Author: Roger Wade

New vs. Old: York, Zealand, Delhi, Jersey, and more

Have you ever thought about places whose names begin with the word ‘new’, like New England or New Mexico, and wondered how they got those names? We hadn’t either, until recently. Those two are pretty obvious so there is no point in going over them, but several others have interesting explanations, which we’ll begin to explore here.

New York

The Roman walls of York, England

The Roman walls of York, England

Founded: 1625
Population: City – 8.3 million / State – 19.3 million
Location: Northeastern United States


Founded: AD 71
Population: 193,000
Location: Northern England, about 200 miles north of London, and 80 miles south of Newcastle

Both New York City and New York State were actually named after a 17th Century Duke of York called James Stuart, who later went on to be King James II of England, but of course that guy got his title from the York district in England anyway, so it still traces back to the city of today.

The York in England was founded in the 1st Century AD by the Romans, who surrounded the place with a wall, parts of which still exists as a major tourist attraction today. Interestingly, New York City was also surrounded by a wall in the 1981 sci-fi film Escape from New York.

New Zealand

Modern windmills in Zeeland, Netherlands

Modern windmills in Zeeland, Netherlands

Founded: 1840
Population: 4.3 million
Location: In the South Pacific, about 1,200 miles southeast of Australia


Founded: 1581
Population: 380,000
Location: Southwest of South Holland in the Netherlands

The first European explorer to come across New Zealand was Dutchman Abel Tasman, who first called it Staten Landt, but Dutch map makers later called this pair of remote islands New Zeeland, after the Zeeland province of islands in southwestern Netherlands. The name was later changed to New Zealand, so it’s easily confused with the Danish island called Zealand, however, the origin is definitely from the Dutch province. All the names translate to “sea land.”

New Delhi

The Secretariat Building, New Delhi

The Secretariat Building, New Delhi

Founded: 1947
Population: 320,000
Location: Within the borders of Delhi, in northern India


Founded: 736 AD
Population: 17+ million
Location: Northern India

In 1911 as the British rule over India was beginning to wind down, the national capital was moved from Calcutta to Delhi. In order to facilitate a new autonomous government, a section just south of the center of town was largely cleared out, and rebuilt from scratch as a grand and spacious area suitable to be a major world capital. The area where the government buildings and embassies are is a stark contrast to nearly everything surrounding it.

This one confuses many people because New Delhi is actually located within the giant city of Delhi, but it’s also the national capital, so on most maps New Delhi stands alone with a big star beneath it, even though it’s only a small part of another city. It maintains a status of its own region in the country, much like how Washington DC isn’t part of any of the 50 states.

New South Wales

Three Cliffs Bay, South Wales, UK

Three Cliffs Bay, South Wales, UK

Founded: 1770
Population: 6.9 million
Location: Southeastern Australia

South Wales

Founded: 1056
Population: 2.1 million
Location: West of southern England

When Captain James Cook “discovered” Australia in 1770, he claimed the entire eastern part of the continent under the name New Wales, which he then changed to New South Wales. It’s unclear whether he meant this is the new version of South Wales, or the new and south version of Wales. It began famously as a prison colony, and is still Australia’s most populous state, and home to Sydney.

Wales, of course, is a part of the United Kingdom with its own language being used alongside English, and South Wales is the most densely populated part of the country, and home to the capital city of Cardiff.

New Jersey

Mont Orgueil Castle, Jersey

Mont Orgueil Castle, Jersey

Founded: 1674
Population: 8.7 million
Location: Just south of New York, in the northeastern United States


Founded: 1204
Population: 90,000
Location: In the English Channel, just off the coast of Normandy, France.

Not long after the British took control of the region in the 1600s, this territory was given to the same Duke of York mentioned above, but then he passed it on to Sir George Carteret, who named province New Jersey after the small English Channel island where he was born.

The island of Jersey is not part of the UK or the EU, but does maintain some ties to the UK as a “possession of the Crown.” English is the main language, though French is also common. The top industry is financial services, and tourism is also important.

New Brunswick, Canada

Town square, Braunschweig, Germany

Town square, Braunschweig, Germany

Founded: 1784
Population: 750,000
Location: Just east of Maine, USA, and just north of Nova Scotia


Founded: 861
Population: 250,000
Location: Northern Germany, about 150 miles west of Berlin

After the British won control of this area from the French in the Seven Years’ War, which ended in 1763, they carved this section out of what was all referred to as Nova Scotia at the time. They called the colony New Brunswick, named after the ancestral homeland of the King of England at the time, King George III.

George’s family came from the Hanover region of what is now Germany, and the most important city there was once called Brunswik, but is now officially translated to Braunschweig. Aside from a pleasant historical center, Braunschweig doesn’t have any notable attractions or landmarks, not unlike New Brunswick.

New Caledonia

New Caledonia Lagoon

New Caledonia Lagoon

Founded: 1774
Population: 250,000
Location: In the south Pacific, about 800 miles east of Australia


Founded: uncertain
Population: uncertain
Location: The northern part of what is now Scotland

In 1774 Captain James Cook (again!) came across a series of islands east of Australia, and allegedly the rugged coastline reminded him of his homeland of Scotland, so he named it New Caledonia after the Latin name for northern Scotland that dates back to the Roman days.

These days this chain of islands belonging to the French Republic isn’t quite the tourism magnet that fellow members Tahiti and Bora Bora have become, but it does well enough for itself with its lucrative nickel mining industry.

New Hampshire

Winchester Cathedral, Winchester, Hampshire, UK

Winchester Cathedral, Winchester, Hampshire, UK

Founded: 1629
Population: 1.3 million
Location: In the northeastern USA, between Vermont and Maine


Founded: 927
Population: 1.7 million
Location: The southern coast of England

The colony that became New Hampshire was founded on a land grant in 1629, and named after the English county of Hampshire, which contains the ports where some of the earliest settlers left England.

The county of Hampshire is just southwest of London, and in addition to being home to Portsmouth and Southampton (where the Titanic departed from), it’s also the home of writers Jane Austen and Charles Dickens, as well as the city of Winchester and its famous cathedral.

Photo credits:

New Delhi: Carlton Browne on Flickr, Wales: PhillipC on Flickr, Braunschweig: ceris42’s on Flickr, Jersey: Sid/Stephen’s on Flickr, Hampshire: Rene Ehrhardt on Flickr