Scottish Place Names
- Washington, DC, USA

Capitol, Washington

For comparability with other large cities around the world, Greater Washington DC has been defined as the entire urban area including and surrounding the District of Columbia. This area takes in the whole of Arlington, Alexandria and Fairfax Counties in Virginia, much of Montgomery and Prince George's Counties in Maryland, and small sections of Charles, Prince William and Loudon Counties in Virginia, for example St Charles, Occoquan and Leesburg.

Of the names of the 1,979 communities and neighbourhoods that have been identified to date in Greater Washington DC, 342 (17.3%) are based wholly 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. Nevertheless, 149 (7.5%) of these appear to be exclusive to Scotland, with a fair proportion being variations on a single name, for example the numerous communities with Highland, Largo or McLean as part of their name.

Although it is too early to draw definite conclusions, it appears that Greater Washington DC may have one of the highest urban concentrations of Scottish place names in the USA, similar to the incidence of Scottish place names in many Canadian and Australian cities. This would suggest that the Scots played a visible role in the development of America's capital city. Furthermore, the Scottish-related statistics for Greater Washington DC are quite similar to those for its immediate metropolitan neighbour, the Baltimore-Annapolis complex, which suggests that Scottish and/or Scots-Irish influences were broadly felt throughout urban Maryland.

Suburbs, communities, neighbourhoods and districts 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:

As in other cities around the world, not all of the above place names are necessarily based directly on their namesakes in Scotland. The connection with Scotland may be more indirect in some instances, for example, based on the name of an early Scottish settler. Examples where this may be the case would be gratefully received from readers in Washington DC, for incorporation in future updates of this web page.

Some of the following suburbs and neighbourhoods are also likely to have a Scottish connection, but these names are found in other parts of the British Isles as well:

A third category of suburban names comprises places that definitely exist in Scotland, but the likelihood that the Washington DC counterpart was named for Scotland is greatly reduced because these names are found far more commonly in other parts of the British Isles. Many of the names of these neighbourhoods may also have been borrowed from other American cities and towns.

Other place names in Greater Washington DC that have a "Scottish ring" about them, but that have not yet been traced to places that actually exist in Scotland include:

Carderock, Carderock Springs, Douglass, Douglass Park, Dunn Loring, Dunn Loring Woods, Glenallen, Glencarlyn, Glen Ora and Glenora Hills.

Carderock sounds not only southern Scottish but also distinctly Cornish or even Welsh but places with this name are not found in either Cornwall or Wales. Douglass seems Scottish but the name of this community probably commemorates Frederick Douglass, the famous nineteenth-century African American who lectured within the States and abroad on the evils of slavery. Many of the place names in Greater Washington DC may similarly commemorate other well-known national and local personalities. Examples of these would be welcomed for inclusion in future updates of this web page. For instance, does Knox Hill commemorate President James Knox Polk? Similarly, Kennedy Woods may honour President J.F. Kennedy.


© Ian Kendall
Melbourne, Australia, August 2004
Revised November 2004

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

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