Scottish Place Names
- Chicago, Illinois, USA

For comparability with other large cities around the world, Greater Chicago has been defined as the continuously built-up urban area surrounding the City of Chicago, known locally as "Chicagoland". This is a vast metropolis taking in communities in three states, and is the third largest by population in the United States (around 9,750,000 current estimate - nearly twice the population of Scotland!). The metropolis extends from Kenosha (Wisconsin), Antioch and Richmond in the north, to Crown Point (Indiana), Crete, Frankfort and Channahon in the south, and from Woodstock, Huntley and Sugar Grove in the west to Chesterton (Indiana) in the east.

The picture of the Chicago Board of Trade building at night is via Wikipedia.

Of the names of the 1,036 communities, neighbourhoods, districts and suburban estates in Greater Chicago that have been identified to date, 195 (18.8%) are based, in whole or in part, on place names that can be found in Scotland, on Scottish family names, or on Scottish words. Of course, many of the names are used in other parts of the British Isles as well but at least 86 (8.3%) of these appear to be exclusively Scottish.

Neighbourhoods, subdivisions, districts and suburbs with names that occur only in Scotland and not elsewhere in the British Isles, and/or are definitely, or most probably, of Scottish origin are:

Some of the following districts, neighbourhoods, subdivisions and suburbs are also likely to have a direct or indirect Scottish connection but these names tend to be used in other parts of the British Isles as well, while at least two of them could be German or French:

A third category of local names comprises places that definitely exist in Scotland, but there is nothing obviously "Scottish" about them. In these instances, the likelihood that the Greater Chicago counterpart was named for Scotland is greatly reduced because these names are far more commonly associated with other parts of the British Isles. Most of the names of these localities have an 'international' flavour and several may simply have been borrowed from other American cities and towns.

A final category of neighbourhood and suburban names comprises places that can be found in Scotland, but which, in Chicago's case, definitely or most probably have no connection with Scotland.

Other place names in Greater Chicago that have a mild "Scottish ring" about them but that have not yet been established as having a connection with Scotland include:

Aldine Square, Burbank, Corwith, Forest Glen, Ingalls Park, Ingalton, Ingleside, Ingleside Shore, Niles, Oakglen, Peterson Park and Trumbull Park Homes.
According to the House of Names Heraldic website, Aldine is said to be both a Scottish family name from East Lothian (a variant of Haldane) and an English family name from Lancashire (a variant of Holden). Black (1996), the authority on Scottish family names makes no mention of the name, however. Black is also silent in regard to Burbank, Corwith, Ingall, Niles and Trumbull, names which are attributed to Scotland in the heraldic website. For instance, Burbank is supposedly a variant of Birkbeck, first found on the English side of the border in Westmorland while Corwith is said to be a variant of Curwen, another name from the border region that could be either Scottish or English. Theoretically, Peterson Park could be Scottish but in Chicago's case is far more likely to be Swedish.

There is a far stronger case for listing the suburb of Kenilworth and the three communities called 'Sleepy Hollow' as indirectly having Scottish connections. The name Kenilworth "was taken from a town in the midlands of England. In 1899 the local women's club selected, and the village adopted, street names such as Abbotsford and Essex, taken from Sir Walter Scott's novel Kenilworth" (Jan Olive Nash, Encyclopedia of Chicago). It is not clear whether the suburb of Kenilworth was actually named for the town in England or for Sir Walter Scott's novel (the setting of which was in the English town). 'Sleepy Hollow' probably would not exist today as a place name had it not been coined by Washington Irving, the famous Scottish American author.

Other evidence of Scottish influences on Chicago's toponymy can be found in the names of some its golf courses such as Bonnie Brook (Waukegan), Brae Loch (Wildwood), Elgin Country Club (Elgin), Glen Flora (Waukegan) and Gleneagles Country Club (Lemont). Some examples of parks and reserves with Scottish names are Bell Park, Dunbar Park, Grant Park, Kelvyn Park and Skinner Park in the City of Chicago, and the Balmoral Park Race Track, Forsyth Park and MacDonald Woods Forest Reserve in the suburbs. There is even a small lake in Mundelein called Loch Lomond while a statue of Scotland's national poet, Robert Burns, stands in Garfield Park. A brief account of the impact of Scottish immigrants on Chicago can be found in the Encyclopedia of Chicago.


© Ian Kendall
Melbourne, Australia, October 2007

If you wish to contact Ian about his research, his e-mail address is

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