cape Cod town of Buzzard’s Bay was a case of mistaken identity. The town was originally named Gosnold's Hope, but was later changed by colonists to Buzzard's Bay when they a spotted large bird on the shore. The bird was thought to be a buzzard, but turned out to be an osprey. Maybe "Osprey Bay" would have been a better name...
The town of Douglas is located in Worchester County. You may assume that the town name honors a local hero, soldier, or politician, but the “Douglas” behind the name was actually Dr. William Douglas, a wealthy resident of Boston who offered the town money in exchange for naming privileges.
The small Berkshire County town of Florida certainly isn't very tropical, but you can still find some beautiful scenery here. It is thought to be named after Spanish Florida, a popular conversation topic in the early 1800s, the time when the town was first incorporated. Florida is one of Massachusetts’ least populated towns. There is only one school here!
Often incorrectly referred to as "Leo-minster," this Massachusetts town situated on the Nashua River is known as the birthplace of Johnny Appleseed. Pronounced “Lem-in-ster,” this town origin comes from Leominster, England.
Despite the name, this small town in Middlesex County is not known for producing an overabundance of pepper. It was named in honor of Sir William Pepperell, a soldier who led the expedition that captured the French fortress of Louisbourg in 1745 during King George's War.
You don’t often hear a lot about Peru, Massachusetts. This small town in the Berkshires was originally named Partridgefield and is thought to have been changed to Peru in 1806 because it reminded local Reverend John Leland of the mountains of Peru, South America.
The name “Salem” may not seem very quirky. However, it is interesting to note that the city most well known for the infamous witch trials of 1692 originates from the Hebrew word, “Shalom” meaning peace.
When you see signs for this historic Cape Cod town, you may get an urge to stop at a local sub shop. The name "Sandwich" actually comes from an English seaport also named Sandwich.
The name “Seekonk” sounds like it should have originated from a creature living in the ocean, but it is thought to have derived from two Native American words that mean “black goose.” The town is well-known for its speedway.
With a name like "Swampscott," you may picture a town filled with stinky marshes. However, this small seaside community is actually quite lovely. Although there are a variety of theories behind the name, “Swampscott” is thought to have originated from a Native American word meaning "red rock," which referred to granite deposits found in the area.
Residents of this Hampshire County town are surely sick of hearing jokes about "where" they live. The town was named after a Native American word meaning fishing weir.
Possibly the most mispronounced city in Massachusetts, Worcester (pronounced “Wooster”) is thought to have been named after the town in England by the same name. It is home to some fabulous museums, including the Worcester Museum of Art.
Do you live in a town with a quirky name? Or perhaps there is an interesting story behind your city’s origin. We would love to hear more about it. Be sure to check out more
quirky facts about the great state of Massachusetts.
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