Scottish Place Names
- Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA

For comparability with other large cities around the world, Greater Pittsburgh has been defined as the entire urban and semi-urban area including and surrounding Allegheny County. This area appears to extend from Beaver Falls and Wallace City in the north-west to Freeport in the north-east, and from Canonsburg in the south-west to Greensburg in the south-east.

Of the names of the 755 suburbs and neighbourhoods in Greater Pittsburgh that have been identified to date, 186 (24.6%) 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, some of the names are used in other parts of the British Isles as well but at least 93 (12.3%) of these appear to be definitely Scottish, whether directly from Scotland or indirectly, e.g., Scots-Irish names that are ultimately of Scottish origin.

The graphic here is of the Carnegie Music Hall Pittsburgh, courtesy of Wikimedia

Cities, townships, communities and neighbourhoods with names that occur only in Scotland and not elsewhere within the British Isles and/or whose origin is definitely or most probably Scottish are:

Some of the following districts, neighbourhoods, subdivisions and suburbs are also likely to have a direct or indirect Scottish connection but these names are used in other parts of the British Isles as well. A large number of these names are based on family names which could be Scottish, English or Irish in origin, which suggests that several may in fact be what Americans term 'Scotch-Irish' names (i.e., names brought to Pennsylvania by immigrants from (Northern) Ireland, whose ancestors were ultimately Scottish, or in a few instances English. The author of this article would appreciate any assistance that local historians and genealogists can provide in determining which of these names can be classified as definitely "Scottish" or "Scotch-Irish".

A third category of local names comprises places that definitely exist in Scotland, but there is nothing obviously "Scottish" about most of these names. The likelihood that the Greater Pittsburgh counterpart was named for Scotland is greatly reduced because these names are found far more commonly in other parts of the British Isles, either as place names or as family names. 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, or Scottish-sounding family names but which, in Pittsburgh's case, definitely or most probably have no Scottish connection.

Pittsburgh has emerged as an American city that is particularly rich in Scottish place names, rivalling many Canadian and Australian cities in this regard. The city and its suburbs appear to have the highest proportion of uniquely Scottish names in any major metropolitan area in the USA. Moreover, Scottish place names are easily the second most numerous after place names of English origin (which seem to outnumber Scottish ones by only two to one, or at most three to one). In some ways this is an unexpected finding since the city is not regarded as having an especially strong Scottish heritage, though its Scots-Irish roots are very strong, resulting in "Pittsburghese", the dialect of American English to which the Scots-Irish, the Germans, the Poles and other European immigrants all contributed. The ethnic groups that are most closely identified with the city today are the more 'recent' arrivals - the Germans, Italians, Poles and native Irish (as opposed to the Scots-Irish).

Pittsburgh, of course, was the centre of the mighty US iron and steel industry and was one of the first American cities to undergo rapid industrialisation during the nineteenth century. It is probable that the large number of places with Scottish names came into existence at a time when wealth, power and influence throughout the world was largely in the hands of the Protestant Establishment, which would have included many people who were Scottish or who were of Scots or Scots-Irish (i.e., Ulster Scots) descent. Judging by its place names, many of the 'founding fathers' of Pennsylvania's second largest city certainly seem to have had a direct or indirect connection with Scotland. It is therefore quite possible that the once strong Scottish presence influenced the spelling of Pittsburgh, which was first named Fort Pitt and then 'Pittsborough' by General John Forbes for William Pitt, 1st Earl of Chatham ('Pitt the Elder'), whose ancestry was Cornish.


© Ian Kendall Melbourne, Australia, December 2004 Revised, September 2011

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

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