Etymology of London

A tablet from c. 65 AD, reading "Londinio Mogontio"- "In London, to Mogontius"

The name of London is derived from a word first attested, in Latinised form, as Londinium. By the first century CE, this was a commercial centre in Roman Britain.

The etymology of the name is uncertain. There is a long history of mythicising etymologies, such as the twelfth-century Historia Regum Britanniae asserting that the city's name is derived from the name of King Lud who once controlled the city. However, in recent times a series of alternative theories have also been proposed. As of 2017, the trend in scholarly publications supports derivation from a British Celtic form *[Londonjon], which would itself have been of Celtic origin.[1][2]

Attested forms

Richard Coates, in the 1998 article where he published his own theory of the etymology, lists all the known occurrences of the name up to around the year 900, in Greek, Latin, British and Anglo-Saxon.[3] Most of the older sources begin with Londin- (Λονδίνιον, Londino, Londinium etc.), though there are some in Lundin-. Later examples are mostly Lundon- or London-, and all the Anglo-Saxon examples have Lunden- with various terminations. He observes that the modern spelling with <o> derives from a medieval writing habit of avoiding <u> between letters composed of minims.

The earliest written mention of London occurs in a letter discovered in London in 2016. Dated AD 65–80, it reads Londinio Mogontio which translates to "In London, to Mogontius".[4][5][6][7]