Long & short placenames in Europe

Take a virtual tour to linguistic length-based locations

illustration map of Europe on a dark blue background
by
Adrian Murphy (Europeana Foundation)

The word Europe is only six letters long, but those six letters hold a lot of different concepts and notions.

Across Europe, placenames vary in length depending on linguistic rules - some languages favour brevity, some allow compound words which extend into long, complicated words.

On Europeana, we feature collections from all across Europe, so let's explore some linguistic length-based locations. In these examples, we may not always bring you to the exact location but the images will illustrate somewhere nearby.

Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch

Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch is a village in Anglesey in Wales, which is often credited with the title for longest town name in Europe. Its 58 characters can be translated to English as 'St. Mary’s Church in the hollow of white hazel near a rapid whirlpool and the Church of St. Tysilio near the red cave.'

The town has a population of around 3,000 people. Originally called Llanfairpwllgwyngyll, it is thought the longer form of the name was adopted in the 19th century to boost tourism and commerce.

colour postcard showing a landscape with bridge and text
black and white illustration showing a column monument with straits of water in background

Äteritsiputeritsipuolilautatsijänkä

With 35 letters, Äteritsiputeritsipuolilautatsijänkä is the longest place name in Finland.

It is a bog marshland area in Savukoski, a municipality in the east of Lapland. Savukoski has around 1000 inhabitants, with one of the lowest population densities among Finnish settlements.

The photographs below are not from Äteritsiputeritsipuolilautatsijänkä itself but the Savukoski region.

black and white photograph of a meadow with flowers
black and white photograph of a body of water surrounded by trees

Gasselternijveenschemond

We stay in boggy landscapes at Gasselternijveenschemond - a hamlet in the Dutch province of Drenthe, which translates to "Delta of Gasselt's new bog".This rural location is near the municality of Aa en Hunze, and has a population of several hundred people.

black and white photograph of houses and a windmill by water
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Schmedeswurtherwesterdeich

Schmedeswurtherwesterdeich is found in the northwest of Germany, part of the Schleswig-Holstein state. It is a small hamlet of a few homes nearby to the district of Dithmarschen, which features in this map.

colour photograph of a vintage map

Bullaunancheathrairaluinn

Bullaunancheathrairaluinn is a townland on Inishmore, the largest of the three Aran Islands off the west coast of Ireland.

In Irish, it is Ballán an Cheathrair Álainn. 'An Cheathrair Álainn' relates to church dedicated to the Four Comely Saints (an Ceathrar Álainn) - a collective name for four saints in the early Irish Christian church (Fursey, Brendan of Birr, Conall and Berchán).

These photographs show the karst landscape and ruined churches of Inishmore.

black and white photograph of a karst landscape
black and white photograph, ruins of a church

Pino sulla Sponda del Lago Maggiore

Pino sulla Sponda del Lago Maggiore is a former municipality on the shores of Lake Maggiore in Italy, which merged with other nearby municipalities in 2014.

Before this, along with San Valentino in Abruzzo Citeriore, it held the record for the longest comune name in Italy. Pino sulla Sponda del Lago Maggiore lies on the shores of Lake Maggiore which are shown in these pictures.

colour landscape illustration of mountains behind a lake
sepia aerial photograph of mountains and a lake
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From these 'long places', let's turn somewhere shorter.

Å

Å is a small fishing village in the Lofoten Islands, an archipelago in the Arctic circle which are part of Norway.

Å's population is (population 150). Until the 1990s, fishing was an important industry with tourism now of equal importance. In Å, you can visit the Lofoten Stockfish Museum and the Norwegian Fishing Village Museum.

black and white landscape photograph of a village in a mountainous landscape

Å means river or stream, so is used in the name of several places. Å is often called Å i Lofoten to distinguish it from those other places named Å.

colour photograph, wooden houses nearby a harbour

Ì

Ì is a shortened form of the Scots Gaelic name for the island of Iona - Ì Chaluim Chille.

Iona, off the west coast of Scotland, is known for Iona Abbey, a well-preserved Middle Ages religious building. It was founded as a monastery by Saint Columba in the 6th century, growing to become a centre for Christianity and Christian missionaries in Scotland.

sepia photograph showing ruins of a monastery building on Iona

Ö

Ö is a locality in the north of Sweden, part of a municipality called Ånge. In 2015, Ö had a population of just 90 people.

Ånge is known as Sweden's geographical centre, which is situated by the lake Munkbysjön - as measured by the KTH Royal Institute of Technology in 1947.

colour photograph of a wooden building
colour photograph of a long wooden building

Sé is a former parish, part of the Portuguese capital city Lisbon. It was created as a parish in 1150. It shares a colloquail name with the city's Roman Catholic cathedral, the Santa Maria Maior de Lisboa. Built in 1147, it is often known as Sé of Lisbon.

black and white photograph of a cathedral in Lisbon
black and white illustration of a cathedral in Lisbon

Aa

Aa is a small coastal village in the north of Estonia. In the year 2000, its population was around 200 people. It is the location of the Aa manor house, built in the 15th century, which is now an old persons home.

Aa is home to a beach where pine groves meet the sandy coast of the Gulf of Finland.

colour photograph of a building in a snowy landscape
colour photograph of the base of a windmill (without sails)
colour aerial photograph of sea, beach and wooded landscape
black and white photograph of a railway track through a rural landscape

Ry

Ry is a town in Denmark, with a population of 6,600. Located in central Jutland, Ry is nearby to Himmelbjerget, one Denmark's highest natural points which 'soars' to a height of 147m.

Ry developed around a railway station in the 1870s, which itself developed around an older town Gammel Rye dating to medieval times.

colour painting of sunset in a rural landscape with trees and water
black and white photograph, a man takes a photo of a woman standing in front of a tower building
colour aerial photograph of a town in a rural landscape
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