A used Vancouver 2010 Torch
Photo by s.yume (flickr)

Today is the opening of the 2010 Winter Olympic Games in Vancouver, British Columbia, and to honour the occasion I’m digging into the name Vancouver.

The we know that city of Vancouver was named after George Vancouver, the British explorer who discovered and charted it, as well as most of the North American northwest coast, but what kind of a name is Vancouver? Let’s look deeper.

According to the Vancouver Sun, Wikipedia, and the name Vancouver is of Dutch origin. You see, there’s a town called Coevorden in the Netherlands, and in 1315 a man named Reinolt was made Viscount of the city, so his name became Reinolt van Coeverden, (apparently the city name was spelled Coeverden back then). Reinolt had children, and they had children, and so on, until eventually one of his descendants, a guy named Reint Wolter van Coeverden, married an Englishwoman named Johanna Lillingston. Then, it appears, that Reint and Johanna’s son went over to England, where he continued the family line, although the family name became anglicized to “Vancouver” It appears that the son’s son, (Johanna and Reint’s grandson), may be George Vancouver, or there may be a few extra generations in there, we’re not 100% sure. So, that’s how George Vancouver got his name, but what does Coevorden mean?

It turns out that Coevorden means “cow ford” or a place where cows cross the river. Pretty simple! Interestingly enough, some other van Coeverdens that moved to England may have changed their name to Oxford, (where oxes cross the river). I’ll have to look in detail at that another time.

There is another theory, at least according to Wikipedia, that Vancouver may be an anglicized version of “van Couwen” but that’s the only reference that I’ve found, and the van Coeverden story seems to be the more accepted story. Let the games begin!


Joseph with the baby Jesus
St Joseph with the Infant Jesus by Guido Reni, c 1635

Since profiling Joe, Montana, it’s only appropriate to get to the root of the name Joe: Joseph.

As many other names are, Joseph is a biblical name. The original Hebrew is יוֹסֵף, (Yosef), meaning “The Lord will increase” or “The Lord will add.” There were several Josephs in the bible, the first being Joseph, son of Jacob. According to Joseph was a fairly common Jewish name and didn’t become a popular Christian name until after the protestant reformation.


Portrait Detail of Jonathan Swift
Detail of a portrait of Jonathan Swift by Charles Jervas

When I was writing about the name John I, not surprisingly, came across the name Jonathan. I had always thought that John and Jonathan came from the same root, but apparently they are actually quite different.

Jonathan, according to Wikipedia and BabyNamesWorld means “Gift of God” or “God has Given.” The English name Jonathan comes from the hebrew יְהוֹנָתָן/יוֹנָתָן‎, (Yonatan or Yəhonatan).

When I did a Google search for Jonathan, the first result for a person was Jonathan Swift, the writer of Gulliver’s Travels, (which I should finish reading).


Crapaud, (pronounced crap-o), is the French word for toad. It is also the name of a town in Prince Edward Island, Canada.

According to the Community Profile for the Municipality of Crapaud, (download from the PEI Government – PDF), the community was named in 1842 after a nearby river that is full of frogs, called, (at least at the time), Rivière aux Crapauds. In 1996 there were 378 people living in Crapaud, and from some Googling it appears that there is an Agricultural exhibition and Tractor Pull held there each year, (visit:

Check out Crapaud on Google Maps.


Welcome to Fascinating Names, the website about names – not just names of people, but of places, things, and whatever else we might want to name. Since this is the first post ever on this site, I am going to start out with my name, which is fascinating to me, because it’s mine.

My name is John, which according to,, Wikipedia, and the coaster that my mother sent me, means “God is Gracious.” It appears that John started out as יוֹחָנָן, (Yochanan), in Hebrew, which became Ιωαννης, (Ioannes), in Greek, which became lohannes in Latin, which finally became John in English.

Interestingly, John and Jonathan, although they’re similar and can both be abbreviated as Jon, are not the same name.

Some famous old-time Johns, (no, not like that), are John the Baptist, and the disciple John. Some new ones are John Lennon, (the he was the first result when I Googled “John” today), and John F. Kennedy.