Most Common Place Names in Europe

What’s the most common place name in each European country?

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Map of the most common place names in Europe.

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Update 6-2-2023: There was an error on the previous version of this map. The most common place name in the Netherlands is not just Nes and Rijswijk, but also Beek, Oosterend, Oudega and Spijk. I’ve also used this opportunity to replace the confusing ’10+ Places’ label for Spain with the names of all 12 place names.

Anyone who has done a road trip or driven long distances through Europe, might recognize this feeling. You’re driving past a town or village and feel like you’ve drove past a place with the same name earlier. That’s what inspired me to make this map. Driving through Austria, I’ve always felt like Au must be the most common place name there. Same in Germany where certain place names like Berg, Hausen and Stein keep popping up everywhere. Curious about which place name actually is the most common, I was surprised that I couldn’t find the answer anywhere.

So, just like my map about the settlement that is furthest from the coast, I decided to figure out the answer myself. I extracted all settlements for every European country from OpenStreetMap. I decided to focus only on cities, towns and villages. I did not include hamlets.

How I found the most common place names

The definition of a city and town is quite uniform across countries in OpenStreetMap, that of villages as well in most cases. But for hamlets it didn’t always seem to be so. For most countries, a hamlet couldn’t even be considered a hamlet in most cases. It would usually be made up of only a handful of scattered houses or often times not even a single house at all. As this means I would have to visually check every hamlet with satellite images, I decided to exclude them.

So, how did I find out what the most common place name is? For every country, I would calculate for each place name of cities, towns and villages how often it appears. For most countries, the winner would be very clear, but in some countries it would be quite close. For the place names that are competing for the top spot of each country, I would check every single one of them on the map with satellite images. If it didn’t look like a village where possibly a (few) hundred people could live, I would remove it. Yes, I visually checked hundreds, if not thousands of settlements for this map.

The result would be the real and adjusted count for that place name. Based on that count, the winner for that country could be decided. For the vast majority of countries, the definition of the settlement (city, town or village) in OpenStreetMap, matched with that in real life.

What’s part of the place name?

Then there’s another challenge I bumped into. What should be included in the place name? Some place names have a prefix like New-, Upper-, East- etc. that often refers to a location. These are not very specific and unique. In that case I decided to see those as an inseparable part of the place name. But then there are also suffixes that refer to a very specific location. Take a look at these places in Austria for example: St. Johann in Tirol, Ybbs an der Donau, Velden am Wörther See, Hopfgarten im Brixental. They refer to a specific area, river, lake or valley that the place is located in.

The thing with these prefixes and suffixes is, that on maps, road signs, train stations names, mail addresses etc. the full name is always used. It’s usually only in informal speech that the prefix or suffix is excluded sometimes.

Another reason I decided to pick the full place name and not exclude any prefixes and/or suffixes, is because of language. In order to make an accurate decision when excluding prefixes, I have to understand every single European language as to not make any errors to include prefixes or suffixes that should not be included.

So, because of these reasons, I decided to stick with the full names for accuracy.

New Village

As you can see, how common the most common place name is, can very strongly from country to country. Reykholt in Iceland only appears twice. Yes, that means that all other place names in Iceland are unique. On the other side, there’s Turkey. Where Yeniköy appears 155 times!

Another interesting thing on this map is the place name Novo Selo or Novosellë or Nowa Wieś or Nová Ves or Satu Nou. This means New Village. In eight countries, mostly in the Balkans and Eastern Europe, this is the most common place name.

Spain is the only country where there wasn’t one or two place names that are the most common. No place name occurs more than 3 times in Spain. There are dozens of place names that occur three times. So sadly there’s no decisive winner in Spain.

One comment

  1. Had a look at the data, as I was a bit sceptical about the Hungarian result (Szőlőhegy meaning “Grape mountain”), and I could not reproduce the result. Dependent on how I filtered between hamlets and suburbs, my top one choice almost always became Ófalu (Old village) by a pretty wide margin. If I also allowed pre and postfixes (very common in Hungary), the winner became Zala (which is one of the counties)


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